It’s finally happened. After countless hours of reading, obsessing and agonising, you’ve actually gone out and bought (or adopted!) an adorable little bundle of fluff. You’ve been wanting this for so long, congratulations on biting that bullet! What a road it’s been getting to this point, right? Now the two of you can enjoy the good life just like you’ve always imagined it – casual evening strolls, romps at the beach, curling up on the couch for a lazy snuggle… except it’s not quite that rosy (yet). That little squirt has decided that you and everything you own is the perfect chew toy. Your most cherished pair of shoes? Chomp. TV remote? Delicious. Fingers? Can you even remember what your hands looked like before it had all those bite marks? If you want to jump straight to the best chew toys for puppies, as recommended by our experts, click here.
So what’s the deal with all the chewing?
Dogs are intelligent creatures. As a result, they are also curious and want to learn. Unlike humans, dogs can not explore their world with their hands. You pick something up and fiddle, poke and prod. Dogs pick those same things up with their mouth, and bite, gnaw and chew. Not unlike human babies, puppies teethe for roughly their first 6 months and the gnawing can help relieve their pain. Puppies are brand new to this world and are known to chew objects that are wildly inappropriate. Since they don’t know any better (yet), it is now your job as their new guardian to show them what is okay to chew on and what is not. Thankfully, dogs naturally want to please us so if you let them know what you want them to chew, chew it they shall!
Why should you use chew toys?
- Chew toys allow your puppy to satisfy his instinctual needs while protecting your household valuables, various body parts and, sanity.
- It also serves to strengthen your relationship. Dog toys provide a medium through which we can interact. Play is a crucial part of canine development and playing with your dog builds on an already blossoming friendship.
- Finally, chewing cleans their teeth! The constant gnawing helps remove plaque and bacteria, assisting in not only keeping their teeth whiter, but aiding fresher breath too.
The best chew toys for puppies are designed to maximise doggie satisfaction and minimise risk to health. The trouble with allowing your puppy to sample various objects he finds around the house is that he may end up hurting himself (or worse). Splinters from wooden furniture, electrocution, choking, toxic substances and many more hidden hazards lurk around the house.
What makes one toy better than the other?
Animal behaviour journal Animal Cognition published a study conducted at the University of Bristol’s Veterinary School. The best chew toys for puppies and dogs alike are “soft, easily manipulable toys that can be chewed easily and/or make a noise.” Furthermore, the researchers discovered that dogs can quickly get used to their toys – the smell, sounds and textures. Because of this, it is recommended that dogs have multiple toys in their toy box that become part of a rotation. Consequently, this allows you to use the same collection of toys over a longer time frame. Toy lifespan extension is a neat bonus, making it easier on the wallet in the long run.
The best chew toys for puppies and dogs alike are soft, easily manipulable toys that can be chewed easily and/or make a noise.
The best chew toys for puppies
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Made in the USA, puppies love KONG’s exclusive teething rubber formula. Since they’re hollow in the centre, you can stuff your KONG with pup’s favourite treats and keep him entertained for hours. KONG Puppy is suitable for puppies up to 9 months, with adult sizes available for later on.
Developed over 40 years ago, out of founder Joe Markham’s own frustration with his persistently destructive german shepherd. KONG products are universally loved by dogs and their owners alike. Made of natural rubber, with safety as their number one priority. Veterinarians particularly recommend KONG toys to assist with crate training and separation anxiety.
Watch Kaiser the Beagle play with his KONG
Nylabone Puppy Starter Kit
This brilliant kit includes 3 different chew bones for your puppy at each stage of his development. The soft plastic Puppy Bone is for young puppies who don’t yet have permanent teeth. The Dura Chew chicken-flavored bone is for slightly older puppies who are starting to get their adult teeth, or young puppies with a really powerful chew. The Healthy Edibles bone is bacon flavoured and 100% edible. Great for puppies 6 months and older. The Nylabone Puppy Starter kit contains among the best chew toys for teething puppies at all points of the development spectrum
West Paw Design Zogoflex Hurley
This bouncy dog bone doubles as a chew toy and fetch stick. Available in bright (i.e. easy-to-spot) colours and made of certified-safe recyclable materials, The Zogoflex Hurley is durable, dishwasher safe and floats! West Paw Design offer a 100% guarantee, committing to their belief that their products are among the best chew toys for puppies and dogs alike.
