Most dogs LOVE to chew.
And most doggy parents are searching for something to give their pup—something that will satisfy their instinct to chew (without it being the new couch cushion or table legs)!
Many people see rawhide treats as the solution. But is this the right solution?
- Dogs need to chew to relieve anxiety and promote oral health and hygiene.
- Rawhide chews are made of dried animal skins and can be contaminated with chemicals or bacteria during the manufacturing process.
- Rawhides are not easily digestible by dogs and can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal damage if swallowed in large chunks.
But are they so bad? After all, they keep your dog occupied for a long time. Some dogs spend hours chewing away on their precious little rawhide treat.
They didn’t get the saying “like a dog with a bone” for nothing. When dogs get a special bone, like a rawhide, they won’t stop chewing until it’s completely gone.
But you might be wondering if these treats are safe.
There has been much debate on this topic recently.
In fact, some major pet stores don’t even carry traditional rawhide chews anymore over concerns about their safety.
So…are these treats okay to give your dog?
What are they made out of?
Are there any alternatives?
Let’s find out…
Table of Contents
What Are Rawhide Dog Treats?
Rawhide chews are made of dried animal skins, predominantly from cow or horse hides and sometimes even pigs.
It’s a “raw” hide, meaning it hasn’t gone through the tanning process that is used to make leather.
This seems natural enough…
But not necessarily when you consider the manufacturing process.
In order to preserve the rawhide, many hides are soaked in chemicals to separate fat from the skin and to remove hair and other particles on the skin. High-salt brines are used to slow the decay of the hides and skin during the manufacturing process.
After they’re cleaned, they are cut or ground to be pressed into specific sizes for dog treats. Sometimes additives like beef, chicken or liver flavorings are used to add to their appeal.
Because chemicals and other preservatives are used to make these treats, it’s always best to rinse them off before giving them to your dog.
And with so many products labeled as safe for your dogs, it can be difficult to navigate what is okay to give them. Here are some of the good, and bad, that comes with giving your dog rawhide treats.
Rawhide: The Good
Dogs don’t just like to chew, they NEED to chew.
It’s their natural instinct.
And some dogs even chew for hours EVERY day!
Dogs need to be given an opportunity to chew on items that are dog-friendly…
…not your favorite pair of shoes or your carpet.
In that respect, rawhide bones are great because they give your dog a chance to chew on something that isn’t your furniture.
Chewing also helps relieve anxiety. So if your dog is going through some type of anxiety, giving them something to chew on like a rawhide is a great way to help them cope with their stressors.
If chewing is a serious issue in your household, check out a few ways that you can keep your dog from destroying your stuff.
Chewing also helps promote oral health and hygiene.
Chewing on something naturally cleans your dog’s teeth and it definitely keeps their jaws strong. Both are necessary components of proper oral health (aside from regular teeth cleanings at your vet).
But are there any risks with serving up some rawhide to your furry friend?
Rawhide: The Bad
While rawhides are great for giving your dog the chance to gnaw on something and help to keep their teeth clean, there are substantial risks that come with rawhides.
One minor possibility is that the rawhide contains toxic chemicals. Throughout the manufacturing process, rawhides can be exposed to harsh chemicals or even bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli that can make your dog sick.
This is not a huge concern, but one that I wanted to share.
Rawhides are not easily digestible by dogs, so if your dog is a mighty chewer that breaks off chunks of rawhides it can pose some serious dangers like choking, intestinal blockages or perforations that can be potentially fatal.
This is heavily reliant on the size of your dog and the type of chewer they are.
If you give a Chihuahua a giant rawhide bone (like in the photo above), the risks are much greater.
Always choose a rawhide that’s appropriately sized for your pup.
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And think about the type of chewer they are.
Rawhides are really meant to last a long time, with a dog chewing softly and breaking down the rawhide into tiny pieces over time.
Power chewers, like Labradors, might break off the rawhide into larger pieces. This, as I mentioned, can create a choking hazard and can even scratch the inside of their mouth or create major intestinal damage.
You’ll want to contact your vet immediately if your dog starts demonstrating any signs of bacterial contamination, intestinal irritation or blockage. Some of those signs include:
- Regurgitation or repeated swallowing
- Lack of energy
- Refusal to eat
- Issues with bowel movements
Be sure to always take proper safety precautions when giving your dog a rawhide treat. Supervision is key. If you notice your dog swallowing large chunks, take the rawhide away and try a different size or type of treat.
Always allow your dog a safe place to relax while enjoying their rawhide. If other dogs are nearby, your dog might want to finish theirs quickly and are more likely to swallow big chunks.
Once your dog has chewed most of the rawhide, take it away so they don’t swallow the last part whole.
Consult your vet if you have any questions about the safety of rawhides or how much to give your dog.
Using Treats for Training Your Dog
I’ve heard of lots of people using rawhide or other treats to train their dogs.
Now, first, I want to say that rawhide treats are not the best way to train your dog. Because they’re meant to be long-lasting chews, it won’t serve the purpose of training very well as your dog will run off to chew on the rawhide, essentially ending your training session.
