There's no blanket prescription for choosing a toy for you dog. I've been doing some research online and find that the "experts" pretty much disagree and there will be proponents for raw bones, cooked bones, and no bones. Everyone seems to agree though that dogs love to chew, and better to find something safe and appropriate than your best real leather shoes.....And, of course, we have to think about safety. Many dogs have been to the vet for surgery to remove a piece of rawhide or bone from their intestines. Not only is this costly, but it's life threatening.
On the subject of bones, I think the consensus of opinion seems to be that if you are giving real bones to your dog, choose raw ones. Cooked bones are a definite no-no because they tend to splinter. Make sure the size fits the dog. Do not give a small bone to a large dog. And be very careful as I have seen dogs break their teeth (usually the canines) chewing animal bones.
The first rule of thumb (wonder where that phrase came from?) is to consider the dog. A Pit Bull with a very large, strong jaw will be able to destroy just about anything you can get. I had many frustrated customers come in to the big box store I worked in looking for chew toys for their Pit Bulls and say that they destroyed just about everything we could recommend. The least likely to be destroyed is the Extreme Kong toy. They even make a super sized version for those big jaws. And you can fill the Kong with peanut butter or the filling that the manufacturer sells, through the opening on the top. Dogs will play with this for hours.
A word of warning on peanut butter for dogs: beware of artificial sweeteners like xilitol which are extremely toxic to dogs. Always read ingredients!
There is even a version of the Kong for puppies:
The subject of rawhide is a controversial one as well. I would absolutely not give rawhide to dogs that tend to wolf down their food, and have strong teeth and love to swallow things whole. Rawhide can get stuck in the intestines and can require a very expensive surgery. You might want to try "bully sticks" instead. They come in a variety of sizes and you should match the size to your dog. Don't give a small rawhide chew to a large dog such as a Lab. They will swallow it whole, and when they drink water, it will expand and possibly cause intestinal blockage.
Bully sticks are, by the way, made from certain unmentionable parts of a bull. I once had a customer come in and taste one (I kid you not. He said he tried everything his dog ate). When I told him what it was made of, he turned all sorts of shades of red and green. Ugh. Bully sticks, however, are much more digestible and don't get stuck like rawhide.
When purchasing these types of products for your dog, make sure they are sourced in the USA. Products sourced in China have been found to carry salmonella and other toxins. Also, again check for additives. When I worked in the pet store, the most recalled item was the chicken strip chews. I would stay away from them. Just sayin'.
The product should be as natural as possible. Please note that "natural" does not mean "organic" in advertising. In fact, "natural" means nothing at all. "Organic" however, is a term that is regulated and means that the product was made without pesticides and additives.
One little thing most pet owners don't know about is the fact that many dog chews are irradiated to kill the harmful bacteria it may carry. So for that matter, are many human foods. The Food and Drug Administration has deemed irradiation safe, but I personally don't think radiation is good for anyone. It's a decision you'll have to make yourself. To know if your dog's chew treat has been irradiated, look for this symbol:
In general, for medium to large dogs, I would stay away from latex and stuffed toys because their instincts will cause them try and tear them apart. Many dogs will eat the pieces and again, you don't want them stuck in the intestines. I once had a kitten eat the stuffing from one of my kid's stuffed animals and a piece of stuffing got stuck in her intestine. It was a very tricky surgery and she developed peritonitis and almost died. The vet called to say she was going, and my son was very upset as he loved his "Kitty". We stayed up all night and sent her Reiki all night, and in the AM the perplexed vet called to say she was alive and looking for food! But that's another blog.....
I once watched a small Doxy tear up a stuffed toy in two minutes flat. Luckily, he never ate the contents and his owner watched him carefully. I personally have allowed my toy dogs to play with these types of toys because they love tug of war and fetch games. But never UNATTENDED.
So some good tips in choosing a dog chew are:
1. Make sure the size of the chew matches your dog's mouth.
2. Never leave your dog unattended with a chew.3. Stay away from cooked bones.
4. If your dog is a powerful chewer, try the Kong instead of bones and animal parts.
5. Buy products sourced in the US.
6. Look for products that are organic.
7. Check to see if it has been irradiated.
8, For medium to large dogs, stay away from latex and stuffed toys.
9. NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG UNATTENDED WITH A CHEW!!! (Yes, I know I repeated that.)
10. Know your dog's eating and chewing habits.