Something To Chew On

Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and dogs gotta chew. At least, that is my belief, backed up with virtually no research whatsoever. This belief is based on 1) understanding that the impressive teeth and jaw structure of a dog is the Swiss Army knife of dentition, able to tear, rip, shear and crunch without having to switch tools, 2) the inclusion of long chewing bouts in the natural behavior of canids, 3) that an internet search on “chewing in dogs” leads to a multitude of articles on how to stop dogs from chewing, suggesting to me that dogs are highly motivated to do so, and 4) the observation that a good chewing session appears to relax my dogs as well as a long walk.

We all know that dogs need to chew, and thus pet stores and the internet are full of appropriate things for them to chew upon. Yet often our attitude toward their chewing is to see it as a problem, rather than an interesting behavior that deserves more attention and inquiry. What do we really know about chewing in dogs, beyond how to keep them from ripping up our designer pillows? (Well, that would be someone else’s theoretical designer pillows, since the farm house I live in has nothing that could be classified “designer” in it).

If left to their own devices, how often do dogs chew? Are there benefits to encouraging them to chew beyond keeping their teeth clean? I did some research for this post and quickly discovered how little information there seems to be on the behavior as part of the natural repertoire of the dog. Even Steven R. Lindsay’s extensive series on applied dog behavior (Vol 3) discusses chewing as problem behavior to be prevented, and managed by the provision of appropriate chew toys. This is not a criticism of the books, the series is essentially about training and behavior problem solving, but it highlights what I’ve found in my (albeit brief) research: Our perspective on chewing is that it is a problem to be solved.

Yet I am finding myself categorizing chewing as an important behavior in a dog’s repertoire, and I’m curious what you think. Both of my current dogs, Willie and Tootsie, appear to be as excited about their chew sessions as anything else I have to offer. That could be because their “chew toys” are clearly categorized as food, but I have a gut feeling that it’s not just the food they enjoy, it’s the process of using their mouths the way nature intended. I’ve had the opposite impression of their response to some of the popular interactive games available, like the Nina Ottoson games, which I think are cooler than cool, and I suspect the dogs think are slightly irritating. (But that could be just my own dogs.)

Currently the standard advice to provide a good life for a dog, especially one who lives as a companion dog in a city or suburb, is to give her a good walk at least once a day and exercise her mind with some games or training sessions. Perhaps we need to add in a daily chewing session? What do you think? I’m curious about your thoughts on the matter.

Safety Issues: I can’t bring this issue up without mentioning the importance of giving dogs objects to chew that are safe. The primary concerns are 1) Toys that can break apart and create small pieces that choke your dog. Don’t think this is just marketing: I almost lost a dog a million years ago when he began to choke on a piece of rawhide. I didn’t use rawhides for years because of it, would never give them to a dog when I wasn’t in the same room with them, and take them away if they’ve been chewed down to a small piece I think might be dangerous. I will admit to a certain amount of obsessiveness  here, but if you’ve ever seen your beloved dog’s tongue start to go blue, you’d understand.

2) Dental Health: Chewing can be a great way to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy, but chewing on hard objects can also break a dog’s tooth. You may recall a post I wrote about Willie’s root canal, and how displeased I was when the veterinary dental specialist informed me after the procedure that Willie should never be allowed chew toys because his tooth was now more fragile and might break. Given how important I think chewing is to dogs, this was not welcome news. I did restrict chew toys, but the tooth broke within six months anyway and I had it removed. I still avoid hard objects, and don’t give him Nylabones or antlers, but don’t hesitate to let him have satisfying chew sessions on a regular basis. As we well know, every dog is different, and you need to choose the toys appropriate for your dog’s size, teeth and jaw power. I love how many of the new, well-made toys will rank how well their products will stand up to vigorous chewers, some dogs being able to chew their way through the Great Wall of China if given a chance.

3) Toxic Substances: What’s in those chew toys anyway? Are they good for your dogs? It is those concerns that motivate me to buy American-made rawhide only, and to love the healthy toys available through Planet Dog. I’ll be the first to admit that I give my dogs some edible chews whose exact ingredients are a mystery to me, but I do try to be mindful of concerns about additives. I still love giving my dogs real bones, in part because there is nothing added to them (and that’s what their teeth are designed to chew on anyway), but of course would never give them cooked bones or the long, harder bones of large animals that could break a tooth. Here’s a new product line I’ve never used: Bionic Pet Products, anyone used any of these toys or stuffable chew toys yet? Willie and Tootsie still get a stuffed Kong every morning, but I think I’ll give the Bionic line a try.

Two questions for you then: Do you agree that dogs “need” to chew, or that allowing them to use their mouths and teeth on a regular basis is good for them? And what do YOU give your dog to chew? Favorites? Products you have had problems with? I look forward to your always thoughtful contributions.

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: The leaves are out, the tulips are blooming and the summer breeding birds have arrived. Just last week we greeted the Rufous-sided Towhee, the Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, and the Orioles. Jim and I are about as busy with the farm as one can get; all of you who also live in the country know just what I’m talking about. Everything needs to happen RIGHT NOW! Reseed the bare patches in the pasture QUICK before it gets too hot and the rains stop. Clear out the new trail through the woods NOW before it gets too overgrown. HURRY and weed out the flower beds before the grass takes over. Set up the portable electric fences (which involves trimming the grass beneath them each time they are moved) for the week’s controlled grazing. Feed the 5 bottle lambs 3-4 times a day, including Spot’s triplets who just couldn’t ever figure out the self feeder and take forever to get milk into their bodies.

I mustn’t give the wrong impression: We are busy (especially with this being the last week of the UW class I teach to 150 students) but spring is heaven here, and sometimes I think we are the luckiest people in the entire world. Willie and I get to work sheep again and have been loving it, the world is a palate of greens and pinks and blues, and the bird song wakes us up each morning like a symphony.

Here are the two bottle lambs who are masters of the self-feeder, Ralphie (black, in the front) and Goat Girl in the back. They suck like a vacuum cleaner and are done in less than 30 seconds. Lambs wag their tails when they are getting milk, and these two look like  helicopters when they are feeding.

lamb bar


Here’s the action at the bird feeders–I took the photo through the kitchen window so it’s not as sharp as I would like, but I thought you would enjoy the colors. (Along with all the Goldfinch, there is a male and female Downy Woodpecker and a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the bottom right corner. We’ve had as many as 10 males RBGs at the feeder at the same time, such fun. Along with their physical beauty, they have a beautiful song, sort of like a slow, raspy Robin whose notes start with W’s.

feeders mixed 5-13



  1. Suzan says

    I absolutely agree that dogs need to chew, and we give our dog Churpi Chews or Himalayan Chews. They work great for us.

  2. Beth with the Corgis says

    For some reason we almost never get rose-breasted grosbeaks at our feeder. We did have 11 (!) male goldfinches, and several females, at our feeder the other morning. Many were on the ground and they were so plentiful they looked like a leaf scatter.

    I tend to whole-heartedly support your believe that dogs in general need to chew. That said, neither of mine are especially enthusiastic chewers. Jack only gets an antler or bone if I tell him to go get one to stop pestering us. Maddie generally chews something if Jack is chasing a ball in the house, but I conditioned her to do this to stop her from trying to hump him (I think I mentioned this in the article on humping).

    Otherwise, they are less than enthusiastic. They do like to chew things they like to eat (dental chews, sticks— which we avoid for obvious reasons). And they like to shred stuffed toys. But they don’t chew just to chew.

    The hunting dogs I grew up with, on the other hand, were non-stop chewers.

  3. Nic1 says

    Chewing is definitely an activity in our household and not a problem behaviour. My dog has her issues but fortunately not to do with my shoes or other household items. She seems to have an understanding of which is her stuff and enjoys settling down for a good old chew after a long day at the office or if she has a bit of boredom to endure of an afternoon.

    I love Kongs. Just brilliant inventions for dogs. Although I recall Beth mentioning that Maddie has managed to break chunks off the black one! :-) I freeze Kongs stuffed with low fat cream cheese, peanut butter and liver paste for treats if Lily is left on her own for a few hours. I also put a portion of her food in one for breakfast too. Sometimes I use the Nina Ottosson toys to serve breakfast if we haven’t had time for long walkies in the morning. Lamb necks frozen make great meal replacements and last a bit longer. Occasionally, I’ll feed a lamb shank and Lily will bring me the bone so I can extract the marrow out or her. Pigs ears, bulls pizzles

  4. Rose C says

    My then 13-lb cockapoo, Ludy, had gone through many different types and brand of chew toys and most of them didn’t last intact and safe for more than 2-3 days. I once tried a GoDog chew toy for ‘heavy chewers’ as it boasted of their Chew Guard technology. Ludy ripped it open in less than 10 minutes. I had tried the cattle hooves but boy oh boy do they stink. The dogs thought they smelled fantastic, although they chip on the edges from smaller specks to bigger chunks so I eventually stopped using those too. I now give them stuffed Kong but I am also looking for chews that they don’t get to consume. I might try the antlers. I’m not so keen on the fabric chew toys as I have a feeling my two dogs can rip them soon after as well.

