Why should I not throw sticks?

What dog owner doesn’t love to spend some quality time together playing a game of fetch? But what many owners don’t realise is that this innocent game can lead to severe injury and hefty vet bills if it involves sticks.

A recent survey reported 3 out of 4 vets had treated dogs for stick-related injuries!

While this fun game may only cause a minor issue, such as a splinter stuck in the tongue, it will still be pretty painful for your canine friend. But far worse, stick-throwing can also cause life-threatening conditions. Sticks shatter as they hit the ground, which can pierce soft tissue in the throat or vital organs when your dog grabs hold of it. Even allowing your dog to have a good chew on a dirty stick can cause bacterial infections and abscesses if they inadvertently swallow a sharp splinter causing an injury to the mouth or throat.


Spaniels are prone to arthritis due to the significant wear and tear over time, due to the lively nature of the breed, leading to increased stress on the joints and cartilage. Asking our dogs to chase balls or sticks will further increase this stress.

Vets have reported serious injuries where dogs have been impaled through the chest or abdomen by a stick hitting the ground at an angle and the dog running into it. It’s certainly not a fun game if that happens. Any of these incidents are likely to require an operation to repair the damage.

It’s not always clear straight away that your dog may have been injured after your fun game together. It could be weeks before a nasty bacterial infection takes hold.

Some signs to be aware of include:

  • swelling in the face and neck
  • blood in the saliva
  • reluctance to eat or drink

If you suspect your dog has a stick injury or shows any of these signs, take them to your vet as soon as possible, as it could be life-threatening.

We have listed below some options you can play with your Sprocker instead

1. Hide, sniff and seek

Make the most of your dog’s keen sense of smell. Try hiding some dry food (from their daily allowance) under a blanket or leaves for them to sniff out. To engage a puppy or keep a senior dog’s mind active, pop a treat under one of several plastic mugs and let them work out where the treat is. Switch the positions of the treat and the number of mugs, to keep the game challenging.

Hide a favourite toy – they won’t stop until they find it. Encourage the search, saying ‘find the toy!’, and be there with a reward and praise when they’re successful (don’t make it too difficult at first). There’s endless fun to be had as you extend the game into other rooms and out into the garden. You can always give your dog a hint of where to look if they get stuck.

Why not hide yourself, in a cupboard or under the bed? When your dog is not looking, call them and when they’ve found you, celebrate their triumph with a food treat.

2. Temptation alley

Here’s a test that wins your dog brownie points for obedience. Ask a friend to hold your dog at one end of a path or corridor. Lay the toys and treats in two parallel rows. From the far end, call your dog to come to you, so that they walk between the toys. Each time they get to you without succumbing to the temptation of picking up a toy or a treat, reward them – they’ve earned it!

3. Tug-of-war

An energetic game that satisfies a dog’s urge to grab and pull on things with its mouth. Encourage your dog to grab the toy (choose something soft and comfortable to hold) by saying ‘get it’ or ‘grab it’. When they have a good hold, the fun starts as you keep them interested by shaking the toy, from side to side, up and down, and backwards and forwards.

Mid-way, stop the tugging by saying ‘leave’ (just once) and bring your hands back to your body. Keep them still and don’t speak. Your dog may continue tugging, but will eventually release their grip. This allows them to ‘win’ the game and builds confidence.

You can buy a tug toy on our website too! Click here

4. Brain-training puzzles

Dogs are never more resourceful than when a game involves food, and puzzle feeders are a great way to keep their brains active. Some require dogs to nuzzle and paw at sliders or windows to get at treats; others are hollowed-out balls that need concentration and skill to tease out the titbits. If your dog either bolts their food or is often disinterested in mealtimes, turning eating into a game can promote healthier habits. 

You can also DIY a mystery treat box: stuff loo or kitchen rolls with crumpled paper and dry food, hide them in a box with more scrunched-up newspaper, and watch your dog destroy the wrappings and discover their prize. (Be prepared for a little bit of clearing up afterwards!)

5. Tidy-up time

It’s true: dogs can learn to ‘tidy up’ in this two-stage training game, for which you’ll need a basket and a few of your pet’s toys. Scatter the toys on the floor and encourage your dog to fetch a toy and ‘Give’ it back to you. Reward them with a treat that’s higher in value to them than the toy in question. Repeat with their other toys.

When your dog is doing this well, which may take several days, place a toy basket at their feet. Now you want your dog to learn to ‘Drop’ the toy into the basket. Whenever they do it, be sure to reward them. Eventually, you’ll have the joy of playing with your pooch, knowing that they can clear up after themselves! 

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