Dogs need to chew! For dogs chewing releases endorphins similar to when we exercise. This is a calming behavior. It makes dogs, and owners happy!
We have all heard horror stories about every chew, natural or manufactured. So the question is what do I give my puppy or dog to chew on?
First, every chew, no matter what it is has a choking potential. I know dogs who have choked on small kibble. I know dogs who have broken teeth on Antlers, sliced open their insides with raw bones, choked or been blocked on Nylabones, had stomach surgery to dislodge raw hide (as well as socks, Kong pieces, you name it.)
So, what can you do to limit the dangers of a natural dog instinct?
First, know thy dog. Whenever you give a dog a chew, be present. Watch your dog. Does he gnaw it or try to straight out eat it? Is he taking his time or is he so excited that he is gulping? Can you take the chew from your dog after a short while chewing? Can they lay around and the dog goes and chews on it for say a half hour then leave it, or is he in a hurry to chew it as fast as he can? Does he bite pieces off and swallow? Getting to know your dog's chewing style is important.
Size matters! Appropriate size of chew is ultimately important. A chew should be much wider than the width of the muzzle. Often choking and swallowing too large a piece is due to inappropriately sized chews. This applies to ALL chews.
For dog's who tend to want to get right to the "eating" and skip the gnawing, a digestible chew that breaks up and is digestible is a better choice. Himalayan type Cheese Chews, Puzzle toys, Food Stuffed and frozen rubber toys or dental type chews are better choices. Avoid bones, antlers, hooves, any hard chews that may break teeth or shard.
Gulpers. For dogs who get super excited about chews and want to quickly chew and swallow, I would avoid gooey, ear type, or hide replacement chews. These dogs may do better with marrow bones, antlers or buffalo horns.
Dogs who enjoy a long gnaw, slowly grinding off meat or small digestible pieces of the chew, who are the vast majority of dogs, do well with Bully Sticks, Marrow Bones, Ears, Himalayan type chews, antlers or pretty much any appropriately sized chew.
With the exception of rubber toys (BPA and Phylate Free, USA made) we always prefer a digestible chew. Of course they can eat rubber, but it will become quite obvious if they are destroyers of rubber toys, in which case never leave unattended.
Puppies. Young puppies tend to do well with bully sticks, Himalayan cheese chews, raw-hide alternatives (never raw hide!) and good rubber toys. They are softer and resilient. Puppies grow fast and their chewing needs also change as their bite strength and energy changes.
I wish I could tell you that there was a perfect chew for every dog, but as with everything else, they are individuals and have different needs. There is a risk with anything your dog chews, but also a huge emotional reward, so choosing well is important.
My dogs are completely different, one loves a long marrow bone chew, or an antler, the other a quick easy get to the eating chew, a piece of Jerky or a compressed meat chew. They both love a frozen West Paw Topple with Plain Greek yogurt and peanut butter or mango (Mom loves these too)........... Know thy dog!