What Should Dogs Chew?

Excerpt from The Big Book of Simple Solutions

Your dog needs a variety of chew toys. She should have at least half a dozen—many trainers recommend more—of different sizes, shapes, and textures. Which toy your dog prefers may depend on her mood or what game she wants to play.

Rotate toys weekly so that only a few are out at any one time. This helps prevent boredom. When you bring out the other toys, they’ll seem like new. Place the current week’s toys in a toy box or other container your dog can easily access so she can choose what she wants to play with.

Toys for dogs range from the classic rawhides and hard rubber bones to stuffed cuddle toys to interactive items, such as Action Balls or Buster Cubes, which can be filled with bite-sized treats. Whatever you choose should be both practical and long lasting, able to withstand a lot of high-energy play. The best chew toys are safe, fun, easy to clean, inedible, and hard-wearing items that are different from your own belongings.

Avoid toys that resemble or are made from household items you wouldn’t want destroyed. This includes toy shoes or tugs made from old socks. It’s less expensive to buy dog toys than it is to replace good clothes or shoes that are mistaken for toys. If your child has a favorite teddy bear or other stuffed animal, be sure it’s kept separate from the dog’s stuffed animals.

Beware of other toys that contain small hard parts or bells, buttons, and squeakers that could be swallowed. Rawhide bones are controversial because many dogs gobble them down and can choke or suffer digestive blockages when large pieces are swallowed. Most trainers recommend giving rawhide only under supervision and removing the bone when the dog is left alone. If you choose to give rawhide, look for compressed rawhide, which is less likely to break down in the intestinal tract.

Favorite dog toys are Kongs, Nylabones, Buster Cubes, tennis balls, rope toys, Cressite or other solid-rubber balls, Star Balls, Mutt Pucks, and soft objects, such as stuffed animals or fleece toys, especially those that make squeaky sounds.

Kongs and Star Balls bounce erratically, so they’re interesting for dogs to chase. Tennis balls are beloved by retrievers everywhere. The fibers of rope and sheepskin toys help keep a dog’s teeth clean, similar to what flossing does for humans. Handle soft toys frequently so they hold your scent. Your dog will love snuggling with them when you’re not home. This is especially important for dogs with separation anxiety.

Buster Cubes, Goodie Grippers, Kongs, and similar toys are great for keeping dogs occupied for long periods because they can be stuffed with treats, such as peanut butter, soft cheese spreads, raw baby carrots, kibble, and biscuits, so that dogs have to work to get them out. You can make rubber toys, such as Nylabones or Mutt Pucks, more appealing to your dog by coating them with bacon grease, peanut butter, or cheese. (Remember to clean and disinfect all these toys on a regular basis. Most can be run through the dishwasher.)

Special chew treats can be made by stuffing a hollowed, sterilized beef marrow bone with a thick filling of kibble mixed with water. Mix equal amounts of kibble and water and let the mixture sit for an hour to soften. Fill the bone and freeze it overnight, then “frost” the ends with a soft cheese or peanut butter. This is likely to make a mess as it’s chewed, so give it outdoors and under supervision to make sure your dog doesn’t swallow any bone fragments.

Even the best toys have a finite life span. Replace toys with broken or sharp edges, loose squeakers, or small, easily swallowed parts. Get rid of rawhide toys that have softened or come apart, as well as rope toys that don’t have knotted ends. Sew up or discard soft toys that are coming unstuffed. If your dog has a special favorite, keep a couple of extras of that type of toy so that a replacement is available when the old one bites the dust.


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