Have you ever wondered how safe it is to let your dog chew sticks? Keeping your dog safe is your highest priority, but there may be some dangers lurking that you didn’t even consider.
Sticks and stones may break our bones, and they can be pretty dangerous for our pets too. I think that’s how the saying goes, right?
For dogs that love to chew, just about anything can be a treat or toy. Find out how to keep your dog safe by offering alternatives to some of the most common inedible objects that dogs like to chew.
Just Because They Can Chew It, Doesn’t Mean They Should
Dogs love to chew. They experience the world with their noses and their mouths, so chewing is a natural instinct that allows them to connect with and understand their surroundings.
We can’t blame them for doing what comes naturally, nor can we judge them for not understanding the difference between something safe to chew, and something that could be potentially dangerous.
That’s why it’s important to have control over what your dog is chewing on. Discouraging your dog from nibbling on unsafe chews, and offering safe options will help them to break the bad habit of chewing on whatever happens to fit in their mouth.
10 Things You Should Never Let Your Dog Chew
Many of these dangerous “chews” can often be found in your house, your yard, and at the park. Be aware of the dangers around you. You know your dog better than anyone, so scan your environment to remove threats, and keep your dog close to avoid the temptation of picking up objects that could be harmful.
Here are 10 dangerous things that dogs love to chew:
This is a tough one because sticks can be found anywhere that there are grass and trees. Whether your dog is patrolling the yard or investigating a bush on your daily walk, your dog is likely to come across sticks, twigs, and branches that are lying around.
For some, it’s a fun toy, for others it could be a tasty snack, but both can pose a serious threat if you are not careful. The risk of dry splintered wood puncturing or cutting your dog’s mouth is high.
Dead wood becomes dry and brittle, so any dog crunching on it is likely to break off small sharp spears that can damage their gums, or worse - their esophagus, stomach, or intestines if swallowed.
Even as a game of fetch, a stick caught the wrong way can get lodged in the mouth, break teeth, or damage eyes if they fumble the catch badly enough. Of course, you can’t account for every freak accident, but you can choose safer fetch toys, like tennis balls or frisbees.
It’s easy for a dog to think of a rock as a fun chew or toy. They see us skipping them across ponds and casually kicking them as we walk. It’s a game for us, and they do as we do.
For dogs that play with rocks, especially those that chew them, their dental health is at risk. Rocks of any size can break or crack their teeth, causing your dog severe pain and sticking you with a hefty vet bill.
If swallowed, larger rocks can be a choking hazard or potential blockage. Even smaller rocks can build up to create obstructions in the intestines or damage the soft tissues of the digestive tract.
If you suspect that your dog has swallowed rocks, contact your vet immediately. The rocks may pass, but you need to know what to look for over the next 48 hours.
3. Cooked Bones
This is a controversial subject, because cooked bones are often sold in pet stores, and can have some dental benefits for a dog that is lucky enough not to suffer the consequences.
While chewing is vital to your dog's dental health, cooked bones get brittle and hard. This could lead to cracked or damaged teeth. The bone can easily splinter, creating sharp pieces that can cut your dog’s gums.
Pieces that are swallowed could cause blockages or puncture their stomach or intestines. While this doesn’t happen to every dog, the risk is very real, so use caution when feeding any type of cooked bone.
Some dogs have been eating cooked bones for years with no problems, and I’d say they are lucky. If you do choose to feed cooked bones, I recommend monitoring your dog at all times. You may be able to prevent disaster if you are able to take away a bone or a piece of a bone that looks dangerous.
4. Plastic Bottles
Maybe it’s the sound or the texture, but dogs go nuts for an empty plastic bottle. Chewing them is both engaging and satisfying for your dog when they feel the crunch of the bottle. For prey driven dogs, it could even feel similar to the feeling of crunching down on fresh prey.
It’s quite common to use plastic bottles are part of a DIY toy or treat dispenser. As long as they are not chewing the bottle with the intent to destroy it, then using them in this way is safe.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer, then using a tougher toy meant to withstand their bite will be safer.
Plastic is not edible, and as your dog chews it, sharp pieces and ridges can form and could cut your dog’s mouth and irritate their esophagus. Thin plastic bottles are easy enough to destroy, so breaking off larger chunks can lead to choking or blockages.
Make sure that your recycling is safely stored away from your dog. If it’s in reach, your dog is likely to be seduced in sneaking a quick chomp of the makeshift toy.
Most dogs enjoy an occasional ice cube. We’ve all dropped a cube or two when trying to free them from the tray and quickly called Fido over to clean up our mess. A single small ice cube is unlikely to do any harm, but larger blocks of ice are too hard and can risk damaging their teeth.
Puppies, seniors, and dogs with dental issues should avoid chewing on ice. The risk to their teeth is even greater.
If your dog is an ice cube fiend or you want to help cool them down in the summer, try freezing shallow ice cubes. They will be easier to chew and will melt quicker in their mouth.