Treat training in general is very tricky. After all, you don’t want to rely on treats in order to get your dog to listen.
What happens when you forget the treats? Or you have them packed away at the moment you need them?
In those situations, solely relying on treats to train your pup won’t work. And it’s certainly not a long-term solution.
I’ve written extensively on why I believe that positive reinforcement training (aka: treat training) might fail your dog.
Let me be clear, I do believe in kind and gentle training methods. But positive reinforcement training focuses on treats, NOT your relationship with your dog.
My Dog Calming Code™ program is based on the psychological triggers and behaviors that all dogs understand. And it SPEAKS YOUR DOG’S LANGUAGE!
You’ll see that I do advocate for treats during the course of training your dog, but only as a TOOL, not as the sole incentive for your dog to listen.
Instead, the incentive is that your dog listens to you because they WANT TO. Because they see you as their trusted leader and understand what you’re asking them to do.
Whatever treat you’re using, don’t fall into the trap of believing that treat training is all you need to do to get your dog to listen.
Check out that and four other common dog training myths here.
And remember that a solid training foundation starts with a solid relationship built on trust and communication.
Get that, and so much more, with my Dog Calming Code™.
And if you’re looking for a treat alternative to rawhides, here are some suggestions!
What Are Alternatives to Giving Your Dog Rawhide Treats?
Do you have a dog that loves to chew?
Luckily there are lots of options besides rawhides when it comes to giving your pup something healthy and natural to chew on.
Foods like carrots, watermelon and apples are great treats to offer them that will satisfy their urge to chew, help with oral hygiene and they come jam-packed with valuable nutrients. Just be sure to remove any seeds and avoid giving your dog the core or rind.
There are plenty of freeze-dried or dehydrated dog chews on the market that offer a safe way for your pet to chew to their heart’s desire. Or check out Yak Chews for a healthy, long-lasting chew that’s safe for dogs of all sizes.
And when it heats up outside, try these fun dog popsicle recipes for a tasty treat for your dog.
One of my podcast episodes features Ryan Alarid, author of Real Food for Dogs, where we discuss healthy dog food recipes and what dogs really need in their diets to live a long, happy and healthy life.
Here’s the bottom line…rawhide treats aren’t necessarily bad, but it’s worth exploring a wide variety of treat chews and toys that can satisfy your dog’s instinct to chew to find what works best for you and your pup.
To your happy chewers,
~ Doggy Dan 😄
Thanks this post. Bowel problems cleared up for our pup when we stopped giving her rawhide. Hard to substitute though. She’s not interested in crunchy vegetables. She does chew a little on synthetic, non-food based bones. Real raw bones are great, but very messy and must be consumed outside, where they become an ownership issue with our other dog, and it’s harder to enforce the ‘ humans control the food rule’ once the bones go outside.
Hi Julie..have you tried deer antlers for your dogs to chew? Antlers are shed naturally and they are a longer lasting chew. Most pet stores have them now, or you can find them online. All the Best, Doggy Dan
We need a chew that is safe to leave our foster home alone with. He has separation anxiety . Our favorite is a rolled up chunk of beef cheek. It is the longest lasting “safe” chew that we have found. One will last for months of being used for one to 4 hour periods, several times a week.
Hi Linda, chewing & destruction are both common symptoms of Separation Anxiety. The reason dogs chew is that it helps release a natural feel-good hormone (endorphin) that is aimed at helping calm and relax the dog…..it’s similar to when humans chew their fingernails when they are anxious/nervous.
My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com has a section on how to overcome a dog’s Separation Anxiety…maybe take a quick look…we have a fantastic trial offer on at the moment…All the Best, Doggy Dan
We stopped giving rawhide treats years ago,I think they are a chokeing hazard and toxic,and I think the public should know about these treats.
Thanks for your comments Karen. You are right, rawhide can be a really common choking hazard due to how it is manufactured. Having said that, any chew we give our dogs carries a risk and so we need to ensure we select the most appropriate one to suit our dogs. Supervising a dog initially, just to see how they behave with their chew, can help highlight any potential risks…..for example is the chew too small for the dog, or could it get wedged in the dogs mouth etc. All the Best, Doggy Dan
I have a boxer (3 yrs old) who hates other people and dogs, because he has not been socialized. We do not have many people come to our house. He has been traumatized by the police at our house because of our houseguest. I have tried taking him out in public but he shies and growls at people who get close. I don’t know how to get him acclimated to other people and dogs.
Hi Deborah, some dogs can find the outside world and strangers to be really unsettling…..the reason being that they carry a potential risk in that dog’s mind. To help your dog start to relax in those situations it’s important that he starts to trust that you are there to keep him safe. My website TheOnlineDogTrainer.com has a section relating to this behaviour and it will help you understand the correct way to socialise your dog…maybe take a quick look…we have a really great trial offer on at the moment…or you can check out some of my other Blogs as I have definitely written one about this behaviour…All the Best, Doggy Dan