I've been wanting to make a post about natural chews for quite a while. Most places will tell you to give a puppy a kong and a nylabone. I have yet to have a dog (out of 4 so far) that actually liked kongs. I even tried to fill them and they were still a no go for my guys. So, when I adopted Linc, I decided to go the natural route, not natural nylabone or anything, but actual natural chews. Linc grew up chewing four different natural chews: dried cow hooves, dehydrated beef tracheas, bully sticks and split antlers.
I chose hooves for multiple reasons, one of the main ones is that they are keratin and naturally break down in the dog's digestive system. The cow hooves I buy are also 50¢/hoof, but they can range between 50¢-$2.00 each. The hooves I buy are from US raised cows and have no artificial additives. They are actually dried in my home town. They are high protein, low calorie and 4-5" long. My boys love them! Granted, it does hurt if you step on one, like a massive lego. But it's worth the pain.
Here is Linc working on a new hoof I just gave him. None of my dogs have ever had any problems with choking or obstructions from the hooves I buy.
I buy 6" dehydrated beef tracheas in bulk, around 50-100 at a time. Indie can chew these easily and all three go crazy for them. They are higher in calories than the hooves, about 158 calories/per ounce. Tracheas are wonderful for older dogs like Indie or dogs who are missing some teeth. They are a softer chew and more gentle on the jaw. Tracheas are a natural source for glucosamine and chondroitin, which is awesome for my older boys! The 6" is an easier length for Indie and is a great treat that I give a couple times a week. indie obviously doesn't chew much at 14 and can't handle the bully sticks like he used to, so I give these to help exercise his jaw, clean his teeth and give him some entertainment
Bully sticks are awesome! I do wish they lasted longer! I also buy these in bulk to save some money. I buy the 12" bully sticks. Now depending on where you buy them from, they can range from around $2.00-$13.00/per bully stick. I have noticed the prices are also based on the thickness of the chew itself. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy a 3' bully stick and cut it yourself, but other times it is cheaper to buy them in bulk. Indie is unable to chew these anymore, so only the aussies get them. But damn do they go crazy for them!
Antlers tend to be the most controversial chew on this list. Many dogs have broken teeth on them. I only buy the split antlers because the dogs can dig out the marrow and then I toss them. Antlers do tend to be the most expensive chew on this list also. I don't buy them very often and if I do, I buy them from ebay. I did buy a few while in Wyoming for my sister's wedding. They were $2.00/ounce, which wasn't bad at all. We currently don't have any antlers, but I will get some more in the future. Again, I have never had any problems with broken teeth when giving my dogs antlers.
When giving your dogs chews of any kind, always monitor them! It is your responsibility to make sure the dog can handle the chew! Always be careful!