    I gave my dogs bully sticks and they loved it, though I haven’t gotten some of those recently — they are a bit pricey and I end up giving them up to 2 sticks per day and noticed the fast weight gain.
    **Mary K, I recently read a heads up notice from a newsletter that bully sticks contain something that is not good for dogs. I forgot what it exactly was. I suppose you already know they are high calorie treats as you said you let your dog chew only half a stick each time? If I come across the information, I’ll post it for you.

  5. Nic1 says

    ,dried tripe, paddywack, rawhide occasionally (must have been terrifying Trisha) are all great chewys but no antlers or rawhides as these seem impossibly hard to me and my own dog hasn’t been impressed with them either.

    I do give Dentistiks. Does anyone else use these? She loves them! Greenies are good too but expensive in the UK as they are imported.

  6. CJ says

    I definitely agree too that dogs need to chew. The last two puppies I trained learned what was chew-appropriate really quickly because every time they started to knaw on something that I wanted to stay tooth-free, they got a safe bone or chew toy substituted right away. The mellowness in my dog’s eyes when she chews is fantastic (she’s not mellow by nature). To me a dog chewing is like a dog digging or barking -it’s part of what a dog is so it’s up to me to make sure she’s got an outlet for her favorite behaviors.

  7. Tammy says

    I am a bit shocked to hear that there has been no studies on chewing. I would love to borrow a heart rate machine to see exactly how relaxed my girl Maci gets when she is chewing. 80% of the time she appears to be hypnotized!

    The goldens favorites are stuffed kongs, raw bones and deer antlers. Ice cubes are lots of fun too.

    Love the lambs – did not know they wagged their tails!

  8. Martina says

    Three big chewers in da house 😉 I also call them my canine shredders, as they love to chew on wood too. They only get dry branches from the willow tree, which has no thorns and doesn’t split. Branches from the butterfly bush are also ok, I simply don’t have enough of them.

    All of them like the treat chews best, mostly various kinds of rawhide. Fr some reason Robby (Golden) prefers the smaller ones while Gina (Labrador) apparently thinks that size matters.

    Mailo’s breeders uses cow hooves, which are very hard and perfect fo those tiny, sharp cavalier puppy teeth; though I wouldn’t recommend them for dogs with stronger jaws. He still wants to chew more often than the adult dogs, the table I’m looking at right now shows this clearly. It’s the only bad habit left (he lost interest in pillows and zippers), but we’re working on it.

    The only durable toys are black kongs (for all three), I have lost count of how many unbreakable toys I had to throw away cause in less than two minutes Gina bit the first chunks out of them. We also have some stuffed animals which actually survived some serious tug play and seem to favored over a kong from time to time.
    But no matter what I give them to chew on, I always stay close and observe, just in case. When he was younger, Robby managed to get hings stuck on his palate on more than one occasion.

  9. Michele says

    My pit mix loves her Kong, stuffed or unstuffed, and is also devoted to gnawing on her West Paw Designs toys. The Tux is also stuffable, and she had a Bumi (a great tug toy). Chewing is great exercise, the perfect activity on days that are too cold and/or wet for long walks.

  10. says

    Totally agree dogs need to chew….if they like it. I have some of my naked toothless types that aren’t interested or at least not for very long. That said all my dogs get raw bones and even the ones with very few teeth find enjoyment in pulling off tendons or licking out marrow. If I want a totally quiet time in my house (doesn’t happen often) I will give everyone a raw bone in their crate and you’d not know there were dogs in the house sans crunching noises. Love your bird feeder shot, you couldn’t have posed it better – what a colorful variety!

  11. Sally says

    Thank you for addressing this topic, as it’s on my mind a lot. I also agree completely that dogs need to chew. For my two dogs (Corgis with fear issues) it certainly is a stress-reducing activity and one of their favorite times of day (post-walk and pre-supper). After a good 30 minutes or so of chewing, they’re relaxed and happy.
    I’ve had a difficult time finding chews that they really like and that I’m comfortable letting them have. Other than the occasional squeaky toy that needs to be disemboweled, they’re only interested in edible chews, so I’ve done a lot of research and trial and error. We tried the Himalayan chews, but they break them into chunks too easily, which creates a choking hazard. High-quality bully sticks were the standard chew until one of them broke a tooth on one, so now we’re experimenting with kangaroo jerky (no verdict yet). I mix things up with Zuke’s Z-Bones occasionally, too. On Fridays they get dehydrated beef tracheas, which don’t last long, but are their absolute favorites. They love creatively stuffed Kongs daily, too, but they never chew on them, and they enjoy the Nina Ottoson toys and similar ones for play, but it’s not the same as the satisfaction they get from chewing on something tasty for a while.

  12. Miranda says

    My dogs absolutely love their chew time, and I do think they “need” to chew. Even if the weather has prevented our walk, giving them a chewy, as we call them in my house, seems to distract them from the fact that I’m sitting on the couch and not getting their leashes.

    One of my dogs is what Nylabone sweetly refers to as a “powerful chewer”. (They didn’t want to say “can destroy anything with their teeth/jaws”.) I used to give her a Busy Buddy to gnaw on with supervision. However, one of those “supervised” play times resulted in a mostly eaten rubber Busy Buddy and a trip into the vet hospital I work at. (I swear I only went to get a glass of water! I came back and it was gone! She’s a magician.)

    Now we stick with C.E.T. chews, which also help keep tartar from building up. I will say they do a fabulous job and I’m repeatedly told my dogs teeth look great. I stay away from animal bones in general, due to them splintering. Elk antlers (that I boil in beef or chicken bullion) are a HUGE hit with the kiddos, too.

  13. says

    I’ve always felt my dogs benefited from chewing sessions. You can watch them get zen-like as they settle into a good bone. My guys have zero interest in man-made items. They will only chew real bones, tendons, etc. One natural item I stay away from are bully sticks. My corgis are intense chewers and the older one cracked a tooth on the bully stick. I also never feed rawhide. I don’t like how it turns into a thick, gummy mess. A nice raw marrow bone provides at least an hour of entertainment.

    I think that especially in this world of primarily kibble diets, dogs need things to chew to satisfy the natural way they are meant to eat.

  14. Kendra says

    I definitely agree chewing is important! I give my dog a turkey neck about every other/every two days. I do it mostly for the beneficial teeth cleaning, but he absolutely loves them.

    Out of curiosity, what do you stuff Willie and Tootsie’s kongs with? I know you wrote a post about what you feed Willie for dinner, but does it differ for the kongs? I think that’s a great way to give the dogs breakfast, and it would prevent them from scarfing a bowl of kibble down in a few seconds flat.

  15. says

    I have noticed, as you have, that chewing seems to calm dogs. Mine love to eat brown paper and cardboard (thinking, as you do, about horrid chemicals and so on, but they love it………). First they shred it, then they eat at least some of it. My family room looks like we have a giant hamster — there is shredded newspaper all around the edges of the room……….

    I agree that they do better if they chew.

    Wondering why kibble has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. I think it should be big and hard, like giant milkbones are, so they have to work to eat…………..

  16. LunaGrace says

    Past the puppy teething stage when they seem almost frantic in their efforts to chew anything and everything to soothe those painful gums, I wonder if adult dogs don’t use chewing as either a self-soothing behaviour (like thumb sucking) or as a digestive aide. Humans produce some digestive enzymes in our mouths, with production encouraged and increased by the act of chewing. Perhaps as fellow mammals or carnivores, canines also produce digestive enzymes in their mouths? I’ve noticed that, at times, when my dogs worked on a “chewbone”, they would slip into an almost meditative state but can’t guess whether this was brought on by the physical act of pressing teeth and gums to a hard object, or by the repetitive motion of munch-munch-munching.

    I give big rawhide “bones” with knots in the ends and dental chews which seem to be rawhide-based as well. I prefer Made in USA but, since Yogi doesn’t get a chewbone on a daily basis and sometimes not even a weekly basis, I am not too concerned about questionable preserving chemicals building up in his digestive system.

    Tried giving Nylabones decades ago to my Siberian Huskies as it was then though that the nylon would shred into slivers which would clean the teeth and exercise the gums but the dogs would snap these into two pieces before we got to the sliver stage. Once, the owner of a pet store where I did most of my shopping because I drove right past it on my way “into town” tried to sell me on the wonders of the new and improved FLAVORED Nylabones. I told her that I no longer bought Nylabones because they didn’t last more than an hour with my dogs, so she GAVE me one to “try out”. The next week, I brought the Nylabone back to the store in two pieces. She was amazed, said that one must’ve had a flaw in it, and gave me another to try out. Next week, same story — I brought THAT Nylabone back in two virtually untouched pieces whereupon she got angry with me (I believe she thought I must be putting them in a vise and purposely breaking them!) and said she’d give me one more, but NO MORE! I declined that offer and told her that Nylabones simply were not a good choice for Siberian Huskies (and perhaps other Primitive breeds with strong jaws).

  17. Nicole says

    What a wonderful post! I remember reading a while back, and now I can’t remember where, that dogs who chew immediately after learning a new task actually learn more than dogs who don’t. Wish I could remember where I saw it…

    I do think dogs *need* to chew. All of mine have chewed throughout their lives; it isn’t just a puppy thing. It can be really hard to find appropriate chews, too. I think all chews have a risk, and it’s up to the individual to decide what risk they are willing to accept.

