Why Do Dogs Carry Sticks On Walks: Dog Walking Habits

Dog Chewing Stick

We all know dogs love sticks and any chance to get hold of one is going to be taken. Dogs have many habits and carrying sticks on walks is a common one, but why exactly do dogs carry sticks.

The main reason dogs like sticks is that they naturally feel like bones and dogs being predators become attracted to both the shape and texture. Dogs will also enjoy the smell and taste of sticks as they attract many wild elements. 

Sticks are an enjoyable treat for a dog and they are attracted to them without a single bit of encouragement needed. However, despite dogs being naturally attracted to sticks, there are some things you should know.


Why Do Dogs Like Sticks

Sticks are made from a natural fibrous material containing many elements. The elements that make up common types of wood provide the smells, textures, and tastes your dog loves.

Because so many dogs rely on their extremely acute senses woodland smells and tastes are something they can’t resist. Before diving deeper into why dogs love to carry sticks around it is important to understand where their love of sticks comes from.

  • Dogs enjoy the texture of sticks as it is a great way to clean their teeth. The chewing also provides them with a fun activity to do, which involves exercising their very strong jaw.
  • Dogs enjoy the smell of sticks as they come from the many things that are found in wild areas. Smells such as wild animals, flowers, other dogs, and the many plants that grow in the wild.
  • A dogs natural instinct is to to chew sticks. This is so they can keep their teeth clean and in the wild they would normal do this as a routine.
  • Sticks tend to be lightweight and easy for a dog to pick up. This means dogs will enjoy carry sticks around and even collecting them along their walk.

Why Do Dogs Carry Sticks On Walks

There are a few reasons why dogs carry sticks on walks and some will differ between dogs but it is likely one of these reasons or a combination is why your dog carries sticks on walks.

Natural Instinct

The natural instinct is something all dogs are governed by, no matter how domesticated they become there will always be some natural instinct lying within them. Carrying sticks is a natural instinct for your dog and probably something your dog doesn’t even realize. Take a Golden Retriever, for example, its no coincidence that every time I enter the house he brings me a toy or at least desperately hunts around for the first thing he can find to bring me. This behavior is bred over many generations golden retrievers were used to retrieve the hunter’s kill and bring it to them safely. This is also the same for wolves in the wild, as commented on National Geographic, there are many instances where a mother wolf will carry her pups in her mouth and take them to another den. The sheer ability to control the pressure on her mouth shows that this is something that is natural to do. A dog’s mouth is the equivalent to our hands and just like we would pick up sticks as children dogs carry them too.

Chewing Sticks

One very common reason for dogs carrying sticks on walks is because they are looking for somewhere to chew them. Many times my dog will pick a stick up and run off in front of me only for me to find him nestled up amongst the grass, stealthily chewing away. A light “Leave It” from me and he darts up the hill some more until a sterner tone is needed. I’m not annoyed at him for wanting to chew sticks, as I mentioned before its a natural thing for dogs to do, there are however negatives to allowing your dog to chew sticks, which you can find more information about here.

So why do dogs want to chew sticks? Sticks feel like bones to a dog and chewing them is satisfying. The general shape is appealing and the fact that they can devour them probably makes them feel like the boss. Chewing is a natural part of what makes a dog a dog and it’s not just stick’s they chew. Chewing is a natural instinct and dogs chew to soothe their teeth. This is especially apparent in young puppies who are teething. Chewing can give your dog a way of soothing there teeth or essentially brushing them. According to Healthline particular types of wood such as willow are known to have painkiller qualities, of course, we don’t know if your dog is aware of this but it shows the connection nature has between each living thing.

Throwing Sticks

When walking my dog some of the time he will pick up a stick run in front of and drop it on the floor awaiting my arrival. This is simply because he wants me to throw it for him. Dogs love a chase and not just with sticks, you will find that it’s easy to get a dog to run after something, particularly sticks. Your dog may carry sticks during their walk to simply drop it at your feet when the time is right. Its all a big game to your dog and your throwing a stick is another way for them to chase something down. As sticks aren’t the best thing for your dog to chase, it may be worth bringing a toy stick or ball to throw instead. By doing this you will keep your dog off the sticks and still able to chase something down.

