So, maybe you’re a new dog owner who's just brought home an adorable fluffy new friend who loves you to bits… and loves to chew your shoes to bits. Though we've somehow managed to hijack the mighty wolf and reshape it into a cute cuddly friend, they still have the vestiges of a wolf's instincts (and of course, their powerful teeth). One of the best ways to cope with a pooch with a case of canine bruxism is to provide them with plenty of toys for dogs who chew everything.
Communication with your dog is important. Simply saying, “Please don’t chew on my new purse, I know it’s made of delicious aromatic leather that begs to be tasted, but it does in fact have a greater purpose beyond the understanding of your doggy cognition,” as you may have already discovered, has limited efficacy. I spoke to Alexandra Bassett, a certified dog-trainer and lead trainer & behavior specialist at Dog Savvy Los Angeles, to find out why dogs like to chew, and what you can do about it.
Dogs who seems intent on experiencing life through their teeth are exhibiting normal dog behavior, according to Bassett: “Dogs are chewers and ‘mouthers’ by nature. They explore the world using all of their senses, which includes picking up objects with their mouths to feel them, taste them and learn things about them.” She also explains that chewing can be a sign of normal canine development: “Puppies between the age of 3-6 months will start going through a teething process, losing their juvenile teeth as their adult teeth come in, and may seem to want to chew on anything in their path almost non-stop.”
But you don’t have to throw up your hands and accept that it’s a dog-eat-shoe world: “... if a new dog or puppy is home alone and/or goes unsupervised for too long, normal chewing can turn into destructive chewing pretty quick... especially if they are feeling anxious, bored or stressed. That's why it's important to provide them with a variety of appropriate things to chew on, as well as daily physical and mental stimulation, to help them feel balanced and fulfilled,” Bassett advises. Here are some of the toys she recommends, some toys I can personally attest to (I’ve given them to my chew-enthusiast dog), and toys that have been highly rated by purchasers.
1. Tugtastic Bungee Tug Toy
One of the types of toys Bassett recommends are “tug-toys.” “Tugging is used as a reward in competitive dog sports and is an integral part of game-based dog training," she says. "Tug toys are my favorite training tool for channeling a dog's natural bite drive toward an appropriate chew item via healthy, interactive play with their human.” This Tugtastic Bungee Tug Toy is one of Alexandra's top picks.
2. MultiPet 20" Bouncy Burrow Tug Toy
Another one of Bassett's favorites, these tug toys are both soft and long, allowing dogs to tug on them, and also hold and cuddle them as they would other soft toys. My dog has a few similar toys, and they are some of her favorites. She loves chewing on their little ears and tails.
3. Long Rope Toys w/Knots
More benefits of playing with a tug toy, according to Bassett: "A dog can learn to offer behaviors during a play-training session in order to win a chance to tug on the toy, so it's also a great way to teach a dog a variety of basic and advanced behaviors — even how to willingly relinquish things to their owner — and to train them to show self-control around something they want (like a chance to tug on or win the toy from their human)."
4. Bully Buddy
Digestible dog chew toys can be problematic, posing digestive blockage or choking hazards if a dog attempts to swallow too large a chunk. But there are products designed to make digestible chews safer for dogs. Bassett says, "Regarding digestible chews, Bow Wow Labs has created the 'Bully Buddy' to prevent bully sticks from becoming choking hazards. I bought one when they were just a Kickstarter campaign, but have been recommending it to everyone." It comes in a variety of dog sizes.
5. KONG Goodie Bone
This exact toy is one of my dog's absolute favorites. She loves to sit with it between her paws and chew on the ends, especially when I stuff treats, pieces of her food, or a bit of dog-safe peanut butter in the holes. This toy is one of the ones she'll open her toy basket to retrieve, begging me to fill it up with her favorite treat. It's extremely durable and has held up despite her constant chewing.
6. KONG Classic Dog Toy
Here's the classic KONG toy used by many dog owners. This type is for average chewers, but you can get even more heavy duty toys for dogs with more powerful jaws by KONG as well. My dog enjoys this toy as well, and loves to toss, chew, and roll it around to retrieve treats hidden inside.
7. Ruffwood Wooden Dog Chew Toy
This dog toy claims to mimic the taste of wood, providing a good alternative to chair legs and furniture. Reviewers rate it highly in terms of durability and doggy satisfaction. Great for dogs who may be part beaver.
8. Bacon Flavored Tough Dog Toys
This interestingly shaped dog toy is designed for curious, aggressive chewers. Reviewers praise it for being durable, and for keeping their dogs entertained. The design offers different ways for your dog to hold the toy, which is important to keep them interested.
9. Dog Chew Toothbrush
The bonus of this toy is that it helps clean your dog's teeth (which, to be fair, most chew toys will assist with as well). However, this one has a minty scent, which might help freshen that distinctive dog breath your pooch has been cultivating. The base allows your dog to hold it upright while chewing. Who knows, maybe you can trick your dog into practicing some dental hygiene!
10. Ultra-Durable Chew Toy
Don't let this toy's simple design deter you: it's highly rated as being an incredibly durable toy for extreme chewers. It's made from "industrial strength natural rubber," for dogs with some serious jaw clench PSI. Reviewers talk about how this toy holds up to their obsessive chewers better than others they've tried.
11. KONG Shieldz Toys
This adorable toy may be a good alternative to your dog's couch-eating habit. The KONG manufacturer claims it's made of a highly durable material, and is filled with stuffing. This might be good for dogs who love stuffed toys, but destroy them quickly.
12. Benebone Real Flavor Wishbone
This toy is praised so highly by buyers, I'm thinking of buying it for my dog. It's designed to allow your dog to hold it between their paws, an important factor for making a chew toy appealing, and to wear away with time, so your dog can only shave off harmless, rice-sized bits. They do warn that you should pay attention to wear-and-tear, and to replace the treat if it looks like it's breaking down.
13. Puzzle Puppy Pals Tough Durable Rubber Pet Ball
Dogs love puzzles! This one looks great for filling with little treats, offering a bunch of nooks and crannies for your pup to explore. The manufacturers also say it's safe for puppies. And with a rope feature, you can even play tug-of-war.
14. Cotton Rope & Safety Rubber Puppy Toy
Here's another rope and rubber toy, also designed to be safe for puppies. It mixes a few textures which might appeal to your mouth-curious puppy. The nubs on the "bone" are meant to help clean teeth as well.
15. West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle
This highly-rated toy is another treat-dispenser, with an interesting shape that could help engage your dog. The majority of reviewers seemed to have a good experience with it, and found it to be highly durable. But it's not invincible: Some reviewers said their extreme-chewers were able to almost destroy it.