Why Dogs Love to Chew
Guest post by Karena Richardson
Wagging tails, exciting barks, and several joyful leaps greet me each day as I return home. There is always additional excitement when I arrive home with a beloved brown paper Whole Dog Market bag! My six fur girls know it distinctly and are always overjoyed to see which treats or chews are among its contents.
My home is far from lacking when it comes to tail wags, licks, and fur child love! My girls each found my husband and I in different ways, and our lives wouldn't be nearly as full of love without each of them. They range from 4 pounds to 40 pounds, and each has its own individual likes, dislikes, quirks, strengths, and faults! My pack is comprised of Yorkie mix, Autumn; Pomeranians, Espresso and River; tiny Poodle, Paris, Papillon mix, Enya Rose; and Husky, Gypsy!
People often ask how I can manage having a multi-dog household while keeping up with a busy lifestyle and maintaining sanity! Among a few other things, keeping my girls’ mouths and minds occupied through chewing is a top priority.
“Dogs have an instinctual need to chew. It is nature’s way of easing puppy teething pain and keeping teeth healthy and strong as a dog gets older.”
Chewing Changes Everything
Why do dogs love to chew? If you have a dog or have ever had a puppy, you know that dogs love to chew! You may have even been the victim of some destructive chewing. You came home from a long day of work to find that your beloved companion had decided to use your new slippers or the TV remote as his latest and greatest chewing conquest!
Dogs have an instinctual need to chew. It is nature’s way of easing puppy teething pain and keeping teeth healthy and strong as a dog gets older. Chewing also releases endorphins in a dog’s brain! Endorphins are often called “happy” chemicals. This release can be compared to the feeling humans have when laughing. Therefore, dogs will use chewing to naturally ease anxiety and stress. It is also a great resource for getting out some excess energy on a rainy day when a walk or a run to the park is just not feasible!
Toughness matters, but chews can be given in intervals. Giving a chew for 30-45 minutes at a time will satisfy your pups chewing desires, but allow the chews to last for more than one chewing session, depending on the item of choice. At my house, evening chewing time is a sacred event beloved by both dog and human! After dinner, my husband and I settle down to watch our newest Netflix obsession while the girls dig into a chew. It’s a wonderful time of quiet aside from the sound of six busy mouths chomping away. Even tiny Paris enjoys a good chew session.
“Dogs have an instinctual prey drive, so if your pooch can’t “kill” a chew fast enough, he may get tired of it.”
Small Dogs Need Chews Too!
Speaking of our tiny friends, don’t underestimate the power of a tiny jaw! The smaller girls in our house enjoy chewing as much as the bigger ones. Just because your fur kid is on the smaller side of the canine scale doesn’t mean they don’t also wish to chew.
Many little dogs can conquer much more than us human counterparts realize, and will often take on twice their size depending on age and chew desire. Being small does not mean their desires are any different from their wolfish ancestors. With smaller pooches, I always say go for a smaller chew and you can always increase the size as needed. Keep in mind that if your dog gets bored with a chew, it may be too big for him. Dogs have an instinctual prey drive, so if your pooch can’t “kill” a chew fast enough, he may get tired of it.
Chew Options for Every Dog
Let’s talk about some of my favorite chewing options for your furry friend! Rawhides are typically a no go because of the chemicals, bleaches, and even glues used on them to help preserve them and make them that nice bright white you typically see. Spoiler alert: no cow is naturally that white, my friends! These rawhides are not digestible and many vets will steer their clients clear of such items in order to prevent choking and the risk of an unwanted intestinal blockage.
However, the rawhides sold at Farm Hounds are sourced directly from their farm partners. The cowhides are scraped by hand of fat and hair and laid over racks to dry in the southern Georgia sunshine! These hides are merely the skin of the cow, as nature intended, and are a fully digestible treat for your best friend’s strong jaws.
Antlers are one of the longest lasting chews and are an awesome option for bigger dogs or power chewers. Don’t disregard them for those 15-20ish pound dogs though! Antlers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The marrow of the antler has the most attractive scent to a dog. It is a great resource for their dental health since it can help scrape off tartar, while also being a great source of calcium and phosphorus. If you are trying an antler for the first time, I recommend using a split one then bumping up to a whole one if your fur friend gets through it quicker than you would like.
Bully sticks also come in many shapes, sizes, and are most commonly beef. Choose the size appropriate to the size of your dog. I usually lean towards a larger size and use it over a couple of chew sessions or downsize as needed! If the smell of a bully stick doesn’t sit well with you, try a no odor option!
Let’s talk about those bones in the freezer section! Raw bones are offered in several different sizes and are most commonly beef “weight bearing” bones. Weight-bearing bones are from the legs of the cow, and won’t splinter into pieces. Raw bones are my go-to for dental cleaning! In my experience, nothing cleans my dog’s teeth better than a raw marrow bone.
Little dogs and specific breeds are especially prone to dental issues. Giving my girls raw marrow bones frequently has greatly reduced tartar build-up, and therefore the dreaded dental cleanings. Dogs typically love the marrow hiding inside these bones, which is full of natural nutrients. As they dig out the marrow, the chomping will help scrape tartar build up from the teeth being used.
In addition, raw bones also have live enzymes that help break down plaque. You can feed raw bones frozen or thawed. I recommend giving them on your patio or on a hard floor area for easy cleanup! Shank slices are great for smaller dogs, while larger sections are more suited to those larger mouths.
A few other fantastic chews are Himalayan yak chews and Earth Animal No Hides. These options are excellent for sensitive tummies or for those pet parents who just wish to steer clear of a protein-based product. They are both digestible and will provide a flavorful chew! Be sure to grab up those last bits of the yak chew though! Pop them in the microwave for a few seconds and your pal will have a crunchy treat safe to completely munch up.
Quicker chews such as ears, tendons, trachea, and etc. are always fun items to add into the mix. They are also mostly comprised of cartilage which are great sources of glucosamine and chondroitin. Freeze dried options, such as the freeze-dried pig ears or bully sticks from Vital Essentials, are a great option for puppies or senior dogs since they are a chewier texture. At Farm Hounds, most of the animal parts come from White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA. White Oak is a certified humane and certified zero waste farm that uses every part of the animal. It’s a win-win for those antsy dog jaws!
For a teething puppy, you can get a little bit creative! Cold items are a double whammy for helping soothe those sore gums and keeping puppy jaws off of your chair legs. Think frozen carrots, an appropriately sized Kong filled with pumpkin puree or peanut butter then frozen in the freezer for a few hours, or coconut oil frozen into cubes. Always vet any “human” food items for pup safety and introduce new things slowly, but don’t be afraid to try new things! Your pup will appreciate the variety and can benefit from the various nutritional aspects.
“Chewing also releases endorphins in a dog’s brain! Endorphins are often called ‘happy’ chemicals. This release can be compared to the feeling humans have when laughing. Therefore, dogs will use chewing to naturally ease anxiety and stress.”
These are just a few of the most popular ideas and options among my pack! No matter what chew your pup decides to favor, always monitor them during chew time, especially when trying out a new option. Offering a couple of chew sessions per week has greatly reduced mental frustration, helped my girls cope with stress/anxiety, helped fight boredom, and has ultimately led to an overall calmer home. We hope you and your pups experience the same!
Happy chewing adventures, fur-iends, from my pack to yours!