PLEASE NOTE: There was a correction to the brand of rawhide being recommended as there were false/misleading claims given by Wholesome Hides (the hides are pre-treated at the tanneries from which they get their hides). Please see below for my updated recommendation for handmade, free-range rawhide.
After five years of severe drought, California is finally getting some much needed rain! It’s cleared up for now, but the forecast says we’re heading for yet another storm. Unfortunately, that means that many of our dogs have had very little exposure to rain, and many of us have forgotten how to keep our dogs occupied when it’s truly too wet to go out. While Easter egg Hunts are one of my favorite games to play on rainy days, there’s nothing like a good chew to keep your dog occupied for an hour or two!
“Dogs were born to chew, so it’s up to us to show them what we want them to chew.”
The best part is that if your dog is busy chewing something you gave him, he’s far less likely to be chewing on something of yours! Dogs were born to chew, so it’s up to us to show them what we want them to chew. If he’s got something you don’t want him to have, be sure to offer a replacement. And remember, while some of these seem a bit pricey, they are still far less expensive than a couch!
So, rain or shine, try to have a variety, rotate what you’ve got to prevent boredom, and never make your dog have to look hard to find something of his to chew/play with (be it edible chews, stuffed Kongs, durable chews, or solo play toys; these will each be featured separately in future Kate’s Favorite Things posts).
Keep in mind that edible chews should be given while supervised, as anything intended to be chewed on and swallowed can pose a choking hazard.
- 12 inch Bully Sticks are a standard in most homes with dogs. Many companies even offer “odor-free” bully sticks in some specialty shops and online. Make sure you get ones that are made & sourced in the USA!
Pros: Dogs love them! 12 inch sticks will typically last a young puppy about 2 weeks, and a large adult dog 30 minutes to 2 hours. Fully digestible, unlike rawhide. No toxic chemicals (unlike 99% of rawhide). Single ingredient is good for dogs allergic to chicken. Chewing action may help scrub some tartar from teeth.
Cons: They can be a bit smelly. Made of beef parts which makes them a no-go for dogs with a beef allergy (some dogs are fine with buffalo bully sticks). They can stain white carpet or furniture (particularly if you have a drooler). If your dog is a “gulper,” you need supervise closely and practice trading for pieces of chicken or hot dogs so that you can take it away when it is small enough to swallow whole. They are a high calorie food and can cause loose stool for a minority of dogs. They can be pricey.
- Earth Animal NO HIDE Chicken Chews are fairly new to the market…and they are FANTASTIC! The “hide” is made of rice flour, and it’s surprisingly durable. A 6-inch roll lasts my power chewer about 6 to 7 times as long as a 6-inch bully stick (nearly 2 hours vs. just 15 minutes)! It lasted my delicate chewer three sittings (2 hours, then 1 hour, then 30 minutes).
Pros: Made & sourced in the USA! 100% digestible. Beef-free (unless you get the beef version, which is chicken-free), so suitable for many dogs with food allergies. Long-lasting. No noticeable smell.
Cons: Pricey. Only sold in high-end stores and online. Contains rice, so not suitable for dogs on a grain-free diet. Less likely to clean teeth because it contains a lot of carbohydrates.
- Himalayan Dog Chews are essentially “petrified cheese.” You can add a RuffHide rubber case for especially powerful chewers.
Pros: Long-lasting (usually twice as long as a bully stick for a Himalayan chew that is half the length of a bully stick). Minimal ingredients (just yak milk, cow milk, salt & lime) make it good for many dogs with food allergies. Small leftover bits can be microwaved for 45 seconds to make a “cheese puff.” Available in most stores that sell pet supplies.
Cons: VERY hard, so they are not an option for dogs with damaged teeth, nor dogs who like to chomp things in half and swallow them whole (try a RuffHide case to make it more difficult to chomp). Can be very hit or miss with dogs – they either love them or don’t care at all.
- White Oak Pastures Rawhide is handmade in the state of Georgia from cows raised and processed on their very own ranch. The cattle are free-range and raised humanely. The skins never get sent to a tannery, so they aren’t treated with tanning chemicals, and that means NO chemical residue! Due to the fact that the hides have not been treated with tanning chemicals, they are not white/opaque like regular rawhide. (Note: lye is used to remove the hair, but is harmless once neutralized, and it is rinsed with water and washed with hydrogen peroxide to leave no residue.)
Pros: Chemical-free. Long-lasting. Comes in a variety of sizes for all sizes of dogs. Less likely to stain carpet/furniture. Contains natural collagen for skin & joint health. Helps clean teeth. Fully digestible because it is unprocessed and sun-dried. Less guilt – the cows are humanely raised and slaughtered.
Cons: Not for dogs with beef allergies. Available in limited batches (based on the number of free-range cattle they raise per season). Can pose a choking/blockage hazard for power chewers if they rip off a large piece and swallow it whole. Only available online.
- Frozen raw cattle hooves are a long-lasting source of protein and collagen.
Pros: Great for power chewers; they typically last 1-2 hours with intense constant chewing. Single ingredient. Low/no fat. Available stuffed with raw green tripe (for flavor and digestive aid). Inexpensive.
Cons: The hard part at the tip can get stuck in their teeth in rare cases – supervise and make sure your dog will tolerate you reaching into their mouth just in case. More likely to have bacteria than many other chews because they are raw (dogs who are not immune-compromised are not affected) and they smell a LOT, so they are outdoor-only treats. Must be ordered in bulk (can be ordered with other frozen items).
DO NOT give cooked/roasted bones to your dog, even if they are labeled as being sold for dogs at a pet supply store. Cooked bones crack/splinter easily, and this can lead to punctures through your dog’s mouth, throat, and/or stomach. They may also contain rancid fats which can lead to colitis and/or pancreatitis. If you wish to give your dog raw bones, it is best to discuss this with a holistic veterinarian as they may carry harmful bacteria. Also, small raw bones can choke your dog, but large weight-bearing bones can crack their teeth.
Please remember that all natural chews (cooked, roasted, or raw) may contain bacteria that is harmful to humans. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any/all chews. Also, teach children to never approach a dog who is chewing on something (adults should practice approaching with extra goodies such as bits of chicken or cheese to help prevent the development or resource guarding).
Looking for more ways to keep your dog busy? Subscribe to the Calmer Canines Training blog to stay updated on the series of Kate’s Favorite Things and for more training tips. Remember, training is one of the fastest ways to wear out a dog! Check the training calendar to see the group class schedule, or schedule a private session around your schedule!