I have been using west paw toys for over 3 years and the hurley bone takes a beating from my pit bull she destroyed every toy she has ever had until I started getting the hurley it takes over a year for her to finally start ripping it. Best toy by far
– Jessica W. Riegelsville, PA
Yet another US made product, Goughnuts are made for the really aggressive chewers out there. These chew toys were developed by engineers and are made of nearly indestructible rubber, and available in a stick as well as a ring shape. In addition, if your pup chews through the outer layer to expose the red indicator underneath, Goughnuts will replace your toy. That’s how much they believe in their product!
As of writing this, the Benebone Wishbone chew toy is a number one best seller on Amazon. And for good reason! An ergonomic, patented design and made with nylon and real bacon. Puppies over 6 months will love this one. This US based company sources everything locally and supports animal welfare.
Plus – 2 of the best natural chews for puppies.
Safe, durable and 100% natural. Best for older pups.
These naturals chews are long lasting and odour free. Naturally shed right in the US, rich in nutrients and minerals. Available in multiple sizes to suit the size of your pup, dogs of all ages love them.
Water buffalo horn
88% protein, low in fat and last ages. They don’t splinter and can be filled with yummy treats to entice your puppy further. Their shape makes it easy for dogs to grip and gnaw.
Safety First – How to Ensure Your Puppy is Safe
- It is a good idea to “puppy-proof” your home as early as possible. Get down on the ground at your puppy’s eye-level and identify all the points where he could hurt himself.
- Using a crate or exercise pen is an excellent way to keep your puppy safe when he can’t be supervised. Dogs can love their crate (picture), and see it as their own space if you show them how enjoyable it can be. Feed them in there and provide their favourite chew. This boosts their mental association of crate = good. Please be aware that crates and pens are intended for temporary measures only, and should not be used to lock the puppy away for hours on end. Especially at such a young age, puppies need to be let out to relieve themselves often.
- Choose the right size chew for your puppy. Depending on the breed, she may grow very little, or very much over the next while and it is essential that the chew is an appropriate size for her mouth. Manufacturers tend to make their toys in many sizes and often provide online size guides to help you pick the perfect one without having to see it in person.
- Bitter apple spray can be applied to pieces of furniture that your new friend just can not resist. It’s 100% safe and highly effective at deterring biting. Your chair legs will thank you.
- Approach rawhide chews with caution. There are numerous risks associated with rawhides including contamination, digestive upset, choking and even blockage further down the digestive tract. As a start, the process of rawhide production itself involves the removal of the hide using sodium sulphate liming and whitening of the hide through hydrogen peroxide.
Puppies should always be supervised while chewing
- Redirect her attention with your new chew toy if your puppy enjoys biting fingers, hands and other body parts. Every time she bites your hand, use a consistent sound that means “this is not how we do things, little one” (common examples include “Ah!” or “Eh!”). Give her the toy and praise her when she takes it. The connection does not happen immediately, but soon she will learn that every time she bites you, you disapprove and shove the chew toy in her face instead. She’ll learn that the game continues when she bites the toy, which means more fun!
- Smear a tasty treat on the outside of the new toys and entice him to give it a lick if your puppy is taking a while to warm up to them. Peanut Butter is an age-old favourite.
- Most notewrothy, and easily overlooked by even the most experienced owners is remembering to reward the dickens out of your pup when the penny has finally dropped! It’s so easy to miss that he’s chewing his toy instead of your bed post. When he does, shower him with praise and attention, because he will learn that chew toy = great rewards. If he is only ever given attention (even if it’s negative) for chewing items he shouldn’t, and never given any attention for chewing items he should, he will soon learn that chewing your shoe is the better thing to do. Remember that even negative attention can be seen as a better outcome than none at all. So throw a party when he gets it right. You won’t have to do this forever, soon he’ll enjoy the toys all on their own.
References and recommended reading:
- Pullen, A.J., Merrill, R.J.N. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. Habituation and dishabituation during object play in kennel-housed dogs. Animal Cognition. (2012) 15: 1143. doi:10.1007/s10071-012-0538-2
- Dodman, N., PhD. (2014, September 21). How dogs play. Pet Place. Retrieved from http://petplace.com
- Common dog behaviour issues. Destructive chewing. ASPCA. Retrieved from http://aspca.org
- Walters, P., VMD, DACVIM, DACVECC. (2014, May). Esophageal Foreign Bodies in Small Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved from http://merckvetmanual.com
- Eisner, E.R., DVM: ”Professional Home Dental Care of the Adult Dog and Cat,” World Dental Congress, 2003.