This section is where we address behavioral questions that you, our customers, have asked us regarding issues that you've had with your dogs.  The topics have ranged from chewing, biting, housetraining, walking, and barking. We sorted through some of the most common questions and our colleague, Susan Greenbaum from Barking Hills Country Club, has thoughtfully responded.

We hope that these are helpful!

Rawhide: Friend or Foe?

Q: Everyone we talk to seems to have a different opinion about rawhide. Some folks give it to their dog every day and others won’t let their dogs chew it because of the choking hazard. So which is it? A great idea or a bad idea?

A: Everyone seems to have an opinion on rawhide. Some folks swear by it, some won't ever give it to their dog and some leave it up to their veterinarian. It is a very individual decision for each dog and each owner. Checking with your veterinarian, on anything pertaining to your dog’s health, is certainly a good idea and here are some other things to consider:

Why bother?

Certainly you can avoid the issue by not giving your dog anything to chew and for some dogs, and some owners, that may be the answer. However, dogs wake up each morning with a certain amount of chew factor – ten minutes for one, an hour for another and two hours or more for others. Teething dogs need different textures, hard, soft, fuzzy, smooth and so on, in order to meet their need to chew. Dogs teethe starting around four or five months of age through when the last set of molars come through, in the back of the dog’s mouth, somewhere around twelve to fifteen months. Younger dogs tend to chew more than older dogs and some breeds tend to chew more than others. Individuals vary as well. Most dogs enjoy chewing so finding things which satisfy the need to chew is a good goal. Some dogs use chewing as a stress reliever and seem to seek out something to chew when experiencing stress.

The Chew Factor Club

There are many different types of “chewables” out there and each owner needs to find out what works for each dog.

• Chewing Products: Rawhide, “Bully” sticks, and other consumables

• Marrow Bones, knuckle bones and other natural products

• Quick Consumables: Pig ears and similar products

• Corn starch based products

• Plastic based products

• Reusable products – usually made out of hard rubber some of which can be filled with food

Not all rawhide is created equal.

Some of it is produced in the USA, some overseas. There haven't been a lot of issues with domestically produced rawhide while some problems have been reported with rawhide which has been imported from other counties. Salmonella, and other bacteria which can be present in dog food, rawhide and other consumables, can cause illness in dogs and humans.

It is easy to determine where the rawhide has been produced and packaged. You look at the label or send an email to the company which is distributing the product.

Rawhide 101

Most rawhide sold as dog treats falls into one of these three categories:

Chip Rawhide: This is the stuff that looks like particle board. It is often dyed and shaped into fun shapes including holiday themes. Chip rawhide is consumed quickly by many dogs. It is made with small chips which are moistened and molded into shapes. The pieces of chip are quite small and most dogs would find it difficult to choke on. Some people don’t like feeding their dog too many products with artificial colors and dyes while others are comfortable with their dog having chip rawhide in moderation.

Flat or Strip Rawhide: This is the type which is made from a square or rectangle of hide. Sometimes it is moistened and rolled or moistened, rolled and knotted on each end to look like a bone. A powerful chewer can rip off a chunk and may have problems swallowing the chunk. With some dogs, this can be a choking hazard while for many dogs, this is a product which will last for quite awhile.

Compressed Rawhide: Often shaped like a bone, this rawhide is actually many layers of thin rawhide moistened and pressed together. It is manufactured in a similar way to plywood. And like plywood it is dense and quite strong. That isn't to say a really strong chewer couldn't rip off a hunk, but most dogs do not chew off pieces. An advantage to compressed rawhide is it is longer lasting than chip or strip rawhide.

Some Things to Remember

Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog rawhide or any other consumable product.

Consider how hard a chewer your dog can be. Some dogs should not have anything which can be ripped or chewed into smaller pieces.

Never leave your dog alone with anything to chew. Dogs can bite off and swallow almost anything! Some things are a choking hazard and some things may become lodged in the digestive tract which may involve surgical intervention. Always monitor a dog who is chewing rawhide or any other consumable product.

Always remove any rawhide which is small enough to completely fit into your dog’s mouth. That size constitutes a choking hazard. When in doubt, throw it out.

Give your dog privacy from people and other pets when chewing. This will help avoid guarding behavior.

Teach your dog to relinquish anything, including rawhide, to you when asked.

Most dogs seem to really enjoy chewing rawhide. It helps massage the gums and prevent tarter build up. So speak with your veterinarian, monitor your dog, and make a decision which works for you and your dog. Thanks for asking and remember:

Train your dog – enjoy your dog!

Copyright © Susan D. Greenbaum

Check out some of the other topics that we've addressed:

"Car Travel"
"Coming when called"
"Gracie pulls constantly on her leash..."
"My husband and I rescued a pitbull..."
"My dog goes crazy with the doorbell..."
"I am trying to get my dog from jumping on people..."