    I personally don’t use rawhide, as it’s too risky for me. I will feed raw beef knuckle bones, and things like meaty ribs or chicken backs, but I won’t feed long bones, because they are harder. We feed bully sticks, but they get very expensive. My dogs both like a sturdy ball, like the planet dog balls. They have enough give to “chew” but are pretty durable. Mine also like nylabones, and I allow them, but I do supervise and am willing to accept the risk of a broken tooth. Because I have Dobermans there aren’t too many toys out there than will hold up to their chewing.

  18. says

    Ya know.. I never looked at it quite this way before. I just ASSUMED (yeah, I know…) everyone understood dogs need to chew and took for granted that chewing was allowed and provided for! I never really gave it a thought as to if people KNEW and BELIEVED it. I thought it was a given. My dogs chew.. and lots of things they aren’t “supposed” to chew.. squeaky tennis balls like bubble gum, huge logs and sticks they lay and shred and carry around because heavy things feel good in their teeth I guess. Pig ears and bully sticks are awesome as far as they are concerned. They aren’t big fans of the antlers, but the dogs that visit enjoy them immensely.

  19. Bert says

    YES! Mine love to chew and they do get time to do it. We do not use Nylabones as we have one girl who is a very aggressive chewer and she seems to shred off shards. Over the years we have used stuffed Kongs, sterilized bones stuffed with high quality canned food and frozen that they then lick at, marrow bones and their favorite high quality bully sticks.

  20. Beth F. says

    I absolutely believe dogs need to chew, I think it provides entertainment and stress relief. I don’t want to really think about how much money I have spent on bully sticks, ray tails and assorted chew toys in the past 2 years.

  21. says

    I also do agree! My dog enjoys his chewing sessions as he does enjoy his walks and playing with other dogs. I give him Nylabone bones (buy one a month) and he also have his daily LOVED Greenies at 10 am.

    I also would like togive him more options. Will be more careful about Nylabones after reading your post, Never thought that teeth breaking could be an issue, but I have observed some blood a couple of times after a strong chewing time. I had removed the bone and checked on the gums.

    He also loves to chew-tear on my husband’s dirty socks -since he was an 8-week puppy and now he is 8yo! Not “allowed”, but always finds one. But nothing like a BONE!

  22. Jane says

    No doubt about it, dogs need to chew. Mine do seem to show a level of satisfaction after a good chew that other toys don’t bring, and sometimes a single bone seems to change possession (peacefully) between them a hundred times a day. I think many of us who give our dogs objects to chew–whether it’s nylabones, rawhides, or bones–constantly feel like we’re riding a fine line between making the dog happy and taking an emergency trip to the vet. My dogs have each broken a tooth while chewing, and occasionally an experiment with a new type of chewable (like the himalayan chews) goes badly–as in, upchucked on the carpet the next day. But I truly feel like something would be missing from their lives without a good chew, and so we keep on, with fingers crossed. Mine particularly like flat rawhide pieces, and they’ve caused me the fewest problems (and near-heart attacks) of anything I’ve tried.

  23. Vicki M says

    I love antlers. My aussies seem to prefer the largest antlers we can find as opposed to the small ones you usually get from the pet stores (for a lot of money). Steel is a recreational chewer. He’ll go nonstop on a bone until it’s gone but other than that, he’s usually only interested if Ruby has the antler. Ruby, on the other hand is prone to anxiety due to her previous family keeping her crated about 16 hours a day and I’ve found that when I go to bed, she grabs the blankets and chews and kneads them. I am certain she does this to relax herself for bed. I’ve tried giving her the antler instead, but during that time, it’s the blanket she wants. She likes the antlers (especially if Steel currently has it) and chews them enthusiastically, but it’s the soft blanket that she wants before bed.

  24. Sarah says

    Yes, dogs need to chew! Favorite chews are nylabones and antlers – I get the split antlers and soak them in warm water so they’re not too hard. My dogs eat raw, so every dinner is a chewing session, although as they’ve gotten older I’ve moved to smaller, softer bones that are consumed quickly. I occasionally give large raw bones for recreational chewing, but I had to be careful since my dogs think everything is food, and will try to eat it rather than just gnawing on it. I don’t give rawhides, hooves, smoked bones, etc, as my dogs eat them too fast and then get sick. I’ve twice had dogs wind up at the emergency vet after they completely consumed a product that was supposed to be slowly gnawed on.

    And in case anyone is wondering, my voracious chewers are 11-year-old medium sized mutts.

  25. barb perry says

    I have a galvanized tubfull of chew toys for my two dobies and shepherd hound mix. Sadly soft toys get eviscerated here too quickly, I haveheard that dogs should chew nothing harder than their teeth. The tub consists of various Nylabones and Kongs of various forms. About twice a year, I get three femurs from the butcher shop, it is nothing short of heaven for them…when they start to break down, I sneak them to the trash…

  26. says

    In my opinion, chewing occurs when the dog is maybe mentally bored, or maybe doesn’t want to get up and run around, but wants to sit and unwind. Essentially the equivalent of reading a good book or watching a movie. A stress reliever at times and others, just something they enjoy doing, and to each dog it could be higher or lesser on the scale.
    It’s only a problem if they are chewing on something inappropriate, such as the table leg or your slippers

  27. says

    Frozen marrow bones cut into 2-inch disks (by the butcher) are a popular chewing treat with my dogs. They gnaw the bone clean, then lose interest, so I don’t worry that they’re swallowing bone fragments.

  28. Kat says

    Both my dogs enjoy a good chewing session but Ranger will go several days between sessions and Finna needs to have a chew available at all times. The act of chewing is soothing to her and one of the ways she has learned to manage her stress. It’s amusing to see her telling my husband when he starts to enter her space to wait, wait, while she looks around for a chew and once she has it in her teeth she gives him the you may proceed look. Him approaching her is something that induces anxiety in Finna but with something to chew on she is able to relax and tolerate him in her space without displaying inappropriate behavior.

    When we first adopted her Finna was a very aggressive chewer. She could demolish a 12″ bully stick in half an hour! We bought her an antler which was her favorite chew for about six months, it’s still around somewhere but she’s lost interest in it. Both dogs get meaty beef bones to chew they love chewing off the meat and licking out the marrow. Neither of them try to chew up the remaining part of the femur so I don’t worry about them breaking a tooth. Given softer bones–tails are a big favorite–they eat them bone and all. Finna will also chew off pieces of bone from the ball end of femurs so I watch her with those and when she starts breaking off bits of the bones to eat I take it. Both dogs love the Checkup Chew dental chews although being made mostly of potato starch they eat them more like treats than real chews. They also like the Kirkland Brand dental chews from Costco but again these don’t last long and are more like treats than chews. They go through periods where bully sticks are popular but then take a few months off ignoring offered bully sticks until they are once again popular. Neither of mine are all that crazy about Kongs. I was thinking the other day I should round up my collection from the back of the pantry and donate them to the Humane Society. Ranger liked them when we first adopted him and we had several in regular rotation but then he discovered real bones with real meat still on them and Kongs lost all appeal. Finna never saw the appeal in the first place.

    Finna likes to eviscerate stuffed toys chewing through the fabric layer, the skin if you will, until she gets to the stuffing which she carefully removes and strews around the living room. She seems to derive great satisfaction from doing this so I try to permit the destruction of a couple soft toys a month.

    Ranger still has soft stuffed toys he had six years ago. So very different they are to how they approach toys.

  29. Barb C says

    We give our Aussie, Zanzi, small bones and if you’ve ever seen an Aussie’s eyes when a bone like that appears you’d know how much they love them. Besides being good for her teeth (and at 3 she has the most beautiful white teeth), the chewing seems to relax her. She’s thunder phobic and a new bone can pretty well calm her down like nothing else. She gets her breakfast of kibble and either yogurt or pure pumpkin mixed together in her Kongs also. Sometimes in the evenings she likes to chew on a soft toy. It’s more like a soother to her and again seems to relax her. After she broke a tooth on a large bone we tried the antler but she really isn’t interested in that. Anyway, seeing the joy she gets from chewing I sure agree it’s something that dogs need to do.

  30. Kathy says

    I absolutely agree that dogs get more out of chewing than, well, chewing. I use kongs and occasionally a large stuffed, smoked femur bone. Once they start whittling the edges though it disappears. I watched my BC Sam’s tongue turn blue
    from a small piece of rawhide stuck in his throat so I know exactly what you are talking about!! Fortunately I got a finger around it and got it out in time. But it’s the look on their faces when they chew that convinces me there is more to it. They close their eyes and revel in the chewing. Frank loves racketballs (well, any ball) but he especially likes the racket ball because he can sqeeze it in his mouth without damaging it. Maybe it is a little like us chewing gum, sort of a relaxing, “take the edge off” activity.

  31. says

    I agree that dogs love to chew and most seem to NEED to chew. From a chiropractic and neurological standpoint, there are more proprioceptors in the TMJ than anywhere else in the body. Maybe there is important “resetting” or neurologic information, soothing neurotransmitter release, or some other actual scientific answer. Or, as a friend says, it’s a leave-me-alone-for-20-minutes break for their owners :-). My opinion is also based on absolutely no scientific evidence, but a thought provoking question.
    Your goats are adorable, and I suspect soothing neurotransmitters are released in our brains watching them, as well as the birds, and most other wonderful spring things in nature :-).