Freezing ice inside of rubber toys is another great way to offer a refreshing treat. The toy itself provides a protective barrier, and the ice will begin to melt into smaller pieces before they can get it out.
Not everything on our list is something that you want them to consider a chew toy. Destructive chewing, like on your furniture, is a common sign of anxiety, boredom, or frustration in dogs.
The materials in your furniture can be toxic if swallowed, so make sure that you are quickly breaking this habit to keep your dog safe.
Couches and other fabrics may look like a really big stuffy to your dog, but the stuffing, foam, and fabrics inside are dangerous. They can lead to intestinal blockages, constipation, or choking. Beyond that you have no idea if the fabrics have been treated with flame-retardant chemicals or other substances that can be toxic if your pet ingests it.
Wood furniture like tables, chairs, and even baseboards may be another target for a puppy throwing a tantrum. These are not only a splintering risk, but are typically finished with a stain, varnish, or paint that could be toxic to your dog.
If your dog has this unhealthy anxiety habit, then you should look into ways to calm anxiety, distract them, or consider kennel training your dog when they are unsupervised.
Another nasty habit of anxiety-ridden dogs is chewing on fences, crates, and whatever else they feel is keeping them captive. While metal is less likely to break off and be ingested, the real risk is the damage to their mouth.
Chain link fences, chicken wire fencing, and the bars of a crate or kennel may get chewed if your dog is anxious about being confined. They are likely to break teeth, wear away protective enamel, and irritate their gums to the point of bleeding.
They may even bend or break bars or links in an attempt to escape. This raises the potential for severe cuts and injury. In cases of extreme anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional trainer that can equip you with the tools and methods to ease your dog’s stress.
Another DIY toy material, cardboard can be fun to play with and tempting to eat. Most cardboard is non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean there is no risk. Small pieces are ingested and will stick to each other when damp. It can accumulate into a thick gooey mass in your dog’s stomach, which may be too big or dense to break apart. Life-threatening intestinal blockages are very possible.
If your dog has ingested cardboard, keep an eye out for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and lethargy. Also, monitor bowel movements to make sure that the cardboard is passed correctly over the next day or two.
9. String, Ribbons, and Wire
Pretty much anything string-like could be risky. Decorations from holidays and parties, string from meat packaging, and even dental floss could be a significant risk to a curious dog.
The biggest risk is that the string can become tangled in the digestive tract causing a blockage, constricting blood flow, and can damage sensitive tissues along with the digestive system.
If you ever see a string hanging from your dog’s mouth that has been partially swallowed, or peeking out of your dog’s behind, do not pull it out. It could be stuck on something. Trying to force it can do more damage than good. Instead, call your vet immediately. They will advise you as to whether it is safe to remove.
It may be the oldest stereotype in the book, but chewing on shoes is a typical puppy habit. We have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up. While this annoying and destructive habit can be infuriating, we also need to consider how dangerous this is for our pets.
Many of the materials used in shoes can be a hazard for a curious pup. The dye and materials could be toxic if ingested. The shoestrings, as we went over in the previous section, could risk internal damage as well as choking.
Any of us would be devastated if our favourite pair of kicks got demolished, but the biggest offenders are often the cheapest: flip-flops. Everyone has a pair, or seven, of cheap foamy flip-flops that get tossed in the car for road trips and visits to the lake. The material of these shoes is a particularly appealing texture to dogs.
They are easy to destroy, but the pieces that are swallowed are not going to digest easily. In fact, it might not digest at all. Intestinal blockages are more likely with spongy materials like these.
Keep shoes, no matter how replaceable, out of reach.
10 Safe Dog Chew Alternatives
I’m sure that at least one or two of the things on our list spoke to you. Now that you know what your dog shouldn't chew on, and why, let’s consider what you can offer them instead.
A great way to break a bad chewing habit is to replace it with a good one. This will satisfy the urge to chew and distract them from the curiosity that led them to that dangerous object in the first place. Here is a list of some popular dog chews that are safe for your dog:
1. Tripe Twists
For the stick chewers of the world, try offering a Tripe Twist instead. These chews are tasty, lightweight, and nutritious. They are made from 100% green beef tripe and twisted into a stick-like shape.
They vary in length, so choose the size that is safest for your dog. Tripe Twists are not a dense as sticks and branches, so it won’t be the longest-lasting chew, but it will be a healthier alternative to peeling the bark off your trees.
They are easy to stash in your pocket or a treat pouch for when you are at the park too. They can help to recall your dog and offer them something more enticing than they array of sticks and branches on the ground.
2. Yak Snaks
They go by many names, Dog Cheese, Yak Bones, Himalayan Chews, but we call them Yak Snaks. They are an excellent distraction for dogs that love to chew on rocks. They are hard and provide a long-lasting chewing experience in a fully digestible format.
They are made of yak milk, lime juice, and a dash of salt. Yak Snaks are virtually lactose-free and are a much tastier option than the stones in your garden. Like any hard chew, avoid feeding them to puppies and dogs with poor dental health. Always monitor your dog while chewing to prevent choking risks.
