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Choosing the Right Chew for Your Dog

Chewing is an instinctive behavior for all dogs. It develops the powerful neck and jaw muscles that wild canines must have to capture and kill their prey. It also removes plaque, keeps teeth and gums clean, provides mental stimulation and relieves boredom and frustration. Watching a dog in a state of blissful chewing pleasure shows how important it is to his wellbeing. Some dogs have far stronger chew drives than others, and power chewers need safe, long-lasting chews to avoid destructive behaviors. Other dogs seem to lose the urge when they mature or only like to chew on a few favorite things. Whatever your dog’s level of interest, there’s a recreational chew suited to his needs.

Raw bones – Nature’s best chews

For millennia, dogs have been chewing on raw bones for both nutrition and recreation. The hard weight-bearing leg bones from beef can be cut into marrow bones and knuckle bones for your dog’s gnawing pleasure. When they’ve eaten or stripped off all the nutritious marrow, cartilage, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments, you can throw the rest away. Raw kneecaps are another great recreational chew, and soft enough to be consumed completely. If your dog is new to raw bones, start him slowly to avoid digestive upset. His highly acidic stomach will neutralize any pathogens, but humans should exercise the same cautions as for other raw meat when handling. We don’t recommend softer raw bones such as lamb, pork or poultry for recreational chewing, as they are not hard enough to withstand the jaw strength of most dogs, but young poultry parts have a different role as meal replacement bones.

Puppies love to chew

Puppies chew to relieve the discomfort of teething when their adult teeth are coming in, from 3 to 8 months of age. They also use their mouths to explore the world around them, and will chew on almost anything. Give them lots of different textures and kinds of chews, keeping extras on hand to substitute when they pick up a forbidden object. Frozen bones or rope toys soaked in water and frozen provide cooling relief for teething.

Best options for aggressive chewers

The hardest and longest lasting chews are antlers and slow-cured, thick-walled beef femurs and knuckles. While cooked bones should be avoided, slow curing does not dry out the bones or cause them to splinter in the same way. Dogs will scrape away at them with their teeth and ingest the mineral-laden scrapings. Deer antlers are quite dense and hard, while elk antlers are slightly softer and spongier on the inside. Split elk antlers allow dogs to get at the fragrant marrow-like interior. If the antlers dry out and lose their flavor, soaking in chicken broth or smearing on a little canned food or coconut oil can renew their appeal.

Digestible body part chews

Tendons and other body parts make excellent high-protein, low-fat treats that a dog can completely digest. Most popular are the long-lasting bully sticks in many shapes and sizes, followed by numerous other tendons, tracheas, gullets, tripe, and miscellaneous body parts. Tracheas and gullets are especially full of joint-building cartilage and can be helpful for seniors and arthritis-prone breeds. Dogs who are sensitive to beef have lamb, venison or pork choices in various body parts. There are even fish skin chews, a hard yak cheese chew and dried sweet potato chews that can help control your dog’s gas and firm up his stool.

Chewing safety

Always supervise your dog’s chewing activities, especially if they are strong and persistent chewers. Choking is the main hazard, so choose chews that are on the large size, too large to swallow whole. Be vigilant to ensure your dog isn’t breaking off large pieces that could be swallowed and get stuck in the throat, and take away anything chewed down to a nub. Older dogs may still have a strong drive, and as teeth become more brittle with age, a softer chew might prevent a broken tooth. A few dogs are “gulpers”, indiscriminately grabbing and swallowing toys, socks or whatever they find, and need to be monitored closely because indigestible items can result in an intestinal blockage. Fortunately, most dogs who love to chew do so without any harmful consequences.

Chewing Guide

for the most aggressive chewers with healthy teeth

Slow-Smoked Marrow and Knuckle Bones

Weight-bearing beef bones are very dense and last a long time

Smoking or slow cooking at low temperatures minimizes splintering

Raw Beef Marrow Bones

Hard weight-bearing femur bones have nutritious marrow inside

Marrow is a valuable source of good fats – great brain food for puppies!

Marrow may be too rich for dogs with pancreatitis or sensitive digestion

Yak Cheese Chews

Smoky-flavored hard cheese chew made from yak and cow milk

Made in Nepal using ancient Himalayan methods of food preservation

Deer & Elk Antlers

North American antlers are naturally shed and gathered from the forest

Elk antlers are slightly less dense, and spongier than deer antlers

Split elk antlers allow access to the marrow-like interior

for moderately aggressive chewers

Bully Sticks (Pizzles)

Bully sticks are made from bull pizzles that have been stretched and dried

Completely digestible and recommended for dogs of all ages

High protein, low fat, long-lasting chews help keep teeth clean

Bullies come in many thicknesses, shapes and qualities, including “low odor”

Raw Beef Knuckle Bones

Can be consumed completely, including cartilage, soft tissue and bone

Softer than marrow bones and less likely to harm teeth

Less fat than marrow bones; good for sensitive digestion or weight issues

With tendons and ligaments to floss teeth and freshen breath

Great for puppies; good source of minerals and bone-building nutrition

Great for senior dogs; helps replenish joint nutrients

Resulting bony stools helps empty anal sacs and avoid blockages

Raw Beef Knee Caps

Meaty, with cartilage, connective tissue and less fat than marrow bones

Rounded surface is good for scraping and grinding against teeth

Completely digestible with no sharp edges to cut mouth

Suitable for all sizes of dogs, including seniors and puppies

for less aggressive chewers

Digestible Body Parts

These natural chews are softer and less long-lasting than pizzles

Esophagus, tripe and bladder are dried into tasty chews with nutritional benefits

Trachea, pig ears, lamb ears, chicken and duck feet are good sources of cartilage

“No Hide” Chews

Safer and more digestible than rawhide; chemical-free and long-lasting

Made in a US human food facility from natural human-grade ingredients

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