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Why Do Dogs Like to Play with Sticks?

dog playing with a stick on a walk

From a dog’s perspective, there is fun to be had everywhere, and in just about every situation. The way dogs are able to have as much fun as possible in every moment is a true act of creative genius. They have a way of turning the outside world into nature’s playground. When it comes to sticks, you might wonder where this obsession comes from, with so much else to play with… why do dogs like sticks so much?

While there are many reasons why sticks are the perfect toy for your pup, science doesn’t give us many definite answers, but rather offers many possibilities.

Dogs Love Stick Because of Instinct

Exploring the world from a dog’s perspective is very different from how we interact with our world as humans. Dogs rely much more heavily on their smell, hearing, and even taste than their sight. Dogs use their mouths as their main method of exploring new parts of their world which means having to put everything in their mouth to test it out and try to understand it.

husky playing with a stick

Every stick is infused with a unique assortment of textures and lingering smells that dogs can enjoy with their mouths in ways we can’t even fathom from our human perspective. The world holds so much fun exploration for your curious pup. They want to play with sticks but they are also instinctively so curious about the interesting smells that each stick holds.

Long ago, your dogs’ more wild ancestors would have to hunt down their prey to be able to eat. When your dog is fetching a stick, it is acting out of a playful nature rather than anything predatory, but it is these instinctual pressures that make fetching the stick so much fun.

Learned Behavior:

While many dogs are naturally attracted to exploring the sticks of their world, many dog owners lend a part in reinforcing and teaching their dogs to love sticks. When a puppy is rewarded for fetching a stick, this begins the lifelong cycle of love between your furry friend and the world of sticks.

When a dog is rewarded for fetching a stick and you give them so much love and affection, this makes them happy because you are happy. The one thing your puppy truly wants more than anything, is to please you. When they see your excitement that they’ve brought a stick back, they get the idea that fetching your sticks is making you just as happy as you think you’re making them happy by throwing the stick. Making you happy makes them happy.

collie dog playing with his favorite stick

What to Watch out For:

While most dog/stick relationships are cute, wholesome, and full of goodness, there are some instances where you may want to cut off the relationship. If your dog is a chewer like mine, a fun game of fetching a stick, if unsupervised, can become a long process of dissection. Your dog’s endless curiosity for interacting with the interesting smells and textures of the stick can overshadow what we may think of as common sense: not swallowing huge splinters of wood. There are all sorts of internal issues that can be created if your dog ingests pieces of their beloved stick. It’s best to avoid these situations, by not letting your dog chew a stick into oblivion in the way they might like.

After a fun round of fetch, your doggo has connected with that stick and might be proud of himself and want to carry it around all day out of immense pride for nature’s trophy. Personally, I love watching my dog carry around a big stick with pride, but when it’s time to go inside or leave them unsupervised, it’s best to remove the stick from the situation, to keep them safe.

Does Your Dog Love Sticks?

Overall, a dog’s love for sticks is timeless and makes play so easily accessible. Playing with sticks creates an opportunity for your pup to connect and play with the world in a way that, for the most part, does nothing but keep them happy and healthy. Go ahead and let your dog play with sticks, and imagine how fun it would be if you were able to perceive the world in the way your dog does. But when playtime is over, leave the sticks in the park and find another toy for chewing to ensure you won’t need any visits to the vet anytime soon.

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