Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, so offering dog chews is a healthy alternative to chewing your shoes, the rug or the windowsills. Dog chews help clean teeth, exercise jaws, relieve stress, and prevent boredom. Many also include vitamins or other essential nutrients to aid your dog’s healthy digestion, joints, and immune response. But it’s hard to choose which variety and brand is best for your dog.
“When selecting a dog chew, pet parents need to consider the hardness, durability, longevity, size and ingredients and opt for those that have earned the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Approval,” recommends "Petrendologist" Charlotte Reed, host of the syndicated radio show The Pet Buzz.
She also recommends against bones, cow hooves, pig ears, and antlers. "Instead of spending big bucks on broken teeth, intestinal blockages and similar hazards, give your dog pet-appropriate, safe and healthy dog chews.”
SmartBones SmartSticks are our top pick because these highly-digestible chews are made of real chicken, peanut butter and healthy vegetables.
Real chicken and vegtables
Vitamin and mineral enriched
Made in Vietnam, China and Mexico
Corn starch is the first ingredient
With a price that can’t be beat, and chicken and peanut butter flavors that pups can’t resist, these rawhide-free treats are packed with vitamins and minerals. They're plenty chewy too, encouraging your dog to gnaw, which in turn helps clean their teeth and freshen their breath. Each is highly digestible and safe for all ages, breeds and sizes, and you won’t have to worry about sharp splinters or other choking hazards.
SmartSticks are smart in other ways too. The bag is resealable to keep the treats fresh and chewy. Dogs love the smell and flavor, although we're less happy about the artificial color and addition of fruit sugars like sorbitol and fructose.
Like all the dog chews that made our list, these are rawhide-free and a much healthier alternative to rawhide treats that can cause intestinal blockages. However, they’re not intended for daily snacking, and should be saved for a twice-weekly treat, depending on the size of your dog.
Price at time of publish: $12
Flavors: Vegetable with Chicken | Primary Ingredients: Corn, chicken, peanut butter | Sizes: 5 inches | Quantities: 5, 10, 12, 25, and 36 count
Best Dental Chews
Greenies Original Regular Natural Dental Dog Treats
Top-rated dental chew
Approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council
Dog loves the taste
Doesn't improve breath for some dogs
More expensive than some other chews
Dental chews are designed to supplement daily brushing by being hard enough to remove tartar and plaque at the gumline but soft enough that they won’t cause harm or discomfort. Distinctive grooves help maintain healthy teeth and gums for fresher breath. Greenies by far are the most popular and well reviewed dental chews available today and they are also Reed’s top recommendation.
“Greenies are great because they are easily accessible and are priced reasonably at a time when pet supplies prices are rising,” Reed told The Spruce Pets. “I only recommend brands of chews that have the VOHC Seal of Approval. VOHC recognizes products that meet pre-set standards during trials that demonstrate the products’ ability to reduce plaque and tartar in dogs and cats.”
The treat’s chewy texture is designed to help clean the gum line. Their simple ingredients are also easy for your pup to digest. Plus, they're full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Available in several different sizes, make sure to pick the right size for your dog, so they don't accidentally swallow one whole if it’s smaller than their mouth. The "regular" size Greenies are suitable for medium-sized breeds. Most dogs can safely eat one a day, although they may be begging you for more.
Greenies Dental Dog Treats are made in the United States and have a minimum of 30% crude protein.
Price at time of publish: $27
Flavors: Poultry | Primary Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Glycerin, Wheat gluten, gelatin, vitamins and minerals | Sizes: for dogs 5-15, 15-25, 25-50, 50-100 pounds | Quantities: 3, 6, 12, 18, 27, 36, 54, 72 count
Best Bully Sticks
Natural Farm 6-Inch Bully Sticks
Made from free-range, grass-fed cattle
No hormones or additives
Wide variety of sizes and quantities
Less "odor-free" than claimed
Natural Farm Standard Bully Sticks are made from free-range and grass-fed Brazilian cattle "pizzles," more commonly known as bull penis muscles They're single ingredient, oven-baked, super chewy, and loaded with protein.
Natural Farm's are our favorite bully sticks not just because of the high-quality ingredients, but also because of their convenient variety of options, including standard chew sticks in a variety of sizes, and also rings, braids, and bites. The bully sticks are available in sizes ranging from 3-inches to a full foot long, though we think the 6-inch variety is well-suited for medium-sized dog breeds.
Price at time of publish: $46 for 15 6-inch sticks
Flavors: Beef | Primary Ingredients: Bull pizzle | Sizes: 3, 4, 6, 7, and 12 inches | Quantities: 12-ounce; 5-, 10-, 12-, 15-, 20-, 25-count; 1 pound
Amazing Dog Treats Beef Trachea Dog Chews
Contains chondroitin and glucosamine for healthy big dog joints
Single ingredient treats
High protein treat
Great for senior and arthritic dogs
Feeding your pup beef tracheas is a great way to help boost their joint function as they age. Not only are these tasty treats high in protein and low in fat, but they are mostly made of cartilage, which contains chondroitin and glucosamine—both useful in the maintenance of healthy joints.
