Dogs LOVE chewing. If you look over the carnage of destroyed dog toys in your house, you’ll see teeth marks aplenty. You’ve probably tossed out a few stuffies that ended up mauled here and there. And that squeaky toy? Does it make a peep anymore? There’s nothing wrong with this behavior. It’s part of canine nature. But you might want to consider moving your dog in another chewing direction. Dog bones have always been popular choices. And they offer a lot of benefits. But there are things you need to keep in mind. Let’s work through the dog bone thought process and then review the best options on the market.
Dogs and Chewing
If your dog’s gnawed a piece of furniture or two, you’re probably not impressed. No one wants to see that. But a dog’s impulse to chew is coded into their DNA.
Everyone in the canine family chews. Wolves, coyotes, African wild dogs, and foxes – you name it, they chew. They use bones and tendons to scrape their teeth and keep them healthy. And your dog is attempting to do the same thing – though the coffee table isn’t the best choice for the job.
You offer your dog the best food possible – which is fantastic. However, canned foods and kibble don’t always do the best job of maintaining a healthy canine smile. You don’t want your dog to lose any teeth or cope with painful gums. So what do you do?
You brush your dog’s teeth, of course. The toothpaste removes pesky plaque from your dog’s teeth, leaving a clean surface. Your dog isn’t always HAPPY about the process, but it helps prevent dental problems down the road.
Offering dog bones can provide another route of assistance (not the ONLY answer – you still need to keep brushing). The bones also scrape the teeth. And your dog appreciates getting the treat of a bone to chew on a little more than the toothpaste.
You have two different options when it comes to dog bones. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and you need to think carefully about them before you bring one home. Both satisfy your dog’s desire to chew, though, so there’s no worry there.
- Natural bones
- Synthetic bones
Natural Dog Bones
Natural dog bones are precisely what they sound like: bones straight from the source. They can have pieces of cartilage still attached (something dogs love to pull apart). Your dog gets extra nutrients as they gnaw away. And YOU don’t need to worry about preservatives since the bone came straight from the animal.
However, there’s a catch. All of that extra fat in the marrow can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. You also need to balance the extra calories you’re adding to the diet. (These aren’t dog bones your dog can have every day) The HARD bones can also lead to tooth fracture – something you DON’T want! And since they’re fresh, they WILL start to rot. (Not to mention the, um, fleshy parts can stain floors and carpets)
Synthetic Dog Bones
On the other hand, synthetic dog bones come in a variety of sizes, flavors, and materials. They don’t add extra calories to your dog’s routine, but they provide the same chewing stimulation.
On the flip side, these bones aren’t as strong as natural bones. So your dog can break or bite pieces off. The last thing you want is a foreign body from the chew toy. And, eventually, they WILL wear out.
Dog Bones to Avoid
You will also see two other dog bones out there:
- Cooked bones
NEVER give either of these to your dog. They’re NOT safe.
Cooked bones weaken in the oven. This makes them prone to breakage. They can shatter, leading to perforations in your dog’s stomach.
Rawhides get exposed to different chemicals in their processing. Many are toxic. Other times, rawhides end up contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli, leading to horrible GI infections. Not to mention that rawhides can break and cause obstructions in the stomach or intestines. It’s not worth it.
Choosing a Dog Bone
You know your dog best. So you know what kind of dog bones will work in your household. You can even switch between the different types to keep things interesting. However, when you start perusing the shelves in the pet store, keep these features in mind:
- Size: Yes, it’s funny watching a tiny dog attempt to run around with an enormous dog bone. However, you want to make sure you choose a bone that matches your dog’s size. This prevents potential choking hazards.
- Digestibility: If you’re going with a natural bone or treat, consider how much cartilage or tendon is present. Cartilage digests faster than tendons (bully sticks).
- Hardness: You want a nice tough dog bone to work your dog’s teeth. But you DON’T want to break those beautiful teeth. Take it easy with bones and antlers.
