Updated: Apr 16
Most dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths. Chewing is a normal part of canine development, and the ASPCA says that dogs chew throughout their lives.
Young dogs chew to alleviate pain caused by the growth of adult teeth. Adult dogs chew to keep their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Chewing also can alleviate boredom or tame anxiety or frustration.
Chewing is a healthy response, but dogs will need to learn which items are appropriate to chew and which ones, such as furniture, are off-limits. To encourage healthy chewing, pet owners should keep plenty of items that are safe to chew around the house.
Here are suggestions on picking the best and safest options, courtesy of The Humane Society and other pet advocacy organizations.
Consider age. A young pup with baby teeth will need soft rubber toys or plush stuffed toys for their delicate teeth. But those same toys can be a hazard when bite strength increases, as parts of the toy can be bitten off and swallowed. As puppies age, their chew toys may need to be replaced with more age-appropriate items.
Consider the dog's size. A Yorkshire terrier will not have the same bite strength and jaw size as a Labrador retriever. Look for toys that list the breed size or chewing strength on the package.
Know your dog’s personality. Is your dog a “gulper” who bites off large chunks of toys and swallows them fast? Does he or she nibble? What about a dog that seems to destroy every toy in a minute? A dog that bites off hunks of toys or tears them to shreds will need something durable.
Assess pet preferences. Dogs gravitate to the same types of toys again and again. Some dogs like the feel of rope toys, while others may prefer edible toys and bones that simulate the aromas and flavors of real food. Selecting toys that interest the pet can direct its attention away from furniture and shoes.
Keep safety in mind. Chew toys have their pros and cons. For example, a rawhide bone can provide hours of stimulating chew time, but for dogs who break off large pieces, the rawhide may become lodged in the trachea or intestines. Bully sticks tend to be expensive and are high in calories, so dogs shouldn’t eat too many in a short period of time. Rope toys or less durable items may break apart and cause choking hazards.
Chew toys provide stimulation, alleviate pain, and can even entertain dogs. When using chew toys with dogs, monitor the pet during play, and replace the toy if it becomes dangerous.