At a minimum of six inches, these treats are particularly good picks for large dog breeds. A satisfying chew also keeps your dog’s teeth and gums free from plaque, and hopefully prevents them from chewing and destroying the rest of your home by staving off boredom. Amazing Dog Treats are made from free-range, grass-fed cattle and contain no added chemicals. Similar to a bully stick, these will soften as your dog chews on them and they tend to smell stronger as they soften.
Price at time of publish: $12
Flavors: Beef trachea | Primary Ingredients: Beef trachea | Sizes: 3-4, 6 and 12 inches | Quantities: 3, 5, 10, 12, 25, 50 count
The Honest Company Beams Ocean Chews Grain Free Dog Chew Treats
Single ingredient chew
Sustainably sources and wild caught from Europe
Packaged in the USA
Too tough for some small dogs
These high-quality, high-protein chews contain just one ingredient: wolffish skin. The fish, also known as rock salmon, naturally has no scales, which makes them a mess-free, easy treat for your pooch. The wild-caught fish is native to the colder parts of the Atlantic Ocean, which makes its skin thick and hearty—perfect for a long-lasting chew.
The skins are naturally low in calories and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, and may help prevent or control conditions like lupus, eczema, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. , and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions. They’re packaged in the USA in a factory that meets the Food and Drug Administration requirements for human-grade products. They’re also non-GMO Project verified.
The Honest Company fish chews are also available as codfish skin.
Price at time of publish: $18
Flavors: Wolffish or codfish | Primary Ingredients: Wolffish | Quantities: 2.75, 3.25, 5.5 and 6 ounces
Best Beef Esophagus
Redbarn Barky Bark Dog Treats
High protein and low fat
Natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health
Dogs love them
Low in fiber
Single-ingredient dog treats are an ideal choice for dogs with sensitive stomachs, allowing their digestive systems a low stress treat. These are made with naturally high-protein, low-fat, slow roasted beef esophagus, sourced from free-range, grass-fed cattle. The absence of gluten, corn, wheat and soy ensure your dog’s allergies won’t be aggravated. They’re also free from hormones and artificial ingredients so you can feel good about your choice. Their tough jerky texture offers a lasting chew that doubles as a dental aid, scraping away tartar to keep teeth and gums healthy.
Beef esophagus is also a natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine that promotes long term joint health. Dogs love the crunchy texture that is tough enough to clean teeth and least without damaging teeth or gums. They are equally appropriate for puppies, adults and seniors, but choose the correct size of chew for the size of your dog to get the best fit. These are an excellent choice to beat boredom and unwanted chewing of shoes and furniture.
Price at time of publish: $39
Flavors: Beef esophagus | Primary Ingredients: Beef esophagus | Sizes: Medium 4-5 inches, large 9-10 inches | Quantities: 1, 6, 50 and 100 count
Best for Small Dogs
Earth Animal No-Hide Stix and Small Dog Treats
No corn, wheat, soy or rawhide
Only appropriate for dogs over 6 months old
Just because a pup is smaller, doesn’t mean they can’t do a lot of damage to your household items with their sharp little chompers. Many chews on the market are too large for our little pals so look for chews that are sized for smaller dogs.
These simple chews–with sticks designed for dogs up to 15 pounds and small chews for 16 to 45 pounds–are hand rolled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They contain no synthetic chemicals, additives and don’t use bleaches or formaldehydes in their processing. Your dog will appreciate the firm chew that gets gradually softer as it’s chewed.
They are naturally nutritious and your little one won’t be able to resist. Made with real, simple ingredients like eggs, rice and bananas, these rawhide-free chews are nutritious, tasty and designed to last.
Price at time of publish: $12
Flavors: Beef, chicken, salmon, pork, peanut butter, venison | Primary Ingredients: Meat or peanut butter, organic eggs, brown rice, banana | Sizes: Small 4 inches, stix 5 inches, medium 7 inches, large 11 inches | Quantities: 10 stix or 2 rolls
Best for Puppies
Nature Gnaws Natural Turkey Tendon
Made in the USA
Large dogs go through them quickly
A puppy’s chewing instinct is more powerful than ever at this stage of development, and for those that are teething, chewing can relieve pain of emerging teeth and help remove baby teeth. It also strengthens their jaws, relieves puppy energy and stress and helps their teeth and gums develop normally. Chews and toys can also help spare your home from stray destructive chewing.
Nature Gnaws offers a range of healthy single and limited-ingredient chews that are free of artificial colors or flavors. Their oven-baked turkey tendon chews are just one ingredient, naturally high in protein and packed with vitamins and essential nutrients your growing pup needs.
The tough texture cleans teeth, stimulates their gums and offers a satisfying entertainment chewing experience that will have your new baby begging for more. They’re excellent to soothe a teething pup.
