With pretty much every family I meet that wants help with their dog, at some point I ask “Do you ever give your dog rawhides?”
I ask for any of a variety of reasons.
First of all chewing can keep a dog’s teeth clean, prevent decay and infection, and help cure bad breath. Rawhides exercise the jaws and can physically exhaust a pent-up dog, leaving him tired and happy. They provide a release of the canine urge to chew, rip, and destroy, that otherwise will surely be taken out on nearby shoes or (for some reason it seems) your most cherished possessions. Most dogs find chewing rawhides mentally stimulating, exhausting, and satisfying. Rawhides can be used to help prevent or cure boredom, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, and even exhibition of prey drive and resource guarding. And they can act as some of the most lasting and impactful rewards for good behavior, useful in obedience training of any sort.
Here are some of the most common answers I get to the question “Do you use rawhides?”:
“There’s always food in his bowl.”
“We give him treats all the time.”
“Sometimes he chews his Kong.”
“He destroys them in seconds.”
“We tried, but he doesn’t like them.”
“I thought they’re dangerous!”
“Our veterinarian told us not to.”
Rawhides are certainly not right for every dog in every situation, so I want to clear up what I see as some confusions and say my opinion about the rest.
|Why do these always remind me of those
valentine hearts that say “Be Mine”?
First of all, FOOD is sustenance, for nourishment – nutrients, protein, fat, fiber, etc. Though it needs to be chewed, that isn’t its main purpose.
And “treats” serve a different purpose as well: as I use the word, treats are delicious edible goodies that, thought they might not be as wholly healthy as the dog’s daily food, aren’t designed solely for release of chewing energy.
|Not so yummy|
The fact that your dog has many toys to play with does not mean he doesn’t crave or need rawhides to chew.
|Probably not as enjoyable for Fido|
Cloth toys, for one, are fun to throw or chase, and maybe mash on or squeak, but if your dog tries to chew them you’ll be at the store buying new ones in no time. And it can be dangerous to let your dog go to town on these, as the cloth and fiber fillings are usually indigestible.
|Ok, now THAT’S a funny toy!|
Rubber toys and chews such as Kongs and Nylabones are often recommended as healthy alternatives to rawhides. But you’ll likely find that your dog won’t chew them for nearly as long. First of all most rubber
toys – even the flavored ones – aren’t anywhere near as delicious to Junior as his rawhides. Second of all they’re not as satisfying to chew: most dogs want to wreak a trail of destruction as they chomp, and these things are engineered precisely to be virtually indestructible.
|The classic Kong|
In addition, every vet or trainer has met dogs who don’t know the word “indestructible”, and who have disintegrated these inedible objects. And that can be very dangerous, as poochie can’t digest rubber or plastic any better than we can.
What about actual, genuine animal bones? We all know chicken bones are deadly because they splinter, but at any pet store you can buy relatively safe bones of other animals. These are tasty and usually do get poochie chomping. The reason these are often stuffed with some sort of delicious marrow-esque treat to lick out, however, is that Rufus probably won’t be able to chew the real bone any more than its indestructible synthetic version. And what’s worse, he can crack his teeth on it while trying. Unlike rawhides, real bones don’t expand and soften when moistened and chewed.
All of which is why rawhides were created – to be chewably tough but not too tough. Rawhide is the inner layer of cow or horse hides, split, washed, dried, and formed into different shapes. It is normally 80-85% protein, 10-12% fiber and moisture, and 1-2% fat. It comes in a variety of forms that run from easily chewed into little bits (better for light chewers and small dogs) to super-tough (suitable for aggressive chewers and bigger dogs).
In order from lightest to toughest, that list goes:
|Granulated / extruded
Varieties of compressed rawhides