THROWING a stick for your dog to fetch is dangerous and should be banned, veterinary experts have warned.
They say sharp sticks can pierce a dog's mouth, throat, or even their internal organs.
The Veterinary Association and Kennel Club have raised concerns over the popular game - a stance supported by both the Australia and British veterinary associations.
Clyde Rogers, senior vice-president of the Kennel Club, said most responsible dog owners never threw sticks these days.
"Dogs could easily injure themselves. I'd urge people to think carefully before they took a dog out and threw a stick around," he said.
While the New Zealand Veterinary Association doesn't have a stick-fetching policy, owners should reduce the chance of risk through the choice of toys to play with.
"Sticks, as with any other material thrown for a dog, will always carry a small risk of injury, whether through excessive force should the object hit the dog or equally through the potential for long sharp objects, like sticks, to penetrate the mouth, in particular should the dog lunge at the object to catch it," said president Cath Watson.
Should throwing a stick be banned?
This poll ended on 11 July 2013.
Yes. Vets know what's best for a dog
No. The fun police are going overboard again
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Other toys could be used for dogs to play with. However, she stressed that "behavioural enrichment" was critical for dogs and alternative toys could be used for a dog's playtime.
But some dog owners have rubbished the notion.
Shayne Gebbie, 47, throws sticks for his 5-month-old boxer puppy at his local Christchurch dog park.
"He loves it. I've had dogs all my life, and they've all loved playing fetch with the stick," he said.
"I've never had any problems. It's political correctness gone mad."
Tiko Toganivalu, 38, owner of 2-year-old Labrador-American Staffordshire cross Tess, said: "You can isolate incidents all you want, but I don't see any problem with it. As long as you're careful."
Bob Kerridge, executive director of SPCA Auckland, says owners should be using safer alternatives to sticks.
"For years it's been something that everybody does without thinking about it. But now that there are so many safer alternatives, it makes sense."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.