Playing Fetch with Sticks: Is It Safe for Your Dog?

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It's a classic scene — a dog parent and their beloved pup happily playing fetch together. But did you know that playing fetch with a stick isn't safe?

Believe it or not, your dog fetching a stick can be dangerous. But don't despair. There are lots of durable, pet-safe alternatives to sticks that you and your furry friend can safely play with, whether in your yard or at the park.

Read on to learn about the dangers of letting dogs play with and chew on sticks and ideas for other things you can fetch with your pup.

Is Playing Fetch With a Stick Safe?

While there's nothing wrong with the game of fetch itself, a dog fetching a stick can be dangerous. Sticks tend to break and splinter, which can lead to punctures, infections, gum rot and obstructions in your dog's mouth or throat.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) chief veterinary officer Dr. Jerry Klein shares, "Sticks and dogs seem harmless enough ... But I have had dogs come into our hospital with sticks stuck across the roof of their mouths, stuck in their throat, or with deep penetrating wounds in their oral cavities caused by sticks."

If your dog paws at their mouth while playing with a stick, it could be an indication that they're in pain, says the AKC. However, some dogs may not let you know that they've been injured. If you notice your dog pawing at their mouth, behaving strangely or otherwise indicating that they're in pain, discontinue your game immediately and bring them to your veterinarian for an exam.

Jack Russell puppy with stick in mouth standing in grass.

Safer Alternatives

Just because sticks aren't safe to fetch doesn't mean that you and your dog can't keep engaging in your pooch's favorite game! There are lots of alternatives that are safer and, in some cases, just as inexpensive.

If you want to purchase a toy for your dog to fetch, look for something that's durable, like one made of dense rubber. Avoid rawhide as well as tennis balls, and be careful not to give your dog a toy that could potentially get stuck in their mouth or throat.

As a DIY option, consider making your own toy using items from around your home. You can create a durable toy for your dog to fetch and chew on using an old pair of jeans or tattered towels.

There's no doubt that the look of pride in a dog's eyes when they fetch a stick they find in nature is adorable. Playing fetch is a great bonding activity for you and your dog, too. But it's important to remember that playing with sticks can be dangerous.

Before you and your dog head out for a rousing round of fetch, remember: There are many safe, inexpensive alternatives to sticks that will last longer and will make for even more epic games of fetch. By making something with household items or taking your dog to the local pet store to choose a toy they'll love, you can help your pet have a safer playtime.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Instagram @ErinOllila or learn more about her at