Why and What Does My Dog Need to Chew?


With rare exception, dogs need to chew like birds need to fly and kangaroos need to hop. It’s part of who they are. Accepting that will save you huge headaches, property destruction and veterinary bills.

Dogs need to chew. So we provide appropriate outlets for what is a perfectly normal doggy behavior. People who live with a creature with a set of predator-style choppers need to plan accordingly, you know?

Here is how to figure out what to give your dog:

  1. A good rule of thumb(nail): Choose items softer than your dog’s teeth. Your ability to supervise, your veterinarian, and your dog’s chew style together determine the best items, which should be soft enough to leave an indentation with your thumbnail, but not so soft pieces can be torn or chewed off.
  2. Don’t believe the packaging. The package may say “safe,” “dental,” “natural…” There are many very popular products sold in stores and online that are a very bad idea because they are harder than your dog’s teeth. Skip them, I beseech you. Exhibit A on what can happen when you fall for the claims on the package (as I once did!).
  3. Toss worn toys that get the outer surface shaved off so that bigger chunks or the ends can be eaten. The two center-most toys in the photo above are past due and should be thrown out (in fact, I fished one of them out of the trash to take the photo, which is gross, but now you know my level of passion for your dog’s chew needs).

The orange Bionic toy on the far left in the photo is one of the few things I’ve found that is softer than teeth that my large, super chewy dog can dig into and not bite chunks off of. The Squirrel Dude and Chuckle from Premier work for him, as does a stuffed Kong. The softer, nubby toy pictured on the far right is usually a good one to try (for a dog less like a T-rex).

Stay away from sticks, rocks, metal, plastic, bones, glass, horns, petrified cheese, antlers, old coffee table legs, ice cubes, corn cobs. You get the picture.

If you think your tiny puppy or new young dog has outgrown the chewing phase, read this.

And if you don’t already, consider brushing your dog’s teeth. It’s pretty easy (your vet will show you), many dogs need it only a few times a week, and it is a great way to make sure your dog’s mouth is in good shape without risking fractures from sketchy toys. Something to chew on.


You may have heard the adage “A tired dog is a good dog.” But when it’s too hot outside to provide normal walks or runs, keeping dogs’ minds and bodies exercised can be a challenge. You’ll find some ideas for physical and mental games to help achieve a tired dog on the Top Notch Dog Facebook page.

A classic way to occupy your pooch in the heat is the Pupsicle. (If memory serves I first heard of a similar thing at the 1999 Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference. I am lucky to be in a profession in which conference proceedings involve learning how to stuff Kongs.)

Here’s the quick and easy version. You will need:

a Kong toy (widely available)

broth (it’s easy to find low-sodium, pre-made broth nowadays)

a bit of cheese

a coffee mug

Block the tiny hole of the Kong with a glob of cheese (this prevents leakage during the freezing process). Place the Kong, large opening up, in a coffee mug (this keeps it upright and catches any spillage). Pour broth to fill the Kong. Place in freezer until solid.

Optional: To make it more interesting and challenging, fill half full with broth, freeze. Add a layer of cheese or other tidbits. Top with more broth and freeze.

Present to your dog when you want to keep him busy. The thick rubber of the Kong keeps the broth from melting quickly, so it’s not as messy as you’d think. Most dogs lick at the Kong for quite a while, giving you some quiet time to think about things like snow…