No bones about it, most dogs absolutely love having something to chew on; but what are some of the best bones for dogs?
Before you decide your pet’s best chewing option, you need to assess how safe it is for your dog to chew harder objects in the first place.
*Please note, any dog can potentially break and choke on a piece of any chew. Always supervise your dog with any chew*
Not all dogs should chew on bones. Sure, some dogs can happily chomp away at a bone without ever causing an issue. In fact, some older generations might scoff at the idea of not giving their dogs bones.
“Back in my day all dogs got bones and no one complained about it!” But just because we used to do something doesn’t mean it was the best choice for our pets.
The first safety concern is the type of bone you use. For the most part, veterinarians recommend that you avoid any type of cooked bone. Cooking a bone at high temperatures can cause the bone to become brittle and splinter when your dog chews it, which can lead to the splinters perforating your dog’s digestive tract.
The other important safety concern is if your dog can chew a bone appropriately. First, the bone should not be small enough that they can attempt to swallow it whole and thus choke. Next, you need to carefully monitor how your dog chews the bone.
Do they simply gnaw at it for a bit and generally do not break pieces off large pieces of it? Or does your dog regularly break chunks off of items they are chewing?
If your dog chews inappropriately and attempts to break off pieces of bone, you should not provide bones for them to chew on.
One final concern is your dog’s overall dental health. Your vet should assess if your dog’s teeth are healthy before you provide any type of hard chew.
Certain dog breeds, such as Yorkies and Chihuahuas, have a greater genetic predisposition to dental issues and tooth fractures. In those cases, even young and healthy dogs should not have access to hard chews.
Bones and Similar Chews
If your dog chews appropriately, isn’t genetically predisposed to dental issues, and has the “ok” from their veterinarian, you can move forward with some great options for chewing!
As a dog trainer, one of the absolutely best bones to provide dogs with is a marrow bone. The marrowbone is a cross-section of bone with a hollow opening, often containing bone marrow. In pet stores, these bones often contain a flavored filling of some kind for your dog to eat as well.
In our dog training courses, we use a filling of plain canned pumpkin and peanut butter to refill marrow bones, and then freeze them for longer-lasting fun.
I like to save several marrow bones on hand for this purpose, and fill them all at the same time so I can easily pop them out of the freezer and give them to my dogs.
Another one of the best bones for dogs is the elk antler. Contrary to what you might believe, antlers actually are comprised of bone! However, not all antlers are created equal. Deer antlers have stronger bone than elk antlers do, and thus have a greater likelihood of potentially damaging teeth.
Another precaution I like to take when giving antlers to my dogs is choosing split antlers. Essentially, a split antler has been sliced in half down the middle, exposing the spongier marrow-spaces inside. These softer areas are safer for your dog to chew, and dogs seem to like them more as well!
We provide a number of suggestions and reviews for other types of chews and work-to-eat toys in the shopping lists in our Ultimate Training Library.
Good Alternatives to Bones
Perhaps one of the best alternatives to bones is the bully stick. However, those of you with dogs who are predisposed to dental issue might still want to skip this chew, as bully sticks are quite hard as well.
If your dog has a healthy set of teeth, the bully stick is a fantastic, fully digestible option for your pet.
My favorite part about a bully stick is that a good-sized one will last your dog a while. Younger pups and small breed dogs might spend multiple days on a single bully stick.
Allowing your dog to spend a solid amount of time gnawing on and eating something is great mental stimulation for them and allows them to replicate natural hunting behaviors.
Your Dog’s Brain and Their Overall Wellbeing
Hunting and related natural behaviors are important for dogs to perform. Some people have bred certain types of dogs to focus very heavily on portions of their hunting behavior to use for their own purposes. For example, beagles and other hunting dogs have specific breeding that makes them fantastic and finding and tracking scents.
Tracking a scent is an important part of the natural chain of behaviors an animal must do to catch prey. So is stalking, chasing, biting, tearing apart, chewing, and eating. Most dogs love doing some, if not all, of these behaviors when it comes to mentally stimulating activities.
In addition to some of the best bones for dogs that we discussed above, you should also provide different types of objects or toys that your dog must work to eat.
Treat balls that your dog must manipulate to get food out of, snuffle mats that your dog has to sniff around to find the food inside, and puzzle toys that require critical thinking skills all provide fantastic opportunities to work your dog’s brain and simulate natural behaviors.
This is because some of the best bones for dogs, treat balls, puzzle toys, and other objects can actually help reduce your dog’s overall stress and keep your dog from looking for trouble when they are bored! Most problem behaviors are based in a lack of mental stimulation.