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Why Do Dogs Chew on Bones (Among Other Things) - PawSafe

Why Do Dogs Chew on Bones (Among Other Things)

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why do dogs chew on bones

Why do dogs love to chew bones? Should we let them? This article examines the benefits of chewing for dogs and how to let them chew bones safely for dental health.

It’s no secret that dogs love to chew on bones, but why is it so important to them? It’s true that gnawing on bones and other items can be an unwanted behavior. And, naturally, many of us are aware of the risks that come with it. Nevertheless, dogs love to chew on bones.

So let’s look at why dogs love chewing on bones and the pros and cons of them doing it.

What Causes Chewing in Dogs?

Wondering what causes chewing in dogs? Here's some ideas.

Chewing is a part of canine nature for both puppies and older dogs. It is also nature’s way of exercising dogs’ powerful jaws to keep them healthy. It also has several other purposes, such as:

  • It helps puppies learn about their environment
  • It helps soothe the pain and aggravation of teething
  • It is a natural way of cleaning their teeth through abrasion
  • It promotes enzyme production in the saliva that helps reduce bad bacteria in the mouth
  • It is a self soothing activity in that, like licking paws, chewing releases feel good hormones in their brains. This is why bored or frustrated dogs will often channel their energy into chewing.

Finally, dogs chew on bones because the strong meaty smell is irresistible to most canines.A bone is a natural part of a dog’s ancestral diet, and they will almost always choose a bone over any other chew treat or toy.

Your dog may take to chewing more than a bone  or their chew toys, and this can  result in unwanted destructive chewing. Destructive chewing is a menace that you can curb using anti chew spray on furniture and other items you don’t wan them chewing on. This dog deterrent is naturally formulated, so you don’t have to worry about your precious pup consuming harmful chemicals. 

But let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons dogs chew.

Teething in puppies 

Few things are better than having a young puppy in your house. But the incredible adorableness comes at a cost, and that is often relentless chewing. Puppies get to an age where they chew everything: your favorite pair of shoes, their paws, their owners, or anything else in reach like your newly planted sapling. 

Before you label  your puppy a tiny sharp-toothed monster, understand that they are in pain due to teething. Puppies start growing their baby teeth at around 2 weeks, and they fall out by 3 months of age. The painful teething process starts when adult teeth start coming in and ends when they’re about 8 to 9 months.  

Puppies experiencing teething pain often resort to chewing nearby objects to get some relief. Their tender gums may feel better once slight pressure is applied when they chew. Our article on teething will enlighten you on this matter, such as when do puppies stop chewing

Behavioral issues like separation anxiety

Dogs suffering from anxiety disorders like separation anxiety engage in destructive behaviors such as excessive chewing. Separation anxiety causes your pup to be restless and nervous every time you leave them alone. 

Dogs with general anxiety also tend to chew when they feel nervous since it is a soothing activity. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you can see our article here.

Pain in the body

Dogs can’t tell you when they are sick or in pain, but signs like chewing can give you insight into what they feel. When disease causes your dog pain, chewing may be a source of temporary comfort. Chewing releases neurotransmitters called endorphins which temporarily relieve pain. This is also why dogs may chew when bored, frustrated, or stressed.

Hunger and nutrient deficiency 

Dogs on a calorie-controlled diet can start chewing on non-food items. Dogs do this as they look to satisfy the nutritional needs that their food doesn’t meet. You will notice your pup chewing on food-related items in your house such as food packaging. Excessive begging and barking are signs that your dog isn’t satiated. 

Alleviating boredom 

Dogs require consistent  mental and physical stimulation. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to unreleased energy, which manifests as destructive behaviors like chewing. Some dog breeds like the Border Collie must receive adequate exercise to avoid boredom. 

Large dog breeds are particularly susceptible to chewing due to boredom because they have increased energy requirements. Provide mental stimulation in the form of dog games and puzzles as well. Home remedies to stop dogs chewing are beneficial if the chewing gets too much. 

How to Give Your Dog Bones Safely 

How to give your dog bones safely (and how not to!)

Letting dogs chew on bones is a great way to keep them occupied and is a good supplementary way of taking care of their teeth. Bones can  remove up to 80% of calculus build up on their teeth. But keep in mind, dogs chewing bones is not a substitute for good dental care.  

Bed teeth and inflamed gums can cause a multitude of other health problems, such as diabetes, heart issues, and even respiratory or kidney problems. So always be sure to take care of your dog’s teeth with products like doggy toothpaste, daily brushing,  and doggy mouthwash.

