With so many options out there for chew toys, how are we supposed to know which is best? The best type for your dog depends on a number of factors: the age, breed, size and preferences of your pup being the most important.
Here’s a quick run down on some of the common (and not so common!) chews on the market today:
Frozen Raw Bones: These are always a favourite! Some of the most popular ones are cow and bison. Knuckle bones, femurs, ribs…there’s lots of choices. Obviously, take care when handling raw meat to avoid cross contamination. They can also get a little messy so maybe give them outside or in a kennel for easy clean up. Don’t cook the bones! These can be given frozen or thawed in the fridge.
Himalayan Yak Chews: These are becoming more widely available. They are made from yak’s milk and are midway between a treat and a chew. They are 100% edible but may not last as long with heavy chewers. They have the potential to break into smaller pieces so keep an eye on your pup to make sure that they aren’t swallowing big chunks.
Nylabones: These are some of the more durable toys on the market. However, it seems to be hit or miss if the dog likes it or not. If your dog isn’t interested, try lending the toy to a dog that can start it off. These are fairly tough toys so make sure your dog isn’t overdoing it. As with all toys, if they begin breaking pieces off, it’s time to take it away.
Hooves: While these may look tough, some dogs enjoy the challenge. They can be on the small side so aren’t ideal for large dogs. They benefit from not being overly messy, although they have the potential to break into small pieces.
Elk Antlers: Most dogs enjoy elk antlers, and they usually last a decent amount of time. You can buy antlers with or without velvet. Elk velvet itself is a great joint supplement. It is recommended to get the antlers that have already been cut down the middle; the inside is softer and a little easier on the teeth.
Cooked Bones: Cooked bones are dangerous because they have the potential to splinter and cause internal problems. If you really want to give cooked bones from the pet store, watch very closely to ensure they aren’t breaking off and being ingested. Always avoid cooked poultry bones.
Bully Sticks: These are 100% edible tendons that come in a variety of sizes. Most dogs tend to eat them fairly quickly but they absolutely love them. They can be smelly and messy (probably why the dogs like them so much) but are available in “nonsmelly” versions.
Tracheas: Dehydrated tracheas sound pretty gnarly but dogs love them. They tend to be greasy and are a good treat once in a while. Tracheas don’t last as long as the harder chews; consider cutting them in half (or smaller) to avoid upsetting a sensitive stomach once they’re eaten.
Raw Chicken Feet: These inexpensive treats are loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin, two nutrients that are fantastic for healthy joints. Most dogs enjoy them straight from the freezer. Again, don’t cook them! They’re perfectly edible the way they are. If you want, you can trim the toenails just in case.
Rawhide: Rawhide is cheap and convenient. However, it is not recommended to give this to any dog because of the chemicals used to make it. Additionally, it has the potential to swell within the dog’s stomach, in extreme cases even causing bloat. Thankfully, there are enough alternatives available now that rawhide doesn’t have to be an option,
Coconuts: Yep that's right, coconuts! Pick one up from the grocery store next time you see them and watch your pup puzzle over it. Lots of dogs love tearing the fibers off the outside, and it becomes an almost indestructible ball once they’re done. You can cut it open for them and let them eat the coconut meat while it’s still fresh. Be aware that too much of a good thing can upset their tummies; don't let them overdo it.
Any time you give your dog a new toy or chew, supervision is necessary. Try to get one that is age and size appropriate. Research your options to pick one best suited to your dog, or ask your vet for their recommendations. Overly enthusiastic chewers could potentially damage their teeth if they are given something too hard, or they could break off pieces that aren’t meant to be eaten. Supervision is key!
Chewing is a natural and necessary behaviour, especially for puppies. The proper outlet can save a lot of frustration for you and your dogs. Good luck and happy chewing!