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Are Sticks Safe for Dogs to Play With?


are sticks safe for dogsLike bones, sticks are widely considered to be an appropriate toy for dogs.  However, illness, injury, and death can occur as a direct result of your dog chewing or chasing a stick.  Are sticks safe for dogs?  The answer, as well as safe alternatives, will be discussed here.

Why Aren’t Sticks Safe for Dogs?
Dogs interact with sticks in a number of ways.  First, dogs like to chew on sticks.  However, the stick’s surface can be home to parasites, viruses, and germs.  A dog can develop cuts and abrasions in his or her mouth when chewing on a stick, which can become infected if germs or viruses are introduced.  If a dog ingests certain parasites, such as fleas, a tapeworm infection can occur.

Next, an owner may throw a stick to a dog during a game of fetch.  While this game is fun, it can become dangerous if the stick lands in the ground while the dog is chasing it.  Veterinarians have reported numerous accidental injuries to the heads, necks, and mouths of dog when this situation has occurred.

Finally, a dog can become injured when running through a yard or park with a stick in its mouth.  Dogs do not have the same depth perception as humans.  When running past a tree or other stationary object, the stick in the dog’s mouth can hit the object, causing serious cuts or fractures to the dog’s mouth and jaw.

How to Teach your Dog to Avoid Sticks
Once your dog has identified sticks as something fun to chew on or play with, how can you break the habit?  First, remove sticks and debris from your yard, so as not to tempt your pet.  Next, teach your dog the “leave it” command.  Whenever your dog approaches something you do not want him or her to interact with, say “leave it” and offer a high-value treat instead.  Arm yourself with a safe stick alternative (discussed below) so that you can redirect your dog’s attention to a more appropriate toy.

Safe Stick Alternatives
There are numerous alternatives to throwing a stick to your dog.  They include:

  • A tennis ball: this toy can easily be substituted for a stick because it can be thrown far and safely chased.  The bright yellow color is appealing to dogs.
  • Elk antler: if your dog enjoys chewing on sticks, substitute an elk antler instead.  The hard surface will not break or splinter as easily, and is a natural solution
  • Nylabone: the hard, plastic material of a nylabone is perfect for heavy chewers.
  • Petstages Dogwood Stick: if your pet can’t seem to resist chewing on wood, consider the Petstages Dogwood Stick.  This toy is manufactured from real wood and synthetic materials to create an item that is more difficult to destroy than a stick.  It has many of the same properties as wood, such as the ability to float in water.  In addition, it smells like natural wood and is as close to the real thing, minus the inherent dangers!

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Anna Weber

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