Chewing may be one of your dog’s favorite activities, and it’s an instinctive and beneficial behavior for all dogs. Chewing removes plaque, keeps teeth and gums clean, provides mental stimulation, and relieves boredom. Some dogs have a stronger chew drive than others, and power chewers need safe, long-lasting chews to avoid destructive behaviors. Other dogs 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 for their needs. Choosing the right chew for your dog can be a challenge; you want to make sure you find a chew that’s both safe and highly enjoyable.
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 bone away or save it to fill with raw or canned food and freeze it for a delicious treat. Raw kneecaps are another great recreational chew and are soft enough to be consumed completely.
If your dog is new to raw bones, start them off slowly to avoid digestive upset. The highly acidic stomach juices of a canine will neutralize any pathogens, but humans should exercise the same caution 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 poultry parts work well 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. Offer them a variety of different textures and types of chews. Frozen bones or rope toys soaked in water then frozen can 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. Dogs will gnaw away at them and ingest the mineral-laden scrapings.
Long-lasting 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 for dogs
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, beef cheeks, tracheas, and other animal body parts. Tracheas are especially full of joint-building cartilage and can be helpful for seniors and arthritis-prone breeds. Beef cheeks and collagen chews are durable and are a good source of amino acids that nourish the joints, gut, skin, and coat.
Always supervise your dog’s chewing activities, especially if they are strong and persistent chewers. Be sure to purchase the appropriate-sized chew for your dog; choking is the main hazard, so select chews that are too large to swallow whole. Be vigilant in observing your dog to ensure they aren’t breaking off large pieces that could be swallowed and get stuck in their throat, and take away anything chewed down to a nub. A few dogs are “gulpers”, indiscriminately grabbing, and need to be monitored closely. Older dogs may still be strong chewers, and as teeth become more brittle with age, a softer chew will be more appropriate.
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
- 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
Collagen Chews, Beef Cheeks, and Bully Sticks (Pizzles)
- Completely digestible and recommended for dogs of all ages
- High protein, low fat, long-lasting chews help keep teeth clean
- Bully sticks are made from bull pizzles that have been stretched and dried
- Bullies come in many thicknesses, shapes, and qualities, including “low odor”
- Collagen chews are made from the bottom layer of collagen-rich beef skin, called Corium, which provides a digestible, long-lasting chew
- Beef cheek chews are slabs or rolls of thick, pliable tissue containing ample collagen
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 firm 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
- 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
- These natural chews are softer and do not last as long as bully sticks
- Made from brown rice flour and other natural ingredients
- Safer and more digestible than rawhide; chemical-free and long-lasting
- Made in a U.S. human food facility from natural human-grade ingredients