All puppies NEED to chew! Not only do puppies explore the world through their mouths, but all puppies go through a painful teething process which peaks at ages 4-6 months. At this point, a puppy’s “baby teeth” will start falling out and be replaced by their permanent “adult teeth”. The very act of chewing relieves pain, stress, and helps calm a puppy down.
Rather than reaching for a bottle of bitter apple spray and hoping that you can quash a puppy’s desire to chew completely, we recommend providing a wide variety of safe and appropriate treats for your puppy to chew. For a puppy, or any dog, knowing that they can look forward to a chew treat as a part of their daily routine will only enrich their quality of life.
How can you tell if a chew treat is safe for a puppy?
1. Consider the age of your puppy.
If your puppy still has their “baby teeth”, you’ll need to be especially careful to select chews that aren’t too hard for their teeth. For example, bones, antlers, and the hard varieties of Nylabones should be saved for individuals that have all of their permanent teeth.
A test that people will often use to see if a chew is too hard for their 8-week old puppy is to try to make an indentation with a fingernail. If you can see a slight indent, it won’t be too hard for your puppy. If there is no discernible mark, you may want to wait until your puppy is a little bit older and has a full set of adult teeth.
2. Make sure there aren’t any small pieces that can break off.
As an example, there are some smoked bones on the market that will start to break into pieces just large enough to be swallowed whole. Knuckle bones, especially ones sourced from the proximal femur, may be dangerous for puppies because they can pop off the femoral head (shaped like a small golf ball) and be swallowed.
3. Be sure that the chew isn’t made out of a material that becomes sharper as the dog chews on it.
Just because you see a chew for sale at a pet supply store doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to be safe for all dogs. Sometimes, a manufacturer may come across some inexpensive raw material and want to test it out as a chew for dogs, then bring it to market prior to any sort of real life testing with actual dogs.
For example, the buffalo horn core is a chew that started appearing in pet specialty retailers and was marketed as a long lasting treat. However, once customers started trying them out with their dogs, people realized that the product may be dangerous as it would immediately splinter into sharp pieces once a dog started chewing it. This is why it’s imperative that you closely observe your puppy with ANY chew - so that you can take it away if something unexpected happens with the way the chew is breaking down.
4. Try to stay away from treats that are higher in fat.
While fatty treats aren’t necessarily dangerous for your puppy, they may cause problems such as loose stools - a situation you’d probably want to avoid if your puppy is still learning about house training! Young puppies don’t have a developed microbiome in their gut like adult dogs do, which is why it’s fairly common for puppies to get sick when they eat too much of a new food. Treats like beef trachea and pig ears should be saved for adult dogs, rather than puppies.
Here are 5 different chews that you should offer to your puppy on a regular basis!
1. A bully stick
Bully sticks are high protein, low fat chews that your puppy will find irresistable! If given the choice between a bully stick or a shoe, the vast majority of puppies will pick the bully stick, paws down.
If you have a very young puppy (under 16 weeks old), you may want to try a curly bully stick instead of a regular straight bully stick. Curly bully sticks are made by splitting a pizzle lengthwise, so they won’t be as hard or thick as a regular straight bully stick.
While it’s fine for most adult dogs to consume the last couple of inches of the bully stick, for a very young puppy (who likely has a tiny esophagus and digestive tract), we recommend pairing the bully stick with a “bully stick holder”, such as this Westpaw Qwizl. The Qwizl will grip firmly onto the last few inches of the bully stick and prevent your puppy from swallowing it whole.
2. A classic Kong
An empty Kong isn’t that interesting! However, if you stuff the Kong with some food (such as a commercial canned dog food or raw food) and then freeze it overnight, you will have a long lasting treat that will keep your puppy occupied for hours. Instead of feeding your puppy out of a bowl, why not freeze part of their meal in a Kong? It will take just a few extra minutes of effort and planning on your end, and provides immense benefits for your puppy.
Be sure to scrub out your Kong with a bottle brush after every use and run it through the dishwasher whenever you get the chance.
Once your Kong starts to get shredded, as seen in the image above, you may want to replace it with a fresh one. Those little grooves could potentially harbor a breeding ground of bacteria.
3. Starmark Everlasting TREAT Ball
This treat ball is perfect for puppies - the durable rubber is soft enough for delicate puppy teeth and the treat will likely withstand chewing from a young puppy for a couple of weeks before you’ll have to replace it. While many adult dogs find this treat puzzle a little too easy, and can pop the treat out and consume it whole, a young puppy will not have the dexterity to do so and will instead enjoy the challenge of playing with and eating this chew treat.
4. Cow Ears or Lamb Ears
During her first day home, this 12-week old Australian Koolie puppy chewed through an Ethernet cable! Now that she has a variety of tasty bully sticks and cow ears to chew, she leaves inappropriate objects, such as cables and furniture, alone.
Cow ears and lamb ears are preferred over popular chews such as pig ears, because they are lower in fat and, as a result, easier for a puppy to digest. The flat, broad shape makes it difficult for a puppy to gulp down a large piece whole. Lastly, cow ears are inexpensive, often retailing for $2-3 per piece, and can provide a 10-week old puppy with many days or weeks of chew time!
5. Busy Buddy Twist N Treat
This Twist N Treat is an excellent first puzzle toy for a young puppy. The tough rubber material is safe for puppy teeth. You can stuff it with part of your puppy’s daily kibble ration and show them how to bat it around to make the kibble fall out. It will astonish you to watch your puppy learn to problem solve in order to get to their food!
Have you ever given your puppy a chew that they absolutely loved? What was it? Tell us about it in the comments below!