Why do dogs need to chew?  What are the safest and healthiest bones for my dog?

dog chews



Did you ever wonder why dogs love to chew so much?  Overwhelmed at pet store, trying to find the best chewie to bring home to your pup?  Let’s discuss why dogs chew, and how picking out the right kind of chew is safer and healthier for your pooch.


To take down, kill, and eat their prey, canines must have the weaponry to do so.  Much of their armor lies in their mouth, filled with sharp teeth and powerful jaw muscles.  The canine teeth (aka the “fangs”) puncture and debilitate prey, while the incisors (smaller teeth across the front of the mouth) pinch and tear, saving the molars (large teeth in back) for grinding and crushing.  Chewing on the bones of carcasses is the equivalent of the natural dentist in the dog world.  Grinding and gnawing can clean tartar off teeth, while shredding and tearing aids in flossing for healthy gums.  The dexterity needed to chew keeps the dog’s jaw, neck, and forearms well-muscled.  So for our pet dogs, the need to chew is a hard-wired, healthy, normal dog behavior.


Though our pet dogs may not be using their teeth as weapons anymore, it’s still important our pups chew for their dental health.  Chewing is also a great outlet for extra energy in our dogs.  Providing the proper chew toy can even help reduce mouthiness and nipping during puppy play, and prevent inappropriate and destructive chewing at home.  Always supervise your pet when given a chew.  If you have other dogs, pets, or children, be sure to give your dog a safe, quiet place to chew without being bothered.

Take away items that become too small and could be a choking hazard.  Be proactive and prevent guarding behaviors by teaching your dog to “trade” for a treat when you take away bones and chews.


When I’m looking for chews at the pet store, I look for all-natural bones that are safe, healthy, and economical.  These are the chews I’ve found that most consistently please the dog, the human, and the pocketbook:


*Frozen raw marrow bones.  The enzymes from the raw marrow help break down plaque and tartar naturally.  Frozen raw bones are much less likely to splinter or crack than cooked bones.  They last forever, and getting more chew action equals cleaner, healthier teeth, and a happier hound.  Inexpensive and accessible at natural pet food stores or local butchers.


*DuraChew Nylabones.  The safest, most durable “non-edible” chews in my experience.  However, because their “non-edible”, some dogs loose interest.  Long-lasting, but tenacious chewers will eventually wear down the bone.  My dog chews on his Nylabone daily, but it still lasts him about 2-3 months before I have to replace it.


*Bully sticks or tendon chews.  All-natural and completely digestible.  Inexpensive, flavorful fun for Fido.  Tendons are especially great for extra flossing action.  Avoid bulk bins (too much potential for bacteria and contamination!), and look for pre-packaged chews made in the USA.


Equally as important, these are the chews that I DO NOT RECOMMEND because they are unhealthy and unsafe:


*Rawhides (bleached or flavored) especially if they’re not made in the USA!  My experience in professional dog training and veterinary medicine tells me rawhides are not safe.  I’ve seen too many dogs choke on these, get ill from them, not digest the rawhide completely and need surgery to remove it, and there have been several recalls for ones made out of the USA.


*Busy Bones by Purina.  Contains every ingredient NOT to feed your pets.  You will spend a lot of money for your dog to devour the whole chew in less than 5 minutes, then have mushy clay-colored poop for 3 days.


*Greenies.  Albeit better than Busy Bones, they still have very little nutritional content and encourage weight gain.  Also, very expensive if given as recommended (daily).


Don’t let the complexity of finding the right bone “gnaw” at you… after reading this blog, I’m sure you’ll “chews” the right one!