  32. Beth with the Corgis says

    Upon further reflection, my dogs do like to chew but what they like is not appropriate. Maddie prefers rubber toys that she can get hunks off of (which is any rubber toy; as Nic1 mentioned, she got a big piece off a black Kong.). Unfortunately, she’s one who will eat the pieces.

    Jack likes to chew/suck on soft toys, but I think this is a displacement behavior and does not really qualify as healthy chewing. It seems to me to be a mild obsessive type behavior. I allow him to have them sometimes, but after a couple days Maddie decides to eat pieces of the soft toys too so once they begin to fall apart, they need to be thrown out.

    Jack liked bully sticks but I tried them twice and both times he got loose stools.

    They used to enjoy the beef marrow bones if they had marrow in them, but I had two splinter on me and I no longer trust them.

    We have tried antlers. I find they fall into two categories: some antlers hold no interest for them. Others are treated as a food item and they will polish them off in two or three days. I’m not sure what the difference is, since I have had a package with two where one was swapped back and forth between the dogs while the other was forever unloved.

    I’m sure they would love raw meaty bones but I’m afraid to give them.

    So I guess they would like to chew if I could find that sweet spot of something that they like (which always means something they can actually wear down and consume) but is also safe.

    I have yet to find it so I’m hoping for some ideas from this thread. I’m afraid of rawhide because of the choking issue; one of mine is a gulper.

  33. Kay D. says

    My dogs all love to chew, the favorite are Nylabones, the bigger the better. they also like small rawhide sticks, and i only give small rawhides because many moons ago i too had a dog turning blue because of a big rawhide knot lodged in her throat.

  34. Laurie says

    I think chewing is very relaxing for dogs – I give my Ranger bull pizzles- since I take them away after about 20 minutes they lasts for a while (wrapped in plastic in the fridge) & he continues to find it a great treat (as in he perks up & races to the kitchen when I ask if he wants a chew stick). I buy the 18 inch stick because after it gets to about 3 to 4 inches long I throw it away (am afraid he’ll choke on the small part). I too read something about them being fattening & possibly harbouring germs but this is not even a daily treat – just a sometimes thing.. Also he occasionally gets the fat 3 inch long marrow bones – again just occasionally are they are very fatty & rich (and absolutely an outside toy – way too greasy for the house.)

  35. Eileen says

    Yes, I think dogs need to chew. There has got to be a reason that it is such a big part of daily life for so many dogs. Elk antlers have changed my life–it is now a nightly ritual for all 3 dogs to settle down with their antlers when the TV goes on. Even my impossible to tire out girl Lacey chews until she falls asleep with one between her paws. They don’t smell or stain and last a very long time, even with 2 lab mixes. The chewing can be noisy when the antlers are new, and they do hurt when dropped on your foot (or stepped on) but they are worth an occasional #$!!@#%.

  36. Trisha says

    Wow, what a lot of great comments. I just got back from a movie (Renois, gorgeously wonderful) and dinner and tried to post comments from my iPad but might have erased a few. Eeeps! If so, my apologies. I owe you a chew toy! Gotta go now and take care of the dogs, looks like a good night for them to have a good chew!

  37. laura nastro says

    I see nothing wrong with giving my dogs chews. I do supervise them and give them appropiate items to chew. They especially like antlers and they get the hard sterile bones which I fill with some gooey yummies–that seems to satisfy the chewing and working at getting the yummies. I don’t give them rawhide because my dogs would chew off pieces and I want them to have chew items that they get gummy and cannot break off pieces. I do agree with getting only american products and checing out the ingredients.

  38. says

    My dog loves to chew, specifically on real bones. I have gotten her the cheap kind that come with some dried meat on them – is this bad? Some people have mentioned feeding raw bones, but this also sounds dangerous to me. I guess I need to do some more research!

    Isabel will chew on nylabones, but not as much as real bones. And last time she had a rawhide, she would just carry it around, without chewing it for months. Eventually she did start chewing it, and then destroyed it very quickly. So bones are the best for us, since she will be happy with a bone for ages.

    Also, when I first got Isa, she did not instinctively know what to do with chew toys (although about once a month or so she would destroy some possession of mine.) She had to work up to learning how to chew – I let her chew up the cardboard boxes from our recycling at first, and eventually she got the idea that when I hand her toys, it is a good idea to try chewing on them.

    We also get antlers sometimes, but these are not as long-lasting entertainment as the bones.

    Also, I realized I haven’t paid attention to whether it relaxes her, but for sure when I get home and she is very excited, after saying hello to me, she will run and get her bone and chew on it really hard, as if re-directing her excitement into chewing.

  39. says

    I do agree that dogs need to chew! I forget what dog book it was (I read so many, especially right when Elka was a puppy), but the author stated something to the effect of “chewing to dogs is like a smoker having a cigarette”, and viewing the pleasure that Elka clearly takes from it, I can believe it.

    I used to give her rawhides, but then learned more and grew suspicious of what crap exactly I was giving my dog (plus, the reports of dogs actually DYING from those Wal-Mart exerhides….) I stopped giving her rawhide. She likes bully sticks (though oh God the smell, if I can’t get the odorless ones), but they don’t last nearly so long for my girl as people seem to think they do for dogs in general. I can MAYBE get half an hour out of one; typically less. She loves chewing apart tennis balls, and really, I let her. She doesn’t seem to ever swallow any pieces of things she tears apart, and I monitor, and then remove it at the appropriate point (she gets a treat for that trade!) Squeaky toys are never sturdy enough to be pleasing chew toys for very long; they need to be interactive if they’re going to survive!

  40. Dinnee says

    My dog loves to chew!! (And I love how in the Sims 3, chewing is marked as a required need, like eating and going to the bathroom.)

    As a pup my dog was put on a raw diet, because of wheat allergies, and he gets bones every other day as part of his diet. After every dinner he comes running inside for his ‘toothbrush’. Which is actually a small rawhide stick. He loves rawhide so much that he will chew and chew until it’s all gone. He can go for hours!

    I’m hesitant to give him large chew objects because of his food anxiety. We’ve come to the point where he will allow us to be near him and pet him, without him freaking out entirely and I’m very happy with that. I don’t want to push him any further by ‘demanding to be able to take anything from him that he’s eating’. It seems unnecessary and cruel.. (But I guess that’s a whole discussion all together)

    He chews on non-edible items too, but I wouldn’t really call that chewing, more like methodically picking apart. He loves untying the knots in his pull ropes. He’s a master at it. And then my living room is covered in cotton strands (thank god he doesn’t eat them). I’ve started buying him bigger and bigger ropes and you should have seen his face when I came back from America with a rope that had a knot in it that was bigger than his entire head. Christmas come early.

    He’ll lay down on his mat, carefully place the knot in his paw and really gently start to pull at all the strings, until one comes lose, is placed to the side and he moves on to the next. An hour later the room is covered in string and he is happy.

    So yes, my dog definitely needs to chew. It makes him happy! He’s got a good grip on what’s his and what’s not, so in our case chewing is not a problem at all.

  41. Martina says

    This is already the second time this week that I’ve heard of antlers as treats for dogs. I’ve never seen them in any pet store (off or online), but I’m curious enough to let the dogs try them and I will find a source.

    Looks to me as though especially chew treats vary from continent to continent, e.g. beef sticks are not available in France or Germany. Bulls pizzles (which look similar) are still a favourite with many dog owners, I personally think they stink besides being gone too far.
    I used too give them dentastix, but they too are gone in less than 5 mins (max).

    Recently I discovered stripes made out of dried beef skin, made by the same company where I order the dog food.
    And they all love carrots, the floor is a mess afterwards but I bet they would choose carrots over any chew bone.
    My dogs seems to handle their chew time differently, Gina and Mailo are ready to play afterwards while it’s not uncommon that Robby falls asleep during is chew session or right afterwards.

  42. Frances says

    My two are not great chewers, except for food – they get raw chicken wings or other RMBs, or chunks of raw green tripe (think edible rubber bands!) most days, and occasionally paddywack or similar stuff, but have little interest in chewing toys, and Kongs get thrown around till the filling drops out and are then ignored. I am wary of the provenance of most commercially available chews, and have yet to find a way of successfully making them at home – my attempts at jerky have usually ended up as tiny crispy scraps – much appreciated by the dogs, but eaten in seconds!. Pens, pencils and sticks are the only inedible things that get chewed if I don’t take care to keep them out of reach. Sophy does enjoy nibbling, though – she has an IKEA mouse with feet that are for some reason just right for nibbling, and she will lie on her back and hold it in her paws to get it in the right position.

    But my dogs do lead a very relaxed, low stress life. They get two good, off leash walks most days, they have a pleasant routine of meals, walks, games and snoozing, and few demands on them beyond basic good manners. Perhaps recreational chewing on inedible objects is a puppy habit that continues if the dog finds the calming effect sufficiently rewarding, and some dogs are so chilled already they don’t feel the need?

  43. Fran says

    I do think chewing is important to dogs.

    I feed my dogs a raw diet, so they get lamb bones or chicken/other poultry carcasses every day. I give them antler bars too, but they’ve had them a year and they’re only half gone. Bones keep their teeth clean too – I’ve never had to have my dogs’ teeth cleaned at the vets, despite their narrow jaws. I don’t give my dogs beef bones though, especially marrow bones, as they’re too dense and can wear the dogs’ teeth down. They’re also more likely to break a tooth on such hard bones.