Feeding bones to dogs has been a subject of hot debate among dog owners and professionals. The critics claim that dogs carry several pathogens that could sicken a dog, while supporters state that meaty bones are a source of nutrients. The following steps will help you find your way around giving bones to your dog correctly. 

Step 1: Choose the right bone for your dog

The best bone to give your pup is fresh, meaty marrow or femur bone from a large animal like a cow or bison. A good rule of thumb is to choose a bone the size of your puppy’s head. Your dog can swallow small bones leading to choking or intestinal blockage. 

Cooked bones are not only stripped of essential nutrients but are also prone to splintering. Health hazards associated with ingesting bone splinters include gastrointestinal, windpipe, or esophagus blockage and damage. The bone shards slice your dog’s gums, leading to mouth infections. 

Poultry bones are brittle and tend to splinter. Splintered poultry bones can cause issues like rectal bleeding and peritonitis (bacterial infection caused by stomach punctures). The right dog bone for your dog is

  • The size of your dog’s head
  • Uncooked 
  • From a large animal (pork is more likely to carry pathogens, so avoid that)
  • Stick to the recommended time of feeding 

Step 2: Stick to the right feeding times

Dogs should chew on bones for 15 minutes every day and two days every week. This time is sufficient for your dog to reap the benefits of chewing bones like pleasure and better oral health. Meaty bones contain important nutrients like protein, but they shouldn’t replace a proper diet.  

It may be tempting to allow your dog to chew a bone for lonerg. After all, why not let them if it makes dogs that happy? The answer is in the bone matter. If dogs chew on bones for too long, they may ingest too much bone matter leading to an excess of calcium in their gut and phosphorus in the gut.Too much of these minerals can:

  • interfere with your puppies proper bone development, 
  • Inhibit the absorption of other minerals such as iron and zinc
  • Create kidney issues and nutrient deficiencies.

Dogs that chew on one bone for too long risk also risk wearing it down until it becomes a health hazard. Bones made small due to consumption can choke your pup once they swallow them. Potential bowel obstruction could result from the accidental swallowing of a bone, which can be fatal.

Another issue is that bones are extremely hard on teeth, and chewing on them too much and too often will wear the teeth down as they age, causing problems in older dogs.

Once 15 minutes pass, gently take away the bone your pup was chewing on and swap it for a toy. Replacing bones with chew toys after the recommended time elapses helps prevent undesirable behaviors like food aggression and anxiety over possessions. 

Step 3: Supervise your dog when they chew bones

All bones, even the safest ones, can be choking hazards. Supervising your pup as they chew their bones ensures that your dog is safe the entire time. If you notice splintering on the bone your dog is chewing, gently take it away and swap it for another.

Along with monitoring bone deterioration, supervising enables you to keep track of time and take the bone away after 15 to20  minutes. 

Step 4: Give bones to a fed dog

Hungry dogs are likely to swallow huge chunks of broken bone in the midst of trying to satiate themselves. It is enticing to feed your dog meaty bones and call it a day, but they can’t replace a proper diet. Swallowing chunks of bone due to hunger can lead to bowel blockage. A satiated dog is more likely to take their time with bones and consume them safely. 

Dogs are omnivores and need a varied diet to meet all their nutritional needs. A proper diet for dogs must balance protein, carbs, minerals, and vitamins. Bones are abundant in calcium which is up to 4 times more digestible than that of supplements, making them nutritionally beneficial to dogs.

A note on the nutritional value of bones in dog diets

The high calcium content in bones is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The correct calcium-to-phosphorous dog food is 2:1 (Ca:P). This is a good ratio, however, keep in mind that excess calcium can lead to constipation and can also exacerbate skeletal issues in growing large breed puppies. 

Puppies who receive more than 1.5% calcium in their diet tend to have more skeletal abnormalities like hip dysplasia, and this is where the excess calcium from bones is no longer a good thing. Since calcium and phosphorus bind in the gut, it can also lead to calcium phosphate kidney stones in adult dogs. Finally, if you see white and crumbly poop that is very dry, your dog is consuming far too much bon matter.

Final Thoughts

Bones offer numerous benefits to dogs such as increased pleasure due to chewing and cleaner teeth. Dogs should chew bones for 15 to 20 minutes every day, twice a week. However, excessive consumption of bones could lead to health issues like skeletal problems due to hypercalcemia (excessive calcium).

Dogs love chewing on bones because it’s an inbuilt trait among canines. Other causes of excessive chewing in dogs include boredom and separation anxiety. Most of the time, chewing is perfectly normal for dogs. Avoid poultry and cooked bones because they are brittle and can splinter easily. Splinters can lead to mouth injuries and gastrointestinal blockage.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.