Nylabones, raw marrow bones, rawhides, and the “new kid on the block,” Himalayan Dog Chews, which is best for your pooch?
Your dog needs appropriate chew items. Dogs chew to exercise their jaws and keep teeth and gums healthy. Appropriate chewing can also be a great way to burn energy. If you don’t provide appropriate items for your dog to chew on, he’ll likely find something on his own. Below, we’ve reviewed and provided some helpful information on a variety of chew options, each one appropriate for different dogs and different situations.
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws
Availability: Available locally at most pet retailers and general retail stores like Target and Walmart.
Best for: All-around 24/7 chewing, any dog can enjoy a Nylabone and satisfy his urge to chew
The first thing many people assume when they think “Nylabone” is that their dog won’t like it because it’s a synthetic product. While it probably doesn’t satiate their primal predatory instincts like ripping into real meat, bone, or marrow, it provides a safe all-around chewing experience the majority of the time. With animal-origin chew products you have to monitor your dog for his safety, but he can have access to a Nylabone anytime the urge to chew strikes. We like Nylabone because we don’t have to worry about the dog getting sick or attempting to swallow it, it’s not treated with any preservatives, it’s washable, and it doesn’t contain any calories. Even when it’s shaved down to a small chunk, most dogs won’t try to actually eat it like they will a big hunk of rawhide. Nylabone is safe-the material can be consumed, and the bone is designed so the material shaves off-it never splinters or breaks. Dogs can safely pass the small shavings if they are ingested.
Use Nylabone as a regular chew toy and mix in the occasional animal-origin chew if you want to provide that primal experience, or rely solely on Nylabone and your dog won’t know what he’s missing! Nylabone comes in a variety of shapes, strengths, and flavors. Our dogs seem to prefer the wishbone shape (as you can tell from the picture)! The other benefit of Nylabone is that one lasts a long time so they are very cost-effective and they don’t stain your carpets like rawhide and animal by-product chews can.
Getting Your Dog to want the Nylabone
Even if you have a discarded Nylabone lying around, you can get your dog interested with a little reverse psychology. Here are some tips for getting your dog excited about Nylabone:
Initially, use one of the softer, more flexible models. You don’t want your dog to consume the thing, but you do want him to have the satisfaction of success initially. If you start with the super tough strength he may not feel like he’s making any progress and get bored with it quickly.
When you finally do give him the bone, only allow him to have it for a minute or so. Take it away from him when he’s still really into it and place it back up on that high shelf. By taking it away from him at the height of enjoyment, you increase his desire for next time.
Use reverse psychology when introducing your dog to this new chew. Don’t give it to him immediately when you bring it home from the store. Pretend like it’s an actual turkey drumstick that you don’t want him to have. Get him interested in it by acting like it’s a prized possession of yours. After you’ve captured his attention, place it on a high shelf where he can see it but can’t get to it. The more interest you generate and the more you prolong actually giving it to him, the more he’ll want it.
After this initial introduction, you can leave the chew down on the ground and your dog can chew at his leisure-you’ve successfully instilled in him a sense of appreciation for the Nylabone. The same process can be followed at any time if he seems to lose interest.
You can also get a couple of different bones in different shapes and rotate them to keep him interested.
Raw Marrow Bones
Rating: 4 out of 5 paws
Availability: Available locally at your grocery store’s meat section, your local butcher shop (we like Ready Meats in Northeast Minneapolis), some veterinarians’ offices, and specialty pet food stores. If you live in the metro Minneapolis area, it’s worth your time to check out Ready Meats for you and your dog!
Best for: An occasional treat for dogs without dietary concerns or behavior issues associated with food or toys. Caution, these are high in calories, not recommended for overweight dogs or those trying to lose weight. Requires supervision!
The raw food argument aside, if you feel comfortable feeding your dog the occasional raw treat from a reputable source, most dogs will find this to be their favorite type of chew “toy.” Raw marrow bones contain minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, and enzymes that rawhides and Nylabones simply do not. Do your research before feeding your dog any new food or treat and/or consult your veterinarian if you have specific questions or concerns.
The most important thing about these bones is to make sure there are no small pieces that your dog can break off and consume whole. The main problem we found with the Nature’s Variety raw bison bone was that there were smaller pieces they could bite off and swallow. These pieces weren’t sharp and seemed to pass just fine, but it still made us nervous! The shanks sold in the grocery store were so small that after chewing on one for awhile, one of the dogs swallowed it whole. Again, this didn’t cause any health problems, but we definitely didn’t want it to happen again. The other drawback of the raw bone is that it can be a little messy and your dog may have a tendency to want to carry it away and enjoy it in private because he will see it as a very high value item. You don’t want him walking all over the house with it because it will make a mess, and you want him to stay near you so you can monitor him. So if your dog doesn’t have a grasp of basic obedience such as “down” and “stay” and “give” or he really enjoys a game of “keep away” you may want to avoid this treat for the time being.