    As chewing is part of their daily diet, I don’t tend to have problems with chewing things they shouldn’t. The wooden knobs on furniture occasionally get chewed (and wouldn’t if I kept putting lavender on them), but that’s about it.

  44. Amelia says

    Great article! I have 2 powerful chewers so we have tested most chew toys on the market. So far, their favourite seems to be the elk antlers. I choose antlers that are wider/ too large for them to actually fit into their mouth, to avoid the injuries that can occur with the pointed antlers. I have a specific brand but am not sure if I can post that here.

    We also have a variety of nylabones (in the biggest/strongest size available) and they have held up very well.

    If it’s a rainy day they can have one of the ‘special’ chews that only comes out when I am directly supervising (these are usually the things that can be edible like bully sticks).

    Now – even with all of this, my youngest dog’s favourite chew toy is still the couch!

  45. KT says

    I firmly believe in a good chew session every evening for my dog. I tend to avoid rawhide..can’t see where the tanning chemicals used on the hide can be good for dogs. I also avoid Nylabones. Again, who knows what kind of chemicals the nylon releases..maybe BPA like the water bottles? That being said, I usuallu give curly bullys, bully sticks, and gullet wraps to my dog. Of course, I also wonder what is used in the processing of those but they seem to be more “natural” than the other chewies. He gets one every night after his evening meal. If I don’t give him any he seems to get a little hyper, dragging out toys and chasing the cats and such. Guess it does calm him down. He’s very active so I don’t worry so much about all of the extra calories they provide.
    Just FYI….I think they divided the rufous sided towhee into 2 groups..the Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee. That info coming from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology…..
    We have the spotted towhee here in Colorado and maybe you have the eastern towhee?? I wish we had rose-breasted grosbeaks..they’re so pretty!

  46. Scout says

    Like others, I believe dogs need to chew and never really questioned this need… so basic for dogs. For us, it is a matter of finding the right chews for our multidog household (which ranges from 20 pound to 50 pound dogs). Sadly, we’ve said goodbye to bullie sticks – not only are they expensive, but we’ve had some near catastrophes with dogs eating too much of the sticks even with close supervision.

    Luckily for us, nylabones seem to work well for all of our dogs. They enjoy them and none of them have the strong jaw power like the siberians or the bully breeds; so far, no broken teeth. I also have kongs but they don’t tend to chew on them much. They lose interest after eating the treats I stuff them with.

  47. says

    I agree…dog’s need to chew. My dogs are more relaxed at night after they’ve had a good chew session, especially on days where they didn’t get quite as much physical activity as they would have preferred.

    Mine mostly get bully sticks in the house, but I’ll also do smoked or raw bones. They are not aggressive chewers so I don’t worry about splinters, broken bones or them cracking their teeth. One of my girls will occasionally exercise her jaws on old (clean) deer bones I give her from hunter harvested deer. Even though there is no meat or marrow left on them, she seems to like the opportunity to mouth it, play with it, and just exercise her jaws.

    I don’t do rawhide or nylabones. I’ve seen too many choking or bowel obstruction incidents to chance it and there are plenty of safer things for them to chew on anyways. I don’t allow chewing on any kind of toy. Mine have no interest in chewing on a kong once it no longer has food in it. Both like to tear apart sticks in the yard. And one pulls off old bark from small pine logs (campfire size) and eats the bark…particularly if the pine bark has lots of bug casings in it or had termites/ants.

    Neither of them like antlers. We find deer and elk antlers out in the woods all the time…and I have several as decorations in my home…while they like to pick them up and carry them around, they don’t have any interest in actually chewing on them.

    I don’t think that food/puzzle toys and frozen stuffed kongs are the same to them as actually chewing a bone is. That said, I do stuff cow hooves and leg bones with the same mixes I stuff their kongs with, and I freeze them. These I save for a double chew session…they work at getting the frozen food out, and then chew on the bone or hoof afterwards.

    I’ve heard many vets talk about ‘no chewing on hard objects”…but I think that is such a general statement and really should be more dog dependent. If a particular dog has lousy teeth that are prone to breaking, than I think you should just adjust what they are allowed to chew on instead of not allowing it at all. I’d rather have a content, happy dog that is allowed to “be a dog”, than put them in a bubble and try prevent all the possible things that *might* go wrong.

  48. Elizabeth2 says

    Chewing = zen for dogs. I’ve had the hardest time figuring out what is really okay for them to chew. Our vet adamantly opposes bones, even frozen ones, but then a vet sees only those dogs who chip a tooth or swallow splinters, and not all the dogs who spend zillions of hours happily gnawing on bones, right? But for now I order free-range bully sticks by the carton and they last maybe forty minutes each. Finn likes to hide for his chew sessions and retreats to his den under the dining-room table. When a roll of toilet paper goes missing, it can be found in confetti form under that table. He also loves ripping apart cardboard, and if anyone forgets and leaves a box lying around, it gets dragged to the den triumphantly as if it were a gazelle carcass. Bardot’s chew style is pure exhibitionist bliss, and it doesn’t matter how many people are around, she sprawls frog-style in the middle of the room with her eyes half-closed, and nothing else exists for her till that stick is history.

  49. jackied says

    Chewing on a real bone is absolutley THE most relaxing, distracting, and soothing activity I have found to help my reactive dog when he is worried by visitors.

    My other dog seems to find chewing particularly on bones and kongs a bit exciting, probably because she is a resource guarder, possibly because she is a spaniel and pretty much everything in the universe is exciting!

    I think I have instinctively regarded chewing as something which a dog needs to do, just because. Like sniffing, sunbathing and so on.

  50. Jay says

    There’s chew & there’s shred…we’ve got two pit crosses, one a lab/pt, the other a cattle dog/pit. The idea that chewing isn’t a natural behavior for these guys just seems flat absurd. I think in the same way we sometimes crave something good & crunchy, the doggoletos get to craving a ‘chaw’.

    We give each dog a thick rawhide chip after dinner, while they’re supervised. Then there’s Nylabones & sterile bones & Kongs & chew ropes around, and the dogs do vary what they settle down w/for a good chew. The bones seem to be the least popular unless I stuff them. Only one dog actually chews the dental rope, but she could be in a commercial for how well she uses it. The other dog only uses it to invite us to play tug & fetch.

    Then there’s shred. The lab/pit loves to shred cardboard boxes into mouth-sized bites. It’s definitely related to the plucking action one sees in canids that have killed something, removing the feathers or fur & gleefully flinging it over their shoulder. One can see lots of ‘primitive’ gestures in box shredding…the bracing & pulling of removing muscle mass, the stripping of the hide, the plucking, etc. We don’t let her eat any of the box, just kill & dismember it. LOL

  51. Khris Erickson says

    I have two Bionic toys that Quinn, my 6 month old BC loves. One is the Bionic Stuffer which can be used as a kibble dispensing toy. It’s pretty easy for the kibble to come out, and is short lived in keeping his attention that way. The other is the Bionic Bone with slots on the end where biscuits can be stuffed. That actually keeps him busy much longer.

    The Bionic toys are a rubber and won’t be impervious to serious chewers, but Quinn hasn’t done too much damage to them. They’ve held up well to his type of chew style.

  52. Bonnie H. says

    I also think that dogs just gotta chew. Until recently, we had litter mates brother/sister, and the male dog claimed all toys and chews, so his sister turned to empty plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and pens (have to watch her all the time!). She doesn’t eat them, just enjoys chewing on them.

    To Jay: our recently departed lab/aussie mix male loved to shred boxes, never made a connection until your description. Buddy loved to shred, but never ate the pieces. Terrific connection!

  53. Margaret McLaughlin says

    Since I raise guide dog puppies (& the school is VERY PICKY) my choices have been made for me. Nylabones & kongs, & that’s it. My own dogs get rope chews when the puppy-of-the-moment is crated. I have tried antlers & all 3 dogs loved them, but keeping 3 power-chewers in antlers is cost-prohibitive. The vet I used to work for scared me off rawhide for life, even for my own dogs. They all chew sticks in the yard.
    On the need–I have learned to carry chewies in my “puppy diaper bag” along with his settling mat & clean-up stuff. They’re invaluable for getting a young puppy thru a long meeting (or a dentist appointment) without the puppy whining or looking around for trouble. I do cheat & carry a rope toy in the bag for times when the puppy needs to be silent–a Labrador working over a Nylabone can make an unbelievable amount of noise.
    I do think that the need to chew & the need to shred may be totally different. Lia spends the least time chewing of any of my dogs, but I could rent her out as a paper shredder.

  54. em says

    I’ll add my voice to the chorus of those who are surprised that chewing is not universally recognized as normal dog behavior. Inappropriate chewing IS a problem, of course, but chewing is so much a part of daily life that I had to think fairly hard to come up with all the instances during a typical day that my dogs do it. I’m quite lucky in that my dogs are not swallowers of non-food items, destructive or obsessive chewers. They both chew a bit every day, I’d say, but not for all that long in a session, usually.

    They eat raw, so they get a regular serving of bone, muscle meat, tendon and organ meat in their diet, all of which offer some textural interest. I don’t give big marrow bones, because my dogs WILL try to crack the bones (Otis can) and I don’t want to risk their teeth. (I do sometimes roast marrow bones and scoop the marrow for them for a special treat…) I don’t give rawhide or most commercial edible chewies because they usually upset Otis’ stomach. The amount of air that they swallow as they work on edible chews also concerns me a bit because bloat is such a serious risk for both my deep-chested dogs, but for Otis the dane in particular.

