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.

What? More chewing?

Most people who live with a very young puppy come to expect a lot of chewing. On everything. Not just on toys, but on the corners of rugs, on electrical cords, plants and pant legs; these are all fair game to a puppy whose mouth is driving him bananas as his teeth come in. A lot of human effort and prevention goes in to teaching the right habits. And then it happens–the pup’s chewing phase subsides and all seems right with the world. The puppy doesn’t require as much supervision, dog chew toys seem to do the trick, and the crate has been put away in favor of leaving the dog confined to a couple of rooms in the house. But look out. The humans have been lulled into a false sense of achievement and security, because no one told them about Chewy Phase Part Two.

Just when you are resting on your laurels, when the your pup is no longer a baby, but rather a young adolescent between roughly seven and nine months old, the chewing may start again. This is totally normal, tends to wrap up much quicker than the initial puppy chewy phase, and is particularly no big deal if you are expecting it. You’ll know it’s happening when you come home to gnawed-on furniture legs or cabinet baseboards, for example. Before you assume your dog is acting out or developing separation anxiety, address the fact that his mouth is probably bothering him one last time (most dogs have a mature set of choppers at around 10 months), and/or that he needs to work that extra energy out of his system.

The fix is simple: provide adequate aerobic exercise and appropriate chew projects to complete while you’re gone. He may need 2-3 sessions daily of truly aerobic exercise (a brisk, 20-minute walk may do the trick as long as he maintains a strong trot and keeps moving). Provide him with chewies and food puzzles in your absence (visit the dog supplies links to the right). Hide a couple so that he has to work to find them, which will keep him extra entertained. And pull out the crate again for a couple of weeks or more, just to help keep him out of trouble if he is really sinking his teeth into your possessions. Just make sure he has an appropriate outlet for his need to chew while he is confined, whether he’s crated or baby gated in a dog-proofed room. 

One more thing to chew on…Many thanks to everyone who participated in the 25% off Top Notch Dog training appointments in May by donating to Saving Grace Animals for Adoption. The funds they received will help them take more rural shelter dogs into the program to be matched with new families.