Puppies love to chew and if you don't supply them with suitable toys, they'll happily choose inappropriate things like your couch, your shoe or your best friend. Finding safe chew toys can be a real challenge as not everything on the market is safe. For very young puppies, choose softer toys and move to harder toys as the puppy grows.
Rope chews are relatively safe for puppies because as the strings are torn off in small segments they pass harmlessly through the puppy's alimentary canal. However, on rare occasions, the strings will accumulate into a ball of soggy cotton and pose a choking hazard. The design of the toy facilitates equal distribution of pressure along a row of more than two teeth rather than placing all the pressure on just two back teeth. For puppies, plush toys should only be chewed up under direct supervision and taken away as soon as the puppy has torn it apart. The fiberfill can easily be swallowed and cause an intestinal blockage.
Rubber toys are a favorite among teething puppies who have a natural need to chew to relieve the itching and discomfort of the teething process. Hard rubber toys, such as the Kong, are ideal for puppies aged 6 months and up, as the toys are indestructible and designed to put bits of peanut butter and other treats in them, keeping them fresh and interesting. Lightweight rubber squeaky toys are better for puppies under 6 months of age, as they are easily torn apart which delights puppies. Don't leave your puppy alone with them, as he will happily consume the rubber pieces which could cause gastrointestinal problems.
Rawhide chew toys are controversial and with good reason. Very hard chew toys are best left to the older dogs as a puppy's tooth can easily fracture. However, even with adult dogs, rawhide chews are dangerous because as the dog chews them, small pieces of rawhide, which is a by-product of the tanning industry, become sticky and form a dangerous bolus which can lodge in the dog's throat or intestines, requiring surgery in some cases. Also, pathogens such as salmonella are a concern, especially from rawhide imported from China. You can give thin wafers of rawhide under supervision. Be aware that dogs with food allergies to beef or chicken may develop skin problems and chronic ear infections, so keep an eye out for any signs of intolerance to these proteins.
Chew toys appropriate for adult dogs are not always puppy-friendly. When selecting chew toys for your young puppy, choose soft and yielding substances such as lightweight rubber or thin rawhide wafers. Avoid Nylabones and sterilized cow bones when the puppy is very young. As the puppy grows, you can gradually increase the hardness of the chew toy. Toys designed to fill with water and freeze are especially helpful, as the ice is yielding and helps alleviate teething pain.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.