Dogs are funny creatures. You can feed them a tasty meal of their favorite foods and many will still seek out a nasty wooden stick to feast upon. While it may make no sense to us humans, there is canine “logic” behind stick chewing.
Most dogs are far from discriminating when it comes to what they eat. However, one thing is for certain. Most are voracious eaters and they’ll try just about anything, including wood, mud and rocks.
The act of a dog eating non-edible items is known as pica. Little is known about this condition, but some experts suggest that this behavior is a means of getting attention. That is why a dog that is cooped up all day in the house may decide to turn the rectangular coffee table into an egg-shaped one.
Another possible reason for dogs eating wood is that they could suffer from a nutrient deficiency. Their bodies lack something they need and they find it in the sticks they devour. If you suspect a nutritional deficiency, talk to the dog’s veterinarian.
And yet another theory is that dogs learn to eat wood during the puppy stage when they are teething. Biting on the wood can be soothing to the teething pup that soon learns to enjoy the taste of wood.
No matter what you do, some dogs are predisposed to enjoying a good stick. The breed of the dog can be an important factor in this behavior. For example, a fun-loving, stick-chasing Labrador is often far more apt to develop a wood-chewing habit than is a teacup poodle that rarely sees the light of day without its master fussing over it. Simply stated, some canine breeds tend to be orally fixated and a good stick is just what the doctor ordered.
Boredom can be a big factor in dogs deciding to feast on wood. Whether it is the sofa frame or an oak stick, a bored dog is more apt to do a taste test than one that is happy and satisfied.
A lack of training can also attribute to a dog’s stick-chewing habit. That is dog owners need to pay attention during the puppy training stage. If your dog seems to have a pension for wood, substitute chew toys and dog bones as a means of teaching the puppy healthier alternatives.
While some owners may think it is cute that their dog runs away with the stick used to play fetch once they are tired of the game, it can be quite dangerous. Some wood splinters easily and pieces can become embedded in their gums or stuck between their teeth.
Another danger is that splinters and wood shards can cause damage to the stomach and intestines, ending in very costly and sometimes life-threatening surgery.
It is not always easy to deter a dog from chewing on wood. However, there are a host of products that can help. Bitter apple, which is available at pet stores and many vet offices, or a cayenne pepper spray you can make yourself can be used. Simply spray the item you want the dog to leave alone. A taste of bitter or hot can go a long way in turning Rover away from a stick.