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Can Puppies Chew on Sticks? [The Potential Dangers]

It is not a good idea for puppies to chew on sticks. While puppies may enjoy chewing on sticks (especially when teething), too many risks are involved. Some trees are poisonous to dogs, but even a stick from a non-poisonous tree can result in bowel obstruction or dental issues.

Wandering around the dog park on a Sunday afternoon might be my favorite pastime. Dogs running to and fro, playful skirmishes taking place all around me, and digging- Oh, the digging!

But this past week, I saw something one rarely sees anymore: a puppy with a stick. In the age of rubber and plastic toys, sticks have gone by the wayside. But I had to wonder: can puppies chew on sticks? Is it safe?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as black and white as we would like it to be. Generally speaking, puppies can chew on sticks, and it even has a few benefits! But there are certain situations when they shouldn’t.

Reasons Puppies Can Chew On Sticks

Puppies chew. This, we know. They chew blankets, they chew furniture. They chew bags, shoes, and pretty much anything that attracts their interest. And we want them to chew. It is good for their teeth and helps them curb their own anxiety and stave off boredom.

But what if your puppy takes a particular liking to sticks? Is that okay? The answer is really complicated. For example, if it keeps them from chewing important things, the stick is preferable.

If they aren’t eating the stick, it poses no real threat. Eating the stick can cause blockage or even just throw off the delicate balance of a puppy’s diet.

For older dogs, stick chewing may help the pain caused by decaying teeth, and the wood is usually softer than a bone or rubber chew.

The stick would also take a lot of punishment and be easier for the dog to chew. While it may be soothing enough to ease whatever toothache your dog may have, you should consult a vet anytime your dog or puppy has a medical issue just to rule out anything serious.

Why Puppies Shouldn’t Chew on Sticks

There are also some very good reasons a puppy or adult dog should not chew sticks. For example, the wood can (and will) break down.

Puppies are curious and may try to eat the bits of wood just to see what it tastes like. Some puppies actually like the taste of wood. This can lead to poisoning, obstruction of the bowels, or infection in the gums.

Some trees are poisonous to dogs. Oak, Black Walnut, and Red Maples are all poisonous to animals and commonly grow in many yards across the United States. Less common are fruit trees, but they can be just as deadly.

Consider this for a moment: if you take your puppy for a walk around the neighborhood, do you want to bask in the cuteness of your puppy and watch as the neighbors cross lawns to pet them, or do you want to be on the lookout for poisonous trees?

And are you a stick connoisseur? Do you think you could tell a stick from an oak tree apart from one from a common Maple Tree?

You might know the trees in your yard pretty well, but if you take your puppy off your property for a walk, you could be in some trouble if they decide to nibble on any of the dozens of varieties of trees that are harmful to dogs that also grow in many yards.

Given that there are so many wood-free toys on the market, why not promote a safer alternative? Remember what the dog is looking for: softish items they can bite into and have fun with.

Several stick-like toys are available on the market with the look, feel, and wood flavor that some dogs crave. Why not give one of these a try? They are certainly more pleasant to have in your living room and much safer for your puppy.

What if My Puppy is Already Hooked on Sticks?

Of course, you might think, “but won’t that keep my dog’s obsession alive? If I buy them a toy that looks like a stick and then forbid them from chewing sticks, aren’t I just going to confuse them?”

The toy stick is a good alternative if your dog has already developed a taste for stick chewing. But before you purchase anything, ask yourself if this is an issue.

For example, does your puppy seem obsessed or are they just looking for something to casually enjoy? If it is the latter, they could probably chew anything of a similar texture and feel content.

If they are seeking those sticks as if their lives depended on it, could something be causing your dog anxiety that only stick-chewing can ease? Address that issue and the actual chewing of the stick.

You also want to consider your dog’s physical health. For example, do they appear sick? Are there signs of bleeding in the mouth? Has your dog been chewing for a good amount of time and shown any symptoms thus far? If the answer is no, then your dog’s chewing habit might not be a problem.

As mentioned earlier, it is more likely that they are casually chewing the sticks when you are around and leaving them aside when you are not.

However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea of your puppy chewing sticks, it is okay to play the old bait-and-switch game, stealing the stick and replacing it with a safe alternative.

Hard Habit to Break

Stick-chewing might prove to be a hard habit to break. This is why it’s better if your dog or puppy never starts chewing in the first place. If you genuinely want to help your dog get over its stick chewing habit, you absolutely must do a few things.

Clear Your Yard of Sticks

First, you will need to make sure that your yard is clear of any sticks or fallen branches. This might be easier said than done. Depending on the time of year or where you live, your yard might already be clear of debris.

But, if you live in an area where Autumn brings strong winds and falling leaves, then you might find yourself picking up sticks constantly. Keep your yard clean to the best of your ability and always be somewhere nearby so that if your dog finds a stick, you can be there to stop them from chewing it.

Change The Association

Building a negative association with stick chewing might also help you break your puppy’s habit. Remember that your puppy or dog is bonded to you and wants to please you. They want to make you happy and they want to hear a friendly puppy voice from you.

So if they pick up a stick and you use a big scary mom or dad voice, they are more likely to drop that stick. Over time, they will have a negative association between that object and your displeasure.

It doesn’t work in every case, and any pet owner will tell you that all the loud voices in the world will not work miracles, but it is one thing you can try. My dog, for example, does not respond to big scary voices. He gets scared and hides under his bed, which is not something you want your dog to do over a stick.

Speak With The Vet

Your vet is also an excellent resource for suggestions here. You’ll want to reach out if you notice any strange side effects or if the chewing has become obsessive. You can also ask your vet what you can do to deter the chewing or if you should deter it at all.

It would be a very good idea and a worthwhile investment of your time to even just ask at your next appointment if this is a habit that is safe to encourage. After all, stick-chewing is not the worst thing a puppy can do.

If your vet says it’s not an issue, then it’s probably not an issue. Just look out for those poisonous trees and ensure that the dog is not ingesting what they chew.

Stick-Chewing, Yay or Nay?

As always, there are arguments for both sides when you’re talking about puppies chewing things. But in this case, stick-chewing may pose more of a risk to your puppy than serve as a benefit.

Your puppy can get sick consuming poisonous trees. Your puppy can also get sick from a blocked bowel and need surgery to clear that obstruction. The fibers of the stick can damage your puppy’s teeth.

With so many safe alternatives, chewing sticks is really unnecessary, and it certainly is a hard habit to break.

So do yourself a favor. If you see your dog chewing a stick, point them in a safer direction. You’ll thank yourself later, and you’ll be keeping your puppy healthy and safe so that you can enjoy their company for many years to come.

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