Nearly every dog you cared for or will in the future is going to chew, particularly as a puppy. It's a rite of passage for them. Dogs actually need to chew: for puppies, it helps with teething, and for adults, it keeps their teeth cleaner and provides them with mental stimulation. So what exactly are the best things for dogs to chew on?
Not everything labeled as a chew toy is good for your dog, and you certainly don't want them gnawing at your favorite shoes. Step one in buying chew toys for dogs is knowing what is safe, and what's not. Even if a dog chew toy is popular, and your friend has never had an issue with a product, doesn't mean there won't be any inherent issues.
Some dog chews to be very careful about picking, or to completely avoid them, are:
Bones. Cooked or uncooked bones can still splinter. Domesticated canines have no need for the minerals and vitamins provided by bones, because all of that must be accounted for in their diet. The FDA has issued warnings about bones to dog owners, and it's advisable to completely ignore these products.
Cheese Blocks. If the cheese block does not show a thumbnail print in it when you test it, that product could break your dog's teeth with regular chewing. Also, if you pick the wrong size for your pet, they can choke or experience obstruction in their digestive system when big pieces are swallowed.
Elk Antler. While much better than rawhide nutrition-wise, elk antlers still have a very hard surface that can break your dog's teeth or even puncture a dog's mouth. With products like these, you don't have to avoid them completely, but supervision is required when your pup's chewing on them.
Nylon Chews. Another very hard surface, and these chews must be picked out carefully. If you have a dog with strong teeth and bite force, they may gnaw pieces off of it and swallow them, which is more dangerous than other chews since this stuff is synthetic.
Wood Sticks. That bit of wood picked up outside can have mold and all kinds of insects and parasites tangled within. Little pieces can break off and cause puncture wounds in your dog's mouth. Playing fetch is likely fine, but make sure your dog doesn't treat wooden sticks as their chews.
What Chew is Right for Your Dog?
The chewing habits of dogs vary. Some grab onto an item and gulp it down as fast as possible. Others want to tear it up into pieces before considering eating it, if at all. There are also dogs who just like to nibble on their chew toys with no desire for consumption.
Keep your dog's behavior in mind when shopping for a safe and appropriate dog chew, or if you choose to make your own DIY homemade dog toy.
Some dog chews are generally safe for majority of dogs, such as rubber chews, which will work for all three types of dogs and their habits.
Rope toys may not work for all dogs but will be good for nibblers.
Dogs that tear things to shreds need only edible chews which are completely safe to swallow and will be easy to digest (and nibblers like these too).
Tennis balls can be dangerous to dogs that need to swallow things but will be great for calmer dogs.
It's best to observe your dog during their first few interactions with a new type of chew toy. See how it holds up and how much your dog enjoys it. If possible, watch your dog whenever they're chewing anything at all.
The Homemade Approach
Dog chews can be expensive, especially if you have a dog that makes light work of it within a day or less. You can make some homemade chewy treats for your dog at home that are perfectly safe and will take some time for the pet to work through.
For example, a bone broth or fruity “Pupsicle” stick. Make these and let your dog enjoy them in the summer months. It'll take some time for your pup to finish these. If you have a puppy, the cold eases teething, too. When making broth Pupsicles, make sure to use low sodium.
Another option is making dried sweet potato chews. Slice them in 1/2” strips. Bake for 4 hours, two hours on each side. They should be a little chewy but mostly dry. When you're done, freeze them and take out just a few at a time as needed. These are likely to be done with much quicker, but depends on your dog.
For something more time-consuming to keep your pup occupied, there's always an old fashioned hemp rope. Make it long, add knots. These ropes will last nearly forever and it's an interactive tug toy for your dog that's safe.
What Are the Best Commercial Chews for Your Dog to Chew On?
By far, sturdy chew toys is what you want for the dog. They provide jaw exercise and mental stimulation for longer. Some have a space for stuffing treats, including breath fresheners and teeth cleaning products. Here are some of our favorites:
Kong toys are incredibly durable. They come in different sizes and strengths so you can choose one suited to your dog's needs. The product line includes freezable toys too. The Kong website gives creative pet chefs the chance to try their hand at Kong stuffing recipes too. What's neat about the hidden treat design is that it puts your dog's mind to work! Overall Kong combines diversity, good pricing, and availability into a consumer-friendly line. Noted as Brand of the Year 2019 for animal products.
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound
This is an interactive treat that's both a chew, a dispenser and a puzzle. Nina Ottosson is strong and stimulating, making for independent or mutual play. It's easy to clean so you can clean it during those “seasons of mud” and other times it just starts looking dirty. These toys are suitable for dogs of all ages. In 2017 it won the Best New Product Award at the Global Pet Expo. Because Qwiz is made from recycled material, it has a positive environmental impact.
These options are very popular. In fact, we did a review on Bite Brite Dental Chews. These are not long-term fixes for your dog's chewing passion. These are not a substitute for brushing either, BUT they are a good short-term alternative that also target your dog's dental health, particularly for fighting tarter. The only down side with Greenies and Dentastix is that they often have a high caloric content. Be judicious.
This is a fairly inexpensive option and you can buy it nearly anywhere. Pet Factory's Beefhide is a healthy digestible option for your dog. Just make sure to keep watch your dog, as long as they chew on it vs. biting off big bites, this is a fine choice. For a gulper you probably need a different approach.
Some dogs like these as chews and as cuddle buddies. The problem is safe construction. Some have bells, buttons, eyes etc. Some have squeakers that dogs adore taking out. Tuffy Dog Toys are one option in this category that handle rough play.
When the going gets really tough there is a product called a Goughnut. Designed by polymer engineers it' nearly impossible to destroy this toy. For safety, there are different colors in the toy's layers that alert you if you need to replace it. The Goughnut floats and works for fetching too. It is a little more costly than some other products, but is worth a try for larger, enthusiastic chewers.
The commercial market is replete with toys for your dog. When you're not certain about your options, ask your vet or trained people at your local supply store. The internet offers you hundreds of reviews from real people who have tried different things. Don't be afraid to utilize that resource.