    Otis and Sandy both like sticks, and I allow them to have a few bark-free, well-cured sticks in the back yard (closely supervised). Both dogs seem to like the sensation of biting the wood, but they don’t break or splinter the sticks, so I just keep an eye on them. Otis’ particular favorite is a 3′ long section of tree limb a couple of inches thick, slightly curved with a fork at one end so it makes a tripod-no matter how it is lying on the ground, part of it is sticking up at a convenient height for gnawing.

    Otis is very fond of soft squeaky toys, too, and will spend several minutes a day pouncing, biting, and gnawing on one or another. He eviscerates one every once in a while, but is usually gentle enough not to destroy them for months or years at a time. He concentrates his chewing on faces, which is a little disturbing, and any fairly solid flappy bits that stick out, so he doesn’t do much shredding.

    Sandy will chew on a ball or other toy when outside, along with sticks, but not as frequently as Otis does, and very seldom will she chew on anything other than food while in the house. She also does not seem to show the ‘chewing as self-soothing’ behavior that I see Otis exhibit on a regular basis.

    Otis is typically a very laid-back dog, but the mailperson (not the UPS or Fedex folks, though, they arrive in a TRUCK, walk politely up the drive and knock on the door, so they’re obviously legit) is his bete noir. He can’t stand the mail carrier and my admittedly fairly minimal efforts at counter-conditioning have had almost no positive impact.

    The mail carrier cuts through yards and moves between houses on foot, (acting weird! breaking a rule!), moves very briskly towards the house (possible danger!coming in fast!), drops mail in our box without coming to the door to be greeted (sinister skulking about!) and scoots off again just as briskly (I did it! My fearsome barking once again scared away that sneaky, dangerous weirdo who was probably going to attack us!).

    Years of gently discouraging Otis’ barking fits at the mail carrier have created a new ritual. Otis still barks at the mailperson, but now he breaks off after the first flurry to go and find a chewie- his stick if he’s in the back, a toy if he’s in the house, lie down and gnaw it for a few minutes. He began this behavior purely on his own, and always seems much calmer both during and after his chew session. I’ve come to think of it as his pacifier.

    I’ve since noticed on other occasions when Otis is upset or frustrated (not often, thankfully) that he will redirect his energy toward finding something to chew and chewing it until he is calmer. So yay for chewing!

  55. Pike says

    Very interesting! Am I the only one with dogs who don’t chew much?

    Granted, the Pom only as very few teeth left – but the hound has strong teeth and jaw. She certainly eats chewy things (pig ears, marrow bones, raw chicken – bones and all – raw hides, etc.) but it is never a chew feast. Just a matter-of-fact crunchy meal. Once all meat, marrow etc, is removed, she loses interest immediately. Only when she has been cooped up for too long or is anxious when being left alone, or wants to start a game with other dogs, will she even touch a non-edible chew – usually a piece of wood, once in a blue moon a ball. And that last for about 30 sec. and then she doesn’t care anymore.

    Maybe certain breeds are more into chewing than others?

  56. Pike says

    Ah – I didn’t see your post the first time around, Frances. I like your hypothesis. Being pretty relaxed would certainly characterize my dogs as well: The Pom is old and sleeps most of the time and the hound – reactive as she is outside – is pretty much a Zen dog at home.

    I guess somebody needs to do a study on this subject, too!

  57. Nancy says

    Several have mentioned that some breeds may need to chew more than others. I agree, individuals also may vary. At least with my crew. I had a hound dog mix that seemed to have hydraulics in her jaws and loved to chew anything allowed (she was a great dog for wanting to please us). My two standard poodles are very different in personality and in chew habits. Katie is my bouncy girl, active, loving to play and inventive will spend half an hour chewing a nylabone or kong toy. Dolci is much calmer and will take a soft toy to hold between her paws and mouth and will “meditate”. She will stay still for about half an hour, occasionally patting the toy with her paw. It would be great to see a study looking at the chew habits of breeds and personalities, and what possible benefits the dogs get from chewing.

  58. liz says

    Having a high energy, exceptionally mouth-oriented, and meticulously self-grooming dog, I automatically add chew sessions to any list of discharge instructions given out at the vet! Exercise restriction plus sutures (or some other new item on her body) prompts obsession. My hope is that besides the calming benefits, the more she tires out her jaw, the less likely she’ll be use it obsessing about a wound or injury. I think that in addition to mental activities, chewing has been critical to making uninterrupted recovery.

    Otherwise, chewing fluctuates in necessity. My other dog managed about five years of nylabone bliss before breaking a tooth, and another year before the same tooth on the opposite side had to be extracted after approx. 30 secs of monitored chewing on a smoked Christmas-gift bone. (Sigh, should’ve re-gifted it… I was holding the bone, letting him pluck off the easy stuff; he had other plans.) Since then the household has become one of limited chew options. I give greenies and try to introduce new soft chews for dental health. Daily tooth brushing (less one day/wk) keeps them in pretty good shape, but nothing seems to benefit dogs’ teeth like regular chewing.
    I guess that chewing strikes me as important to physical health despite the associated risks, and in my experience, it’s nice for behavioral enrichment but not necessary here in normal day-to-day circumstances. I don’t think I’d see much of a behavioral difference if they didn’t get the daily greenie, besides some longing stares at me and the treat cupboard.

  59. Kathy says

    Both our dogs chew, but not frequently. They have bones and large antlers (no points) available, as well as Kongs and other non-name brand Kong-like objects. They never choose the rubber objects for chewing, though. Argus, the cattle dog mix, LOVES sticks, which we try to monitor carefully. He just likes to take the bark off and then bring us the stick for throwing. He’s happy to fetch a tennis ball or frisbee instead, though, and then we can dispose of the stick quietly. If the frisbee or ball is left in his possession, however, it will be crushed and shredded fairly quickly. He has earned the nickname “Confetti Johnson” for the time he got into the grocery bags full of paper recycling and redecorated the entire garage in tiny shreds of brightly colored paper. Kind of pretty, but a pain to clean up!
    The goal of his chewing seems to be to gnaw or dismantle whatever it is, not to chew like we chew gum (which is, I think, why he never chews on a Kong). We’ve had to put away all the plastic-type chew bones we bought over the years for our other dogs, since he can’t really be trusted not to gnaw off slivers of plastic.
    The other dog really only chews very occasionally when Argus is chewing or when he is offered something new to chew. I wish he would do it more often because the difference in the color of the two dogs’ teeth shows clearly who is getting the dental benefits of chewing and who is not.

  60. mungobrick says

    I find it fascinating how different people find different chews the best for their dogs, I suppose that’s why there are so many on the market! Daisy is apparently the strongest type of chewer on the Nylabone scale, and she likes those, although not the enormous ones (although she is a big enough dog for them – 55 lbs.) Someone mentioned the C.E.T. chews, which look like the ones our vet sells – a friend gave me a bag of those after one of her boxers got one stuck in his throat, and I threw the bag away after Daisy in turn got one stuck in her throat. We use a lot of Tartar Busters – Daisy chews them until they are quite worn away but has never had a choking issue. She has a Kong but never chewed it – and we can’t use it for her food anymore because our two kitten fiends would take it from her (and she would let them – no resource guarding for her!).

    I imagine the breed of the dog has a lot to do with how much they chew and what they like to chew. Daisy is standard poodle x golden retriever x Wheaton. (as a friend said to me “we used to call those mutts.”)


  61. Beth with the Corgis says

    For those whose dogs really love chewing wood, Jack was obsessed with chewing wood as a puppy (and I have a hunk missing from a window sill to prove it: if you ask yourself “What can the puppy get into in the kitchen while I run upstairs for 2 minutes?” be prepared for an answer you won’t be happy with!).

    The solution I found was to give him corrugated boxes to shred. He likes it less now as an adult, but until he was about 2, it was a sanity saver. The texture (with initial resistance followed by a crisp give to the teeth) seems similar to softer wood.

    There are possible downsides. Who knows what they might have been treated with? I was very careful not to use boxes that contained items where the boxes might have been treated. I only gave the plain brown ones. And of course, many dogs think that if they had one box, any box is theirs for the taking. I am very blessed because Jack is a dog that won’t take the humans’ things unless they are given to him, so I can leave a box from a delivery lying around for a day or two and he won’t take it unless it’s offered.

    But it was the only thing he really liked to lay down and chew/shred as a puppy, and so it would give me 15 minutes to do some human things like sort the mail (he was a ridiculously high-energy puppy).

    Maddie is not a big fan of bigger boxes, but she loves to play the “help me tear this box up!” game with smaller boxes, such as cereal boxes. I hold an end, she grabs and tears a hunk off, I hold another section, and the game continues until the box is in shreds. Jack likes the game too. I’m not sure what it is about it, but they get that excited sparkle in their eyes and are all smiles while we play the game. I think they see it as sort of a team hunting activity. I do believe that shredding/ripping/chewing all fall into variations of the prey/eat drive, which is why they are so innately rewarding for the dogs.

    Someone asked about DentaStix and mine love them! Also a lower calorie variation called Get Naked.

