Welcome to Dear Claire, our ask-the-expert advice column dedicated to helping your city dog live their best life. Got questions about your dog’s health, training, what to buy, or where to go? Claire has you covered.
I have two dogs, Mina is a terrier who is about to be seven, and a six-month-old Chihuahua named Trixie. My question is, what should I be giving them to chew on? Mina goes through bully sticks like they’re candy. I’ve heard that rawhide isn’t good, but I’m not sure what I should be giving my dogs instead. Any recommendations?
Dear Chewed Out,
My overall philosophy on chewy treats is the simpler the ingredients, the better.
While “body parts” may seem unappealing to us, they’re some of the best treats you can give your dog. It’s a great way for the pet world to utilize those products that would have wasted otherwise, and while these parts may have little nutritional benefit, chewing is soothing, satisfying, and necessary for your dog's overall health.
Since you mentioned rawhide, let’s get into why I never recommend it. Rawhide is incredibly processed, not satisfying to chew (because of its texture it promotes more chewing, kind of the same way gum does for us), and dangerous if swallowed. When rawhide is chewed on it becomes easy for your dog to rip off chunks and swallow them. Those same pieces re-harden within the digestive tract and can cut your dog on the inside, causing internal bleeding. Rawhide is indigestible and hopefully, we will see it continually phased out over the next few years.
So which chew is right for your dogs? Well, since you have two very different mouths to please, we’ll break it down by my recommendations for power chewers and then for puppy chewers.
Power Chewers Choose:
Like a natural Kong, you can fill these up, smear peanut butter around the edges, or let them chew au naturel.
These chews are virtually indestructible and will keep power chewers entertained for months as opposed to hours
These are some of the toughest chews out there. Instead of breaking off pieces, your dog is going to gnaw these down. When you get down to a little nubbin left, pop it in the microwaves for about 20 seconds and voila, a cheese puff for your dog to polish off!
These are the perfect replacement for rawhide. No Hides consist of a brown rice roll with your choice of protein. These last a long time and come in a huge variety of sizes.
Raw Marrow Bones
Raw bones are great because they are hard on the outside and contain a super nutritious marrow on the inside. The live enzymes are kept intact since these bones have never been cooked, making them a perfect natural toothbrush.
Top tip: rinse your bone and re-freeze it between chew sessions. When they’ve hollowed it out, fill it back up with their favorite frozen snack and have it on hand for next time!
You can only find frozen bones like these at your local pet stores.
Puppy Chewers Choose:
I have some general guidelines I like to follow with puppy chews. Until your dog is a full 1-year-old, do not give chews that you can’t bend (easily!) with your own two hands. This isn’t to deprive your puppy of their favorite bone, it’s to save their teeth from getting maligned. Their adult teeth are all finally in at about 8 months old so waiting the full 12 months gives their mouths time to get everything in its proper place.
These are like jerky, the longer they chew the softer it gets. Tendon is fully digestible, which makes it a safe and easy option for puppies.
Frozen or freeze-dried raw chicken necks make a wonderful snack for a dog of any age. They’re tasty, great for their teeth, and don’t worry--an uncooked chicken bone is perfectly safe for puppies. They are soft enough to indent with your own fingernail. Their bodies break these down into calcium and protein, making them an excellent option for growing bones.
These are hard--but not too hard. Cow tails tend to last longer than bully sticks and are way way less stinky.
These chews are a great long-lasting option without filler ingredients, so you can feel great about giving them.
If you’re looking to extend the life of your dog's favorite treat, look no further than the West Paw Qwizl. These toys make your dog work extra hard for their treat!
How Many Is Too Many?
Chewy treats are definitely not an everyday indulgence. It’s tempting to throw them a bully stick so you can have a few minutes of peace, but ultimately these treats tend to be high in protein. Giving them too often can lead to unwanted weight gain, an upset stomach, or a dog who lives for treats and ignores their meals completely.
I say to aim for about three chews per week. You can always cut back on their smaller treats, reduce their actual meal portion by just a smidge to offset the extra calories on those days, or add a block to your walk to burn off the extra fats and protein if you want to indulge them a little more.
On the days you’re not giving an extra treat swap it out a chewy toy, like a rope, bouncy ball, or tough plush toy to keep them occupied. Sometimes we forget that playing is just as stimulating to them as food. If your dog is more of a snuggler, indulge them with extra couch time and belly rubs.
Don’t worry too much about the exact percentage of treats you’re giving, just remember that everything is best in moderation. I used to love to take dogs to a pet store with a great chew bar and let them pick out their favorites! They often carry things in singles, so you can do a full sniff test before buying the whole bag. Plus your dog gets to go shopping and you know they’ll love what they picked up.