We like the shanks from Ready Meats, our local butcher here in Northeast Minneapolis, because they’re large enough that the dogs can’t swallow them whole and the bones are so thick they can’t break them. They can spend hours chewing out the marrow in the middle and continue to gnaw on the outer bone long after the middle stuff is gone. Different dogs have different jaw strengths so you need to monitor closely to make sure they aren’t able to break the bone and consume it, as sharp jagged pieces can cause serious damage. Never ever leave a dog unsupervised with a raw bone. Raw marrow bones come in many forms, including ham bones, lamb bones, beef bones, bison bones, turkey necks, and split beef knuckles. Find one that’s large enough that your dog isn’t tempted to try to swallow it whole. Some other tips when feeding raw bones:
- Monitor your dog’s bathroom habits following a chew session with a raw bone. If he has any problems such as diarrhea or constipation, discontinue use.
- Discontinue use in the event your dog displays any aggression with the bone, and closely monitor multiple dogs enjoying this treat in close proximity as dogs are more likely to become aggressive and guard a high value raw bone than just about any other item.
- Don’t allow your dog to bring a raw bone under furniture (table or desk), eat it in his crate, or to enjoy it on a bed or couch. This increases the chance that he may behave aggressively in an effort to protect the bone.
- Practice taking the bone away from the dog occasionally and giving it. back right away. You don’t want to tease him, but you need to be able to approach the dog and take the bone away safely when he’s done with it; so practicing ahead of time when you plan to give it back to right away will make this easier. For dogs that are very hesitant or suspicious, using a high value treat for the last swap (giving him a little lunch meat or a bite of chicken breast) will make it easier to give up the bone when chew time is over.
Rating: 2 out of 5 paws
Availability: Available locally at pet retailers, grocery stores, and general retailers like Target and Walmart.
Best for: smaller dogs, dogs that are light chewers, dogs that are not food or toy possessive, and don’t have any special dietary concerns. Supervision strongly recommended!
Rawhides are an extremely popular option because they’re relatively cheap and they seem to satisfy a dog’s primal predatory urge to gnaw on another animal! Rawhides can be fed safely if you are a conscientious consumer and your dog isn’t an extremely motivated chewer.
A Brief Rawhide Chew Primer
Rawhide bones are composed of the inner layer of skin from any cleft-footed animal (ox, cow, pig). The tough outer layer of the animal’s skin is used to make products like leather shoes, garments, and upholstery. So while there is a vast difference to us between a rawhide and your loafers, it may not be as obvious to your dog!
Rawhides may be treated with arsenic-based products as a preservative and “ultra white” products may have been treated with bleaching chemicals. While many companies claim their products are free of dangerous preservatives, regulation is extremely lax and manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients (including preservatives) on the label.
Salmonella can be a problem with rawhide chews and this is not only a danger to your dog but to any humans handling the chew. So how do you safely feed rawhide to your dog? First of all, if you have a large dog that’s an especially voracious chewer, or a dog that has a sensitive stomach, you should avoid them altogether. Rawhide is meant to be consumed over an extended period of time. The material is very slow to digest and consuming it too quickly causes diarrhea and the potential for intestinal blockage.
We don’t feed rawhide to our dogs anymore because they will consume an entire bone in about 45 minutes and then experience diarrhea. Similarly, if your dog has any behavior problems related to treats or food, for example if he becomes very possessive, rawhides may make this behavior worse. You’re better off using a less desirable chew such as a Nylabone.
- Always provide a bone that’s large enough that he won’t be tempted to try to swallow it whole.
- Always monitor your dog and remove the chew when it’s small enough that he may try to swallow it whole.
- The bones come in many different shapes-avoid shapes that contain sharp corners or edges.
- A chew that lasts seven days should be removed and replaced due to bacteria buildup.
- Wash your hands after handling the rawhide to prevent bacteria transfer (including Salmonella).
- If possible, purchase a brand that lists ingredients on the package.
- Buy clear, unbleached chews and make sure the country of origin is Canada or the United States.
For more information about animal by product chews, including bully sticks and hooves; deer antlers, and pig’s ears check out this website.
Himalayan Dog Chews
Rating: 5 out of 5 paws
Price: depends on size, $7 and up
Availability: Available online and locally at your favorite specialty pet retailer, like Canine Crossing in Ham Lake, MN
Best for: Low-slobber and “aggressive” chewers
We recently were turned on to Himalayan dog chews by our friends at Canine Crossing and our dogs LOVE them. They are basically a very hard cheese substance that keeps hard chewers occupied for hours without worry that they will break teeth. In fact, Andy, our really aggressive chewer hasn’t been able to chew one down all the way yet. Our more slobbery chewer, Cody, is able to progress through the treat much faster. He essentially re-hydrates it with his saliva, causing it to break down much faster.
The product is fully consumable and digestible, without the same type of gastric upset that rawhide produces. The chew tends to be a little messy, so as with the raw marrow bone, it’s recommended to set the stage with a towel or upon a surface that’s easy to clean.
The other cool thing about this product is that when you get down to the very end, it can be microwaved and safely fed as a treat.