  62. Rose C says

    Trisha, I am interested to learn more about proprioceptors that someone mentioned in FB. Not sure what kind of references would I find it discussed. Canine anatomy and physiology books? Am interested to learn more (or anything) about it. Thanks.

  63. Jane says

    I had not thought to lump shredding into the “chew” behavior category, either, until Jay mentioned it. All my dogs have loved to shred old milk cartons and cereal boxes (not eat the pieces–just shred). One of my dogs would sit next to me when I brought the mail in and wait to be given that day’s junk mail, which she rendered into tiny bite-sized pieces. The process really does resemble the de-furring or de-feathering of prey!

  64. Rose Tropeano-Digilio says

    I use raw bones with my Brittany. Marrow bones which I know are hard – but she’s not a strong chew. Would be interested to know some other types of raw bone that might be better. I’m always afraid she might swallow something softer.

  65. Frances says

    Ah, the joy of shredding! Especially paper handkerchiefs and loo rolls. And for some reason Sophy loves used Q-tips (only ever available when my sister stays) and will find them no matter how well wrapped and deeply buried in the bathroom bin. And nibbling on nicked knockers (I bet I’m not the only dog owner who has grown inured to wearing somewhat holey underwear)… So I suppose she does chew objects, after her own fashion!

  66. JJ says

    I have no problem believing that chewing as an activity in and of itself is a general dog necessity. But my own experience seems to indicate that there are some outliers.

    I’ve tried every chew experience I could find for my dog: soft chew toys, hard chew toys, antlers, bully sticks, raw hides, etc. He’s never shown much interest. It’s not that he never ever chews anything. It’s just that it’s pretty rare and sometimes I have to really encourage him. Chewing for my dog does not seem to be quite the driving force or necessity that it appears to be for other dogs.

    A couple years ago, I gave my dog raw cow knuckles based on advice from my vet. There’s no doubt that my dog adored chewing it. But my dog loves just about any food imaginable. I couldn’t say whether he chewed on that knuckle bone for the sake of chewing or because it was food related and he is food obsessed.

    Just to show how little my dog is interested in chewing/destroying things: He will happily “baby” favorite stuffed animals for over a year. He may pick them up and shake his head vigorously to kill them good, but he isn’t that often interested in chewing them. That has changed somewhat in the last year or so. He is (gently/carefully) chewing/gumming them more often than he used to. But I still wouldn’t classify the activity as important to his daily life.

  67. Trisha says

    I absolutely agree that some dogs haven’t read the chapter and don’t care about chewing; there are exceptions to everything, right? And I love the discussion about shredding vs. chewing! I agree that they are different activities, and probably originated from differences sequences in feeding. In my experience, most dogs like to chew (but not all as JJ reminds us) and some dogs love to shred, but not as many as enjoy a good chew. For example, Willie is a classic shredder: Just give him a stuffed toy and time how fast he can get the stuffing out. Just don’t blink. Tootsie appears to adore chewing on appropriate chew toys, but I can’t imagine her shredding anything, ever. Of course.. she did have to have 20 teeth extracted so perhaps she is not the best example!

  68. Kat says

    Another thing that interests me is how different dogs treat different things. Finna, the soft toy destroyer vs Ranger the soft toy preserver. Give Finna a soft toy and it is dead in seconds with the stuffing strewn everywhere. Ranger has never destroyed a soft toy since the day we adopted him. Shut a treat inside a cardboard box and Finna will work and work until she gets the box open. I can use the same box over and over for her. Ranger, on the other hand, simply tears through the box and gets the treat, one use is all I get out of a box hiding a treat for him.

  69. says

    I’ve seen some dogs that absolutely need to chew, others that do not. Certainly some breeds seem to need more chewing action than others. What I tell my clients, especially with puppies or adolescent dogs is this: “How do you stop your dog from chewing? You don’t! The goal is not to STOP your dog from chewing but rather to develop the HABIT of chewing appropriate items only.”
    I have not used rawhides with my dogs for many years and they don’t seem to care much for antlers. We occasionally use bones or “flossies” but primarily use bully sticks.

  70. Dezi says

    Bionic toys hold up really well, I work at a pet store and we had very few complaints. Bionic will also replace the first toy your dog destroys. As far as my dogs, I do kongs, home stuffed hooves and lots of raw bones. If I go out in the yard while the dogs are chewing on raw bones and ask about walks I get the “Are you crazy?” look.

  71. em says


    Otis does that with his stuffed toys, too!

    I counted them among the ‘things he likes to chew’ because he does clearly get satisfaction from biting, shaking and nibbling on them (as well as poking them with his nose, pressing them with his paws, rolling over on them, and spending ten minutes at a time making EVERY possible variation of squeaking noise that they can make (he like grunting toys best, they make the biggest variety of sounds when pressed hard/soft/fast/slow/etc.) but he doesn’t chew them like many dogs chew on a bone or rawhide, exactly, and the proof is that his stuffed toys often last for years, and most of them even still have their squeakers intact.

    He also uses them as self-soothers (just today, he and Sandy felt it was dinner time (it was), so they came to catch my eye. I put them off while I was finishing up a task, so Otis went and found a soft toy to bite and play with while he waited.

    Sandy sat patiently for a minute or two, and then began to initiate a quiet game of ‘big mouth’ with Otis (it’s like tooth fencing but highly inhibited, with teeth covered by lips- Sandy sitting and Otis lying down- they’re trying to be subtle so as not to violate the ‘no roughhousing in the house’ rule) as HER self-soothing technique. Sandy shows almost no interest in inside toys- if she does take a particular shine to one, or we strongly encourage her to play with it, she’ll bite it once or twice, take it upstairs and stash it somewhere, then never show an interest in it again. She almost always self-soothes with social interaction, rather than chewing, which seems overall less important to her than to Otis- approaching me, my husband or Otis for petting or play when she is worried, frustrated, or impatient.

  72. em says

    Oh! I forgot! I meant to say that if different dogs seem to be acting out different parts of the hunting-killing-eating sequence, Otis’ soft toy chewing seems all about the catch and kill-bite phase, not the plucking or eating part, unlike his stick chewing, which looks to me more like a pantomime of eating a big bone (though he doesn’t eat it) and more like what I typically think of as “chewing” in dogs.

    He doesn’t use the objects interchangably- he never pounces on or plays with on his stick- he drags it to a comfy spot and lies down with it- or crushes his soft toys with this back teeth. Emotionally, however, the two activities seem to be stand-ins for one another. He’ll readily do either one when stressed and both seem equally calming to him.

  73. Rose C says

    I guess I didn’t really grasp the idea that dogs NEED to chew until I read all the comments. I simply thought they chew (and shred) stuff as puppies to soothe their gums and as matured dogs, just because. I thought we give them chew toys or sticks to give them something to do or as substitute so they won’t chew on our more ‘prized’ possessions.

    Chew toys are randomly scattered on my floor and the dogs would pick one up from time to time. I give them something more interesting to chew like Greenies and their stuffed Kong when I am leaving them to go to work. and mainly to quiet them down when they are getting anxious or when I need them occupied like when I am cleaning the house, or the like. My one dog uses a chewing motion to squeeze the stuffing treat out of the Kong toy but my other just tries to reach them with her tongue and teeth. Thanks to all the post responses, I am getting new ideas for chew items I can get for my dogs.

    Truth be told though, I had been ‘providing’ my dogs chew sessions because I NEED the ‘quiet time’. It didn’t occur to me that THEY NEED to chew. I guess I haven’t really paid attention if they look really relaxed while chewing, I guess I was busy reveling on my own relaxation and chance to be able to accomplish tasks at home.

    My other dog, though, licks quite a bit and I think that’s her way of coping with nervousness and stress. When I watch her lick her paw quite intensely, I see the expression on her face being so relaxed. I check her paw often to make sure there isn’t anything that is concerning with it and there isn’t. It’s just her way of releasing tension, I guess.

    I see Beth Cochran had posted here too her comment on proprioceptors. It’s something I’d like to look into further. I’m sure this could shed some light as to why dogs chew and the benefits they get out of chewing.

  74. says

    Our own dogs and the foster Jacks get a chew session in the late afternoon and it helps them defrag enormously. I have sometimes cheated in really bad weather – it rains a LOT here in winter – and had a post-lunch siesta/chew session as well. They love beef trachea, pizzles and dried tripe from the bullystick people, and it is bliss to hear nothing but chewing – always followed by a good long snooze afterwards – especially when you have a house full of Jacks.