- Calories: If you go the natural route, watch your dog’s diet. You’ll probably want to cut out the treats for a while to balance things.
- Teething: Puppy teeth aren’t as strong as adult teeth. DON’T go for the hardest dog bone out there if your kiddo is still growing.
Feeding Dog Bones
Offering dog bones is a great way to supplement your dog’s dental care. It also keeps your dog from chewing on things you DON’T want to be embellished with teeth marks. But there’s a lot of responsibility involved with dog bones.
Before you bring one home, make sure you’re ready to follow some careful rules.
- Supervision. A dog should NEVER be left along with ANY dog bone. So many things can go wrong. They can break a piece off and choke (or swallow it and cause problems). They can break a tooth. A bone can get stuck on or in their mouth. You need to stay alert and in the room.
- Cleanliness. WASH YOUR HANDS. Even if you’re not using natural dog bones, that chew toy is going in your dog’s mouth. That means bacteria and a lot of it. Your dog will do fine, but you? You can end up really sick. Soap up and wash down the floor when your dog finishes.
- Storage. When chew time is over, the dog bone needs to get put away. This ties in with supervision. You don’t want to risk your dog getting hurt.
The Best Dog Bones
Your dog wants to chew. Actually, your dog NEEDS to chew. It’s an ingrained habit from their ancestry. And the behavior keeps their teeth looking shiny and healthy. You do a lot of the work by brushing, but dog bones help with the process. And as long as you’re keeping a watchful eye, a bone here or there won’t hurt. Your dog gets to gnaw away at something new, and you preserve your furniture. Everybody wins!
The Best Edible Dog Bones
Okay, so maybe you don’t like the idea of having to clean up after a dog bone. You’d rather skip the fuss of running around with a cleanser all the time. Edible dog bones suit your needs. Your dog gets to gnaw on a delicious treat, leaving behind no mess. You still need to keep a watchful eye to make sure they don’t chomp down on a huge bite, but it’s less fuss than natural or synthetic options. You WILL need to mind the calories and skip other treats in the house, but that’s not TOO much work.
Himalayan Dog Chew makes their delicious dog bones out of yak cheese (yes, yak cheese). They have just three ingredients (cheese, salt, and lime juice), with no unwanted preservatives or additives. And there’s no lactose to upset your dog’s stomach, either! They press and smoke each piece for MONTHS, yielding a chew that’s super-hard – satisfying your dog’s desire to chew. They have two different sizes available. And for every pound of treats they sell, the company donates one book to the Manaram Foundation! So you get to do some good in the world with your purchase.
Downsides? Despite the “hard density” chew level marked on the package, people have reported their dogs easily breaking off pieces. Of course, you’re going to monitor your dog while they have the chew, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Also, the calories are HIGH: 319 per chew. Plan your dog’s diet for the week accordingly.
Bully sticks are among the more popular natural dog bones out there, and Jack & Pup have one of the best. They use only free-range, grass-fed cattle processed in USDA-Grade certified facilities. That means the cows are free of antibiotics and hormones (something you WANT to see). The cow muscle starts nice and firm, but it gets softer and softer as your dog chews. And the bully sticks are completely digestible, leaving you with no problems to worry about. They offer six different options to suit chewers of all sorts.
The downsides? While the label claims “odor-free,” you WILL get a smell. It’s part of the processing, and some people are more sensitive to it than others (dogs don’t usually mind). Also, the sizing is inconsistent. It’s expected when you’re dealing with muscles, but people complained. And, considering the price, it IS a reasonable thing to get upset about. Also, try as I might, I couldn’t pin down the calorie count. Suffice it to say you probably need to restrict the treats for a while.
Nylabone decided to expand to edible dog bones with their Healthy Edibles. With three different flavor options, your dog is spoiled for choice. They focus on healthy ingredients, skipping salt, preservatives, and artificial colors. Your dog gets a delicious treat that cleans their teeth. And at only 70 calories a treat, it’s one of the better dog bone options out there (it’s high, but it’s not HORRIBLE).
