The question I get asked the most is "what would you recommend for ...?" and to be honest
it's probably the most difficult question to answer. Just like us, our dogs are individuals, they each have their own personality and preferences. While its hard for me to make a recommendation without knowing your dog I'm going to share with you some important things to consider when choosing the perfect chew.
Age and oral health
Puppies and older dogs generally don't have the jaw strength required to chew threw large, thick bones. The same as with humans poor oral health can cause pain and discomfort when chewing so opt for softer chews if your dog has teeth or gum issues or is missing some teeth.
This is super important for puppies because early loss of their deciduous or puppy teeth can cause issues with their permanent teeth. As a general rule puppies loose the last of their teeth, the pre molars, around 6 months and their full set of adult teeth are in around 8 months.
Think of chew-onality as a dogs chewing personality, is chewing enriching for them and what textures and hardness of the things they like to chew on.
Chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs and for many of them is something that fills they pleasure bucket, relieves stress and anxiety and prevents boredom. The same as some people run marathons for leisure, others would rather just sprint short distance and some would prefer to just sit and read a book the same goes for dogs and chewing.
The type who will chew on just about anything, all day. Marathoners usually prefer something hard to chew on that they can sit with for hours on end. Quite often they are the dog who will find a stick to chew on while out at the park or on a walk. Often but not always what they are chewing on is less important to them than the act of chewing.
These chewers love to get their chewing fix but don't need extended periods to be satisfied. Dogs that like to have a chew then bury or hide it and come back to it later are usually sprinters. Sprinters can be deterred if chews are too hard or difficult to chew and more often than not prefer the reward of chewing, actually eating the treat, than the extended chewing time. Taste and texture of the chew can be important factors for sprinters.
The readers are generally not interesting in chewing but may be persuaded for the right taste or texture and usually loose interest after a few minutes. There can be a variety of reasons for dogs to fall into this category. If you notice a sudden change in your dogs chew-sonalilty to a reader consider speaking to your vet as it could be a sign of a major health issue.
Some generally no-nos
Not all chews are made equal and there are some things you should stay away from when choosing a chew.
Cooked bones are a big no-no for dogs. This is because when bones are cooked they become brittle and can splinter. The sharp edged of the sprinters can cause cut or tears to the digestive tract leading to serious complications.
** Why are dehydrated or air dried bones okay? It has to do with the science behind the cooking or drying technique. Dehydrating and air drying is done at low temperatures for long periods of time. The chemical structures in the bones remain intact at these low temperatures compared to the high temperatures where the structures are broken down and the bones are susceptible to splintering.
2. Addatives of any kind.
Salts are often added to "enhance the flavour", however salt can cause complications in dogs. Dogs sense of taste is significantly better than ours and they don't need anything enhance the flavour of a good quality product.
Colours or flavours are used to enhance the look or taste of the product. This is done as a marketing tool for us not our dogs but added colours and flavours is just a nicer way of saying "we put some chemicals on this that we made in our laboratory in the hopes you think it looks tasty and your dog thinks its actually beef".
Preservatives are another thing to watch out for often added to improve the shelf life of products.
** The pet food industry is unregulated meaning there is no legal requirement for manufactures to disclose exactly what they are adding to their products beyond including generic words like "flavouring" "colours" or "preservatives" on the labels.
3. Raw hide
Raw hide chews are the biggest no-no of them all when it comes to dog chews. I have a post on Instagram about the dangers of raw hide that you can read here. The biggest things to know which raw hide are that it made using the leftovers from the leather industry and contains absolutely no nutritional value, it is made using serval chemicals and often bound together with glue and they are incredibly difficult for dogs to digest and can cause significant blockages in the digestive tract.
So how do you choose the right chew?
Some basic to remember are;
cartilage and tendons tend to be softer than bone even when dehydrated and soften further the more they are chewed.
larger animals have bigger, stronger, harder to chew threw bones.
marrow bones like spines, tails, hips and femurs can be extra tasty thanks to the marrow.
The list below will give you good idea of the strength rating of common chews.
If you're finding your dog is loosing interest in chews or leaving them part finished, particularly if they like to hide them, you can try giving them a time limit, 5-10 minutes then taking the chew away and giving it back later.
Chews don't need to be finished in one sitting, just remember to dry out any dehydrated chews and store them separately to new chews to prevent them spoiling. Any fresh meaty bones can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge.
Top puppy tip
Give your puppy their favourite treats frozen. The frozen treats will last longer and the cold will help the teething pain. Frozen bananas and frozen raw cartilage or tendon treats are a great option of puppies.