  75. Mireille says

    My dogs like to chew, I use smallish flat pieces of rawhide ( organic, no preservatives and guaranteed european/ dutch, as in ‘not from china’ ). I also give occasional raw bones or bully sticks (not an entire one, they loved it when hubby was sooo generous, but I was the one rescuing Spot from his crate at four o’clock in the morning and cleaning op the diarhea, the poor fellow). Our local butcher hands these out for free, but the thing is I’m a demi- veg, so I always feel guilty buying an ounce of meat for us, then asking for ‘something for the dog’ and getting five bully sticks, or four big chunks of bone…
    I also give ears (pig, cow, goat, you name it), dried tripe, dried duck necks, dried skin&meat chunks from cows heads. They have kong, blackones, which I stuff with vegetables, piecesof bread, peanut butter, cheese, yoghurt etc.
    Soft toys, esp squeaky ones, need to be Destroyed. I had this cool grunting pig which lasted < 5 min unsupervised play (getting the stuff out of the car returning from holiday, left the doggystuff bag in the garden.. )I had a nylabone, but we have tiles on the floor in the kitchen and annex and the guys throw them on the ground = lots of unpleasant noise. Had some antlers but find them very expensive. Bought two, one was chewed on, the other ignored initially. Shadow loves to shred, picks his stuff out of the box with waste paper in the hallway, only problem is Spot eats the cardboard. If Shad is 'hypering aound the house' I 'make him a box'; I get a big cardboard box which I fill with smaller boxes, paper, toiletpaper rolls etc with some treats hidden inside. the room looks like there has been a small explosion,but hey, anything to keep him happy :-) and quiet. I don't mind him shredding, he enjoys it sooo much. He also loves to chew on his kong airdogs balls an shreds them if given half a chance, so these are limited to interactive play,same with soft toys. Only soft toy left lying around is a fleece scarf I turned into a braid with a tennis ball inside, but they do not really chew on it , I guess because there is no stuffing to be got out. Hmm, maybe I should try stuffing it with straw or something like that…

  76. Frances says

    That is an interesting observation, Em. I would say Poppy likes the pouncing bit – she will pick up a special stick out on a walk and play with it for a bit, throwing it, pouncing on it, running in mad circles while carrying it, and then carefully place it somewhere and walk away. She only chews on them if we have been playing Ker-Splosh, where I throw small sticks into shallow water for the dogs to retrieve. Sophy likes the tugging the insides out and shredding bit, as well as nibbling (which is very close to plucking, I think). She likes the Squirrels in a log game and other similar toys, which Poppy ignores.

    And my two are also discouraged from indoor rough housing – and have also developed a subdued version of bitey bitey that gets under Mum’s radar. They even once played it with great enjoyment while I was waiting in a queue at the bank, without ever tightening their leads or disturbing other customers in the slightest!

  77. Kendra says


    You described exactly how my dog plays! He loves to knock over his toybox and roll around in all his toys, then pick one and run around like mad with it. He will shred the cheap dollar store toys he occasionally gets, but not any of his other soft toys.

    And he loves the sound of his squeaky toys – my sister thinks its reminiscent of the days when he had to hunt for his own food as a stray.

  78. Krystal says

    Yes! Both my dogs love to chew. Without doubt their first choice is a raw bone but most evenings when we’ve all settled down to watch tv or read, the dogs go get their ball (they prefer the orange chuck-it indestructibles) and chew, chew, chew. Not only does it relax them but me too – I think because I associate the sound with such contentment on their part.

  79. says

    My, limited, experience tells me that dogs need to chew. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all. Sometimes it’s something to do, sometimes it’s a stress reliever, sometimes its just fun. I guess! :)

  80. JJ says

    Em: That’s interesting about Otis. Sounds like he has a lot of fun! Otis is more into and interesting with his toy play than Duke, but it does sound like they have some similarities.

    FYI: When I first got Duke at 3 years of age, he was very afraid of squeaky noises. If he picked up a toy (which was hard enough to get him to do in the first place) and it squeaked, he dropped the toy and would never pick it up again.

    Duke became comfortable with the squeaky noises over time, but the initial year was really tough. It was tough because Duke did not like hard toys, and almost all the soft toys squeaked.

  81. Faith says

    I absolutely agree that chewing, and I’d go so far as to say biting (think a good game of tug), is essential. I grew up in the traditional paradigm of reprimanding a puppy for biting, but evolved to understand that wasn’t the way to approach it. Now I let all my puppies chew on my hands and then let them know with a loud “yip” when there is too much pressure. I think it’s just absolutely natural for dogs. I’ve also come to believe that if you suppress these sorts of desires, there may come a breaking point because the dog hasn’t been allowed the outlet for its natural tendency. Trisha, I believe it was you who at one point talked about a dog’s “chew bucket” (or maybe meter?) wherein you said it’s beneficial to let them chew to deplete or empty the bucket. In other words, fulfill the desire to chew with something we humans deem appropriate. I know it’s not good to compare humans to dogs, but I think about when my children were infants and how they put EVERYTHING in their mouths…because it was how at that point they were experiencing the world. I may be way off base on this similarity, but it was just something I found intriguing.

    Tug is also a great way to satisfy the chew/bite desire; just be sure to set your ground rules. I have hunting dogs, so I am a bit of an oddball, but I do tug with my dogs. In all my time afield, I have not had a problem with dogs chewing game or wanting to play tug. In all honesty, with my youngest dog, I think consistent games of tug have actually softened her mouth, and she had a soft mouth to begin with!

  82. Katie says

    Chewing is definitely a daily routine for our working GSD. Frozen raw marrow bones, which later are recycled, stuffed and frozen. Special treats are bully sticks, frozen duck necks & knee caps. He also enjoyed hoofs, until he reached maturity and I felt they were to small. I am paranoid about choking too! Antlers are a big hit. One exercise he shall do at least twice a day is take his favorite jolly ball with a handle and bite down on it repeatedly so they air hisses out of it. This goes on for at least 10 minutes. I used to think this was a stress buster, however from studying this behavior over time, I am sure he is exercising the jaw and actually relaxes while doing it, soft eye and ears. His other favorite chew toys, which are man made are the Cuz Balls and Kong Safe Sticks. FYI: Stuffed toys do not last more then 5 minutes before they are un-stuffed and squeakers removed with surgical precision!

  83. Jennifer says

    Some dogs can probably live most of their lives fairly content without chewing. But some dogs, I think feel it as an actual physical desire. I gave my two dogs a beef knuckle each this morning and they have been chewing on them non stop the past few hours and still are.

  84. Beth with the Corgis says

    Just had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeders. You must have sent him my way! :-)

    We’ve also started getting a male Indigo Bunting. Simply beautiful.

  85. Nic1 says

    I’ve just read ‘Pukka’s promise’ – what a fascinating read.

    As there is a distinct lack of peer-reviewed scientific literature on diets for dogs, the debate on feeding bones and raw food to dogs drags on. Some vets advocate it, others don’t. Ted Kerasote definitely does feed Pukka an amazing diet – raw (both commercial and hunted), supplemented with fresh fruit and veggies. He makes a point of mentioning the first time he gives Pukka an Elk bone to chew and noted that this was the one chew item above everythin else that he absolutely devoured and spent a great deal of time enjoying. I have to agree with him that a raw bone to chew on seems to be a blissful activity for a heck of a lot of dogs. Are vets simply being over cautious by inferring that feeding raw bones to dogs is dangerous?

    I got to wondering what type of bones people feed their dogs. Are there any that are ‘safer’ than others?

  86. says

    I’ve always worried about what is safe to give my dogs to chew and avoided both real bones and rawhide. However, with my current puppy (Border collie now 6 mo. old) I have experimented with giving her both. For rawhide I choose large sizes and watch her closely, removing it when it begins to break down. But what she really loves are the raw bones. When the grocery store has them in stock I buy a package of large heavy beef rib bones, slice them up into individual bones, trim off the excess fat and store them in the freezer. She strips them clean and will continue to chew on the clean bone for days. The one thing I am careful about with these is that there is a piece/joint at the tip that loosens after she chews for awhile and needs to be cut off – once that is gone the bone seems pretty safe. Of course I do supervise her when she is chewing it.
    I have also occasionally bought a sterile bone and painted the inside with peanut butter – she is only interested in these until the peanut butter is gone. None of my dogs have ever liked to chew Kongs or similar toys although they will lick whatever food is inside the Kong.

  87. Kim L says

    My young girl, when given the chance, will chew on something every single day. I can’t always afford to buy bully sticks etc. for her to chew on, but she loves it and I think it relaxes her. Love the Premier products (Busy Buddy Funny Bone, Busy Buddy Bouncy Bone), but again, it can be expensive to keep up with her chewing these (buying the refills).

    As a puppy, she went through a bully stick a day, just abou. She was the most active puppy I’d ever had, and would spend hours galloping around the small backyard, enjoying herself, looking for things to chase, etc. Chewing was a great thing for us, because it occupied her in another way, and was more relaxing, less stimulating than the hour-long gallops around the yard. As a sporting breed, maybe these dogs really do need to chew more than other breed groups. Not sure… I’d suspect that Terriers are also big time chewers.

  88. Annette Stiebing says

    My BC Luca loves to chew, his favorit are beef rip bones and beef marrow bones. One rip guaranties about an hour relaxtime. I buy the marrowbones small so he does not get his jaw stuck in it(it happened to the Malinois of a friend of mine resulting in sawaction at the vet). Luca also loves to shred cardboardboxes(which he is allowed),Kleenexb0xes and my bras(clearly not allowed). He is 15mos old and loved to chew since got him at 9 weeks age. We bought beefhidebones, which he does not chew but hides them wherever he can. If he rediscovers them he only hides them in a different place…..he does not like stuffes toys like Kongs, but loves to chew on the tops of plasticbottles, which fortunately he does not eat.

  89. Paula says

    Does anyone have a recommendation of a chew for a toothless dog? My baby girl, Brandy (Mini-Schnauzer) doesn’t have any teeth and she so wants to be able to chew on a treat like her brother but I haven’t been able to find anything that works for her. Thanks for any suggestions.

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