Generally, chewing things is a pleasant pastime for dogs, and this is why they love bones and chew toys. Many dog owners complain that their canine companions crunch sticks and won’t stop no matter what they do. Could it be that sticks taste like bones? Of course, they don’t, and dogs can tell their taste apart. So why do dogs really love sticks?
For starters, although sticks don’t taste like bones, they look similar, and this is why dogs find them appealing. Since the sticks look like bones, dogs tend to wonder what they taste like which triggers an appetite for them. The desire intensifies when they sniff the sticks and discover that they have an earthy smell which generally indicates a musky, earthy flavour. So the logic with dogs is that if there’s no bone to chew, they can make do with sticks which are also tasty.
Possible reasons dogs chew sticks
There are many possible reasons why dogs chew on “nature’s bones”, but they can be grouped into medical and behavioural issues
Dogs that chew sticks may be suffering from any of the following medical issues:
- Nutritional or mineral deficiency
- Digestive disorders
- Dental or oral issues
- Behavioural issues
Examining this subject from a behavioural perspective, here are some of the possible reasons dogs eat sticks:
- To pass the time and deal with boredom, especially in the absence of their owner
- To deal with teething and gum irritation (a condition common to puppies)
- To gratify their curiosity about what sticks taste like
- Some breeds are by nature notorious chewers, e.g. retrievers and terriers
Why sticks are bad for your dog
Some dog owners allow their dogs to eat sticks because they think it’s a bad habit. However, this habit can be harmful to your dog’s health. For example, it’s very likely that small pieces of wood may lodge splinters in the mouth and oesophagus of your dog, causing grave damage. It may also lead to choking, perforated intestines and stomach lining as well as blockage of your pet’s bowels, all of which could set you a few thousand dollars back.
Additionally, some trees are poisonous and could cause serious troubles for your dog. Examples of such harmful trees are the walnut tree, the black cherry tree, the red oak tree and the black locust tree.
How to stop your dog from eating sticks
Since dogs are not selective of the type of sticks they crunch, consider clearing the yard of fruit branches that are so your pet can chew only sticks from safe trees. However, if you’re looking to keep your dog from eating wood, you can start by giving them a durable chew toy. That way, you don’t have to disrupt your dog’s chewing habit since they will be chewing on a safer alternative.
Furthermore, training your dog to obey simple commands like “drop it” or “leave it” can help your dog stay away from wood in the long run. Don’t forget to reward him with treats for his obedience and it won’t be long before he leaves sticks alone.