So what are the downsides? Unfortunately, while there are two sizes available, they’re only meant to go up to 25 pounds. So the bigger dogs miss out on this treat option. You can also end up with staining on light-colored floors, so be careful where you offer the treat.
When it comes to small dog breeds, they often miss out on the fun. The Busy Bone is specifically designed for these little pups. The two sizes (mini and tiny!) focus on dogs under 30 pounds. There’s no rawhide, only a yummy center of real pork that encourages your dog to chew away. They skip artificial colors, and the entire dog bone is easy to digest. It’s the perfect chewing option for the little pup in your life. And they only have 48 calories – not too shabby!
Downsides? Obviously, it’s kind of a bummer for the large dogs in the world. And a lot of people found their dogs devoured the dog bone in seconds. (So much for “long-lasting”) You know your dog’s chewing habits. If they’re aggressive, this may not be the dog bone for them.
SmartSticks look similar to rawhide, but they avoid all of the dangerous pitfalls. Instead, your dog gets vitamins, minerals, and a delicious peanut butter flavor – all while they chew away. The key is the vegetable wrapper that hardens in that rawhide shape. It’s digestible, though! And the 55 calories per stick isn’t the worst out there. You can also find SmartSticks in four other flavors (if your dog’s not a peanut butter fan).
The downsides? While similar to rawhide, the vegetable base may not hold up to a strong chewer. People found their dogs chomping through them without a problem. And they’re only available in one size, which won’t suit every dog out there.
The Best Synthetic Dog Bones
Synthetic dog bones allow you to stretch out your dog’s chewing time. You can wash the bone and reuse it time and time again. Your dog gets the dental care they need without putting on potential pounds. If you’re battling potential obesity, that’s an important factor. You can go for a realistic look or opt for something more whimsical. As long as your dog gets a chance to chew, they’ll stay happy.
Benebone uses a wishbone shape to help your pup hold their dog bone in place while they chew. Their paws anchor the sturdy food-grade nylon in place, leaving the other two ends free for happy chewing. You have three flavors to choose from, and they offer five different sizes, meaning no dog gets left out. The tough surface holds up through WEEKS of chewing.
Downsides? The nylon IS hard. It’s possible your dog can break a tooth. And the Benebone will give out after a while. Even the company says it’s time to replace when chunks come off. You don’t want a foreign body or choking hazard.
Why not combine your dog bone with summer cooling? Chilly Bone is a canvas dog bone you can soak in water and toss in the freezer! Once the bone’s chilled, your dog gets a cold toy to chomp down on. It can help keep them cool in the warmer weather or help a teething puppy! Best of all, it’s easy to wash when your dog’s finished. And, if you want, you can order multipacks. Then you’re good to go for multi-dog households!
The downsides? There’s only one size available, and it’s meant to suit medium breeds. Also, the canvas won’t hold up to strong chewers. The cooling idea is great, but it’s going to come apart with aggressive chewing.
I know, odds are you don’t want this dog bone from EETOYS within sight of the neighbors. But the nylon and polymer chew is designed to handle A TON of chewing abuse. They have a patented “Smooth Scrape Technology” that keeps the bone intact, even as your dog gnaws away. The company’s images even clue you in on when it’s time to ditch the bone and buy a replacement. (And if you’re anxious about appearances, there’s a green or yellow option) You can pick from different shapes and colors, and they offer five different sizes.
So what are the downsides? This is meant for aggressive chewers. As such, it CAN lead to tooth fractures. Make sure you’re supervising. And you have to stay on top of toy care. As excess shows up, you need to trim it, or you WILL see gum bleeding.