3. Raw Bones
Feeding raw bones is a significantly safer alternative to a cooked or smoked bone. They are softer and loaded with moisture, removing the risk of splintering. Raw bones will provide loads of nutritious minerals and can actually be used to help supplement a diet.
Not all raw bones are safe, so always check before offering your dog a bone. Check out our Guide to Raw Bones for Dogs, to get more information about which type of bone is best for your pet.
4. Rubber Toys
Looking to keep your dog from hitting the bottle? Try swapping out that plastic bottle for a natural rubber toy. Rubber toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are a much safer and longer-lasting chew for your dog.
If you were using plastic bottles to hide or dispense treats and food, then grab yourself a Classic Kong. It’s perfect for stuffing with goodies, freezing, or filling with dog-safe peanut butter.
Check out 13 Fun Ways to Use a Kong for even more ways to spruce up playtime and keep your dog interested in their Kong.
For the dog that just loves to chew, then you’ll want a Beco dog toy. These toys are made from a soft but durable natural rice husk rubber. They are surprisingly sturdy and will give your dog hours of safe and enjoyable chewing.
Replace ice with a slightly softer and more nutritious alternative: the Pupsicle. Pupsicles are simple, delicious, and customizable to suit your dog’s preferences and needs. Check out our Dog DIY Pupsicle recipe for some inspiration.
They can be used to satisfy the craving for ice cubes, improve health by using nutritious fresh ingredients, or even just as a refreshing treat. Play with different recipes to find something that your dog loves.
If you have a couch muncher at home, then they may benefit from getting some durable plush toys. Look for toys that are made using multiple layers of fabric and are either stuffing-free or are very tightly packed to make the toy more of a challenge.
Remove toys when they start to come apart, and don't let your dog eat the fabric or squeakers. Both can cause digestive issues.
I know it can get expensive to replace destroyed stuffed toys all the time, but it is more costly than a new couch? Check out Top 10 Plush Toys for Dogs to get some ideas.
7. Beef Trachea
Anxiety can trigger some weird behaviours. Dogs can respond to being left alone or caged with a purely fearful reaction. This is why many dogs with severe separation anxiety will move heaven and earth to try to escape their confinement.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to try to chew their way out of their kennel, crate, or even yards. One of the best ways to help settle this dangerous and destructive behaviour is to provide a reward and a distraction all in one.
A safe and durable chew like a Beef Trachea will be something that you can offer while you are getting ready to leave, and will keep your dog distracted after your gone. This will help settle the fear and anxiety that begins to build while they watch you prepare for your departure.
For an even longer-lasting treat, you can stuff the trachea with treats, peanut butter or frozen broth to further distract them from their stress.
8. Angus Strips
If your dog likes to rummage through the recycling bin or loves to chew on boxes or paper, then a Angus strip is an excellent replacement. These flat chews of beef esophagus are similar to a beef jerky strip and are a healthier replacement to bland nutritionless cardboard.
Offering an Angus Strip far from the recycling is a great way to encourage your pet to lose interest in it. Make sure that you store recycling and cardboard out of reach from your pets.
If you catch your dog trying to floss by digging your used dental floss out of your bathroom garbage, you need to find a more enticing offer for them. Beef Tendons are a tasty natural chew that will still support dental health by loosening bacteria and food debris from between their teeth.
Tendons are nature’s floss and are fully digestible. They are relatively long-lasting and are a great way to keep your pet distracted and away from dangerous but enticing objects, like string, wires, and elastic bands.
10. Bully Sticks
For shoe lovers, finding your dog in the remains of your newest pair of Ugg boots can be heartbreaking, so replace their destructive shoe chewing habit with a more affordable and safer option, like Bully Sticks.
Boredom and anxiety are a common cause of destructive chewing. Feeding Bully Sticks can be mentally stimulating and will take up time that your dog would normally spend looking for ways to get attention or relieve stress.
Bully Sticks are ideal for all kinds of chewers and can be a great way to ease the anxiety and boredom that steers dogs towards more destructive habits. Bully Sticks are offered in a huge variety of lengths, thicknesses, and styles, so choose the option that suits your dog’s size and chewing patterns.
Learn more in What are Bully Sticks?
Break the Habit of Destructive and Dangerous Chewing
Like any type of behaviour modification, training away poor behaviours takes time. Make sure that you always have a safe alternative available when you see an unsafe chewing habit.
Be consistent in leading your dog away from the tempting dangerous chew, and offer an acceptable natural chew or toy in a safe place. Habits form quickly, and if you decide where your dog can play or chew, they will seek out those places to get a reward.
It’s also a good idea to teach the “drop” or “leave it” command. This way if your dog stumbles across a fun looking stick on your walk, or a stray shoe lying around the house, you can get it away from them without a fight.
Which of these potentially dangerous chews is your dog addicted to? Let us know how you plan to help them kick their bad chewing habits in the comments below!
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.