Showing Off

Have you ever found yourself looking back and seeing your dog struggling with a giant stick…well in most cases a branch. Dragging it along the floor, it seems that this branch is the most important thing in the world to them. They are not dragging this stick because it was the only one they could find, it is because they are showing off their prize. Dogs are stylish animals…most of the time. Dogs will choose the biggest stick because its the biggest and therefore the best one. They usually give up on the branch as they notice your fading into the distance, learning their lesson for only a split second as the go and pick up the next branch further up the path.

Dogs carrying sticks

Is It OK For Dogs To Chew Sticks

This is something that is debated often between dog lovers and from a safety point of view you have to say no. Although dogs naturally chew sticks its something that should be avoided if possible, due to a few reasons. Firstly your dog can get shards of wood stuck in their throat which will only end in disaster. It is also common for dogs to get wood lodged in their gums due to excessive chewing. Lastly, the amount of wood your dog is likely to ingest is not good for their body and could end up damaging their digestive system. Check out this article from Dogster, which has some great information on why you shouldn’t let your dog chew sticks. Remember if your dog does injure themselves from chewing on sticks, you should always consult a veterinarian.

There are some positive benefits to chewing sticks as highlighted below:

  • Chewing sticks gives your dog the opportunity to let out some doggy frustration. It allows them to release energy and stress by destroying something that doesn’t matter to you…such as your chair legs.
  • Chewing sticks is a way for dogs to clean their teeth just like we would. If the stick is hard enough it can help to clean out old food and create saliva for washing between the gaps.
  • If your dog is suffering from some achy teeth or is a puppy going through a teething phase, then chewing particular types of wood can help numb the pain. Only certain woods such as willow have pain killer properties so it will depend on the type of wood.

The recommended advice is that you don’t let your dog chew sticks, but there is no need to panic if they end up chowing down on one. Try to ensure they don’t go too crazy and make sure the stick is of solid wood, softwood can cause injury.

Why Do Dogs Bring Sticks Home

This is a combination of the reasons stated on why dogs carry sticks on walks. Bringing sticks home is just an extension of your dog carrying them in the first place. As dogs transport game and pups from one place to another, the same goes for sticks. Bringing a stick home can feel like a trophy, your dog finds satisfaction in bringing them back to their den.

How To Get My Dog To Stop Eating Sticks

As we know dogs are naturally attracted to any kind of sticks or wooden objects. However what if your dog is eating sticks they find during a walk. There are a few things you can do to train your dog not to eat sticks during their walk, mostly it involves keeping a close eye on them, which can be difficult if they are off lead.

  1. Try to keep a close eye on them during the walk and identify the moment in which they decide to pick up a stick. Firmly tell them No! or Leave It!
  2. If ignored put them on the lead if they are currently running free, or if they are already on the lead then take the stick off them.
  3. Continue monitoring your dog and telling them No! or Leave It!, each time they go for a stick. If they ignore your request carry out step 2.
  4. Once your dog goes for a stick and obeys your command reward them with praise and a treat. By doing this it will give your dog a positive affiliation with this process.
  5. It’s important to establish whether you allow your dog to carry sticks. If carrying sticks is going to lead to chewing then it may just be a good idea to eliminate any interaction with sticks.

If your dog is particularly bad when it comes to eating sticks, then it would be best to use this method consistently. If your dog doesn’t tend to eat sticks and just carry’s them around its best to not train them to stop as it does still provide them with some mental stimulation and satisfaction. As long as they don’t start eating them its ok, the leave it commands could help in preventing them from eating the stick but still allow them to carry it, providing they understand the difference between eating and carrying.


Carrying sticks during walks is a common occurrence with dogs and something they do naturally. You should always be aware that chewing sticks can be dangerous especially when concerning softer wood that your dog can easily break up into shards. Allowing your dog to carry sticks is always going to be OK just be vigilant when they decide to start chewing sticks. If you enjoyed this article check out some of our others all about walking your dog and get outside. If your interested in more dog walking habits check out “Why Does My Dog walk Behind Me”


Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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