To Chew or Not to Chew, That Is the Question

Does your canine companion tear through chew toys quicker than you can purchase them? If so, you’re not alone. Many dogs love destroying their chew toys, much to the frustration of their owners who shelled out the monthly toy budget for an “indestructible” toy. And, that supposedly durable toy can lead to an expensive foreign body removal surgery, if gnawed apart and swallowed. 

So, what is a dog owner to do? You want your pooch to be entertained while you’re away, but you don’t feel safe leaving them unattended with a chew toy. Before loading up your dog with all different sorts of chew toys, check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide that will do the following:

  • Help you determine your dog’s chewing type
  • Outline characteristics every chew toy should have
  • Tell you which chew toys to avoid
  • Share good chew toy options for your dog

After reading our guide, you’ll be able to choose the safest chew toys for your four-legged friend, no matter their chewer type.

Evaluate Your Dog’s Chewing Habits

First, watch your dog while they’re chewing on a toy. All dogs are different and enjoy their toys in special ways, so knowing how your pup reacts to a certain toy will help you choose their best toys.

Evaluate your dog’s chewing habits to categorize their chewing type:

  • Gentle chewer — While toy and small breeds are often considered mild chewers because of their size, any dog breed can be gentle with their chew toys. You’ll often notice these dogs licking, carefully chewing, or carrying their toys. A dog who is a gentle chewer can be trusted not to destroy stuffed toys, so any chew toy is a great option.
  • Moderate chewer — Dogs who are your average chewer generally rip apart plush toys, especially if they contain a squeaker. However, other toys are usually safe from destruction, so choose rubber or nylon toys, edible chews, or balls, rather than a stuffed toy.
  • Power chewer — Some dogs aggressively chew their toys as soon as they receive them, and won’t stop until they’re completely shredded or eaten, making stuffed toys out of the question for power chewers, unless they’re made from extremely durable fabric. Rubber, nylon, and edible chew toys make better options. 

Some dogs may be a combination of chewing types. For example, your dog may love shredding plush toys to get to the squeaker inside, but be content to only lick a stuffed toy that doesn’t make a sound. Learn your dog’s chew style, to determine which toys you can safely offer.

Characteristics of a Good Chew Toy

Taking your dog’s chewing style into consideration is essential for choosing an appropriate chew toy, but other safety factors must be considered. Your dog’s chew toy should be evaluated for these key characteristics:

  • Size — Toys that are too small for your dog’s mouth can lead to choking or inadvertent swallowing, which can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. Ensure the toy is properly sized for your dog’s weight category.
  • Durability — Here is where knowing your dog’s chew style comes into play. If your dog is a power chewer, you want to choose the most durable yet safe chew toys out there, to ensure they can’t be easily destroyed and eaten.
  • Rigidity — A hard, solid chew toy may seem the ideal solution for a power chewer, but rigid chew toys can break your dog’s teeth. To test a chew toy’s rigidity, see if you can bend it, whether the toy causes pain when tapped against your knee, or your fingernail creates an indentation in the surface. If the chew toy fails any of these tests, it’s likely too hard for your pooch to safely chew.
  • Coating — Edible chew toys often have a flavored coating to make them more enticing, but the coating typically has a high fat and calorie content, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, or potentially life-threatening pancreatitis. Some coatings may also contain numerous chemicals, making them unsafe for your dog to ingest. Choose plain, unflavored chew toys.
  • Hygiene — Whether your dog licks their chew toy or dedicatedly gnaws away, you should wash the toy at some point, to remove grime buildup. Also, ensure the chew toy can be routinely disinfected, to avoid harboring bacteria.

Dog Chew Toys to Avoid

When evaluating chew toys with our guide, be aware that some should always be avoided to keep your dog safe. When searching for the ideal chew for your pooch, you should avoid the following:

  • Bones, antlers, and hooves — These natural chew toys are often labeled as perfect options for aggressive chewers because they’re so durable, but they’re so hard that they can crack your pet’s teeth. Additionally, they can splinter into small shards, piercing your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Although raw bones are less brittle than cooked bones, they should still be avoided, as they’re too tough for your dog to safely chew.
  • Balls with a single hole — A ball that has only one hole in which to stuff peanut butter, spray cheese, or other treats creates a vacuum. Your dog’s tongue may get stuck inside, or the ball can block your pet’s airway if swallowed. Always choose balls with two holes to avoid these issues.
  • Sticks — Does your dog love helping you pick up sticks in the yard? While having help with the yardwork is great, sticks are not good chew toys for dogs. Your furry pal may run with their prize and be jostled, resulting in a puncture to the mouth or face. Plus, chewed sticks create splinters and fragments that can lead to gastrointestinal irritation and damage. 
  • Rawhides — While popular chews, rawhides and pig ears should not be given to your pet. These processed animal hides are loaded with chemicals and artificial flavorings, and can also be high in fat, which may lead to gastrointestinal issues. These chews also tend to harbor bacteria, such as Salmonella, which can make you and your dog sick. And, as your dog chews their treat, the rawhide becomes slimy and malleable, and a large chunk that is swallowed can cause choking or an obstruction. Avoid these popular chews, and look for safer, healthier options.

Dog Chew Toys to Consider

We’ve listed a few dog chew toys you should avoid, but many that can safely entertain your pooch, while relieving stress and anxiety, are still available. Some good options include the following:

  • Rubber and nylon toys — One of the most popular options, rubber and nylon toys can prove safe, durable, flexible, and easy to clean. Products can include rubber Kong toys and Nylabones. Although these are relatively safe, still exercise caution, to ensure your dog doesn’t destroy the toy, especially if you stuff a rubber Kong with your pup’s favorite snacks to create a food puzzle.
  • Edible chews — Edible Nylabones can be safely ingested, along with chews that provide a health benefit, such as dental chews. If you’re looking for a chew that will help banish your pooch’s pungent breath, look for the VOHC seal of acceptance. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) awards their seal of acceptance to products proven to slow the accumulation of plaque and tartar, so chews with this seal are a great option.
  • Balls — Large balls, such as those manufactured by Jolly Pet, offer a fun chew option for dogs who would otherwise destroy balls. If you let your dog chew on a ball, monitor them carefully, to ensure it’s large enough to not pose a choking hazard. And, if your pooch loves a good game of fetch with a tennis ball, prevent them from excessive chewing, as the saliva-soaked felt is especially abrasive to tooth enamel.
  • Rope toys — Rope toys offer tons of fun in tug-of-war games, and can be a great chew toy under supervision. However, don’t let your dog chew on rope toys while unattended, because they may unravel and your dog could swallow a string.

A vast array of dog chew toys are available on the market, making determining your dog’s best option extremely difficult. To keep your furry pal safe while playing and chewing, always consult your veterinarian for their personal recommendations for your dog.