Nylabone is one of the most recognized names in synthetic dog bones. And the Monster tips the scales on aggressive chewing. The food-grade nylon is designed to hold up to the most powerful dog jaws out there. That’s right, we mean dogs topping the scales at over 50 pounds! You can choose from five different flavors, and they come in six different shapes. It’s the perfect chewing option for the aggressive chewer on your gift list.
Downsides? Obviously, this dog bone won’t work for any little dogs (it outweighs them). And that HARD nylon can easily break a tooth. Make sure you’re watching closely while your dog’s happily gnawing away.
Oneisall is another addition to the “indestructible” dog bone game. The food-grade nylon provides a safe surface for your dog to chew – and for you to clean! It comes in a bacon flavor every pup loves, and the grooves get between their teeth. You have three sizes to choose from, which cover every dog breed. It’s the perfect chewing option.
The downsides? Once again, the harder that nylon gets, the more you need to worry about tooth fractures and breakage. Never leave your dog unsupervised when they have a dog bone. And while they use “indestructible” in the title, everyone knows there’s no such thing. In fact, even the company mentions you’ll need to replace the dog bone every 6 months. However, some people found their aggressive chewers taking less than a day to destroy the bone.
Admit it, when you thought about giving your pup dog bones, this was the look you were going for. Pet Qwerks knows, and that’s why they came up with their BarkBone. The sturdy nylon is pet-safe, and it comes with the bacon flavor your pup craves. The natural bone shape makes the chew toy easy for your dog to pick up and manipulate, and the grooves scrape away the plaque on your dog’s teeth. The best part? You can throw it in the dishwasher when you want to get it clean!
So what are the downsides? This is another dog bone designed for the bigger pups out there. (Can you imagine a teacup poodle trying to carry that thing around?) It’s not as hard as other nylon dog bones, but that means you’ll likely see rice-size flakes come off. It IS food-grade nylon, but still not what you want your dog ingesting a lot of – you can see GI upset.
The Best Wooden Dog Bones
I know what you’re thinking: wood?! It sounds strange, but how often does your dog gnaw on sticks they fetch out in the yard? It’s not as crazy as you may think. And these aren’t 100% wooden dog bones (that WOULD be insane). They mix wood fibers into a synthetic compound to attract your dog with the wood scent. You don’t have to worry about dangerous splinters going into your dog’s mouth or GI tract, but your dog THINKS they’re getting a nifty stick to chew on. And if you choose to use a wooden dog bone for games of fetch, you know it’ll float – something you don’t always have a guarantee of with other materials.
You’re still not convinced about this wooden dog bone idea. Petstages has an option to ease you in: their Dogwood model. They blend wood fibers with their synthetic materials. Your dog THINKS they’re chewing on a stick, without the worry over splinters. You have four sizes to choose from and four flavors (if you want to add something to that naturally woody scent).
Downside? This dog bone is NOT meant for strong chewers. The synthetic base is plastic, not nylon. It’s just not designed to hold up against a lot of chewing. It’s fine for teething puppies and more sedate chewers, but if you have a dog who really chomps down, they’ll easily tear through the bone and swallow pieces.
Petstages offers a second wooden dog bone alternative: Ruffwood. You get the same combination of genuine wood fibers in a synthetic base but with a little more strength than the Dogwood. You DO lose a size option (there are only three), and there’s no choice for any additional flavors. This makes it more appealing to those dogs out there who love to gnaw on sticks if you think about it.
The downside? While stronger than the Dogwood, it’s still softer than other synthetic dog bones. Make sure you’re always keeping an eye on things. No one wants chew time to turn into an ER visit.
Your dog’s going to chew. Somehow, someway, they’ll find a way to exercise their jaw muscles and scrape their teeth. It’s not that they don’t appreciate how hard you work brushing their teeth (okay, maybe they don’t); it’s a natural behavior and drive. But if you offer dog bones, YOU decide where that chewing habit gets directed.
And you have plenty of different options to choose from. It leaves the door open to possibilities. With so many choices, your dog’s chewing future looks as bright as their canine smile.