This small family-run business, based in Deerfield Beach, Florida, USA, sources their turkey (and other ingredients) responsibly and packs their treats in biodegradable 4ocean-certified plastic neutral packaging. Nature Gnaws also donates chews to rescue shelters through their Gnaw It Forward initiative.
Price at time of publish: $23
Flavors: Turkey | Primary Ingredients: Turkey tendon | Sizes: 8 inches | Quantities: 4 and 8 ounces, 1 pound
Yeti Naturals Himalayan Yak Cheese Dog Treats
Made in the USA
All breeds, ages and sizes
Broken and small pieces sometimes
Not for those that are lactose intolerant
This hard cheese dog chew is made in Everett, Washington, using a simple, centuries-old Himalayan recipe with just three ingredients–yak and cow milk and lime juice. These low odor chews have a minimum of 69 percent protein and are easy on your dog’s digestive system. They’re low odor and long lasting so a great choice for aggressive chewers.
The oils in natural dog chews can stain furniture, rugs and bedding. But customers confirm that this chew doesn’t stain in that way. This one breaks down into small pieces over time, but the manufacturers suggest you microwave the pieces to melt them back into a large piece for increased longevity.
This pasteurized, aged cheese treat lasts well for most dogs and offers plenty of calcium for strong teeth and bones.
Price at time of publish: $23
Flavors: Yak cheese | Primary Ingredients: Yak milk, cow milk, lime juice | Sizes: Small for dogs up to 20 pounds, medium up to 35 pounds, large up to 55 pounds, extra-large more than 55 pounds | Quantities: 1.3, 2.5, 3.5, 5, 6, 7, and 12 ounces, 3 pounds
Bundle x Joy Superfood Jerky Bars
No wheat, corn, soy or artificial ingredients
Packed with antioxidants and fiber
Expensive in big dog quantities
Inclusions don't look appetizing
This female-owned company was founded in Phoenix, Arizona by a first-generation American Latina, and donates 3 percent of profits to fund women in entrepreneurship and other local community initiatives.
Wild-caught salmon, beef, or chicken is the first ingredient in these three flavors.
These jerky bars also contain superfoods–minimally processed natural foods with stellar ingredients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (blueberries, chia seeds) that promote optimal performance of your dog’s nervous, digestive and immune systems. Cranberries support the urinary system and kidneys. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin K that promotes a healthy skin and coat.
Price at time of publish: $10
Flavors: Leash & Lead (beef), Rise & Shine (chicken), Rise & Shine (salmon) | Primary Ingredients: Beef, chicken or salmon and blueberries, cranberries, sweet potatoes, chia seeds | Size: 3 inch bars | Quantities: 5 and 16 ounces
PetHonesty Hemp Calming Fresh Sticks
Calming, dental and chewing all in one
Might reduce excessive barking and reactivity
Texture and ridges brush off plaque
No artificial perservatives
Calming effects are mild, so dogs with intense anxiety should pursue veterinary alternatives
Some dogs and pet parents don't like the odor
Rescue dogs with troubled pasts and pandemic dogs that didn’t get enough socialization and/or have developed separation anxiety when their owners went back to work outside the home. That can sometimes turn into destructive chewing. These dogs might benefit from a chew that also includes calming ingredients that will help them relax a bit.
Hemp oil is the first ingredient in this chew that also includes hemp seeds. Although it comes from the same plant as cannabis, the chew doesn’t contain the psychoactive ingredient THC. The oil and seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that reduce skin issues and stress, the risk of illnesses like dementia and cardiovascular disease, and the oil may also reduce overall inflammation in the body.
Other ingredients like melatonin, chamomile, valerian root and passionflower induce relaxation and restful sleep. So they’re perfect to give before bed for a solid night’s sleep or to help you get through a thunderstorm or a vet appointment. They’ve also earned the National Animal Supplement Council quality seal of approval and are made in a Good Management Practices (GMP) certified facility, indicating a high level of quality control.
Price at time of publish: $18
Flavors: Pumpkin peanut butter | Primary Ingredients: Hemp, melatonin, chamomile, valerian root, passionflower | Size: One stick per 25 pounds of body weight | Quantities: 30 sticks
Petaluma Sweet Potato Jerky
No artificial preservatives
Not widely available
Don't last as long as some other animal-based chews
Size of pieces varies widely
Some dogs are sensitive or allergic to certain animal proteins and so need a treat that doesn’t upset their digestive system. Petaluma sources their ingredients sustainably. Organic sweet potatoes are the only ingredient in this plant-based alternative to other resource-intensive ingredients that require more land and water to produce, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. They use 60 percent less freshwater, 90 percent less land and produce 80 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional kibble. They’re also minimally processed and naturally packed with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins.
Manufactured in Oakland, California, from sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina, Petaluma also offers a roasted peanut butter and sweet potato flavored jerky. Oven baked using solar power, these single-ingredient, organic treats are packaged in bags that are certified to be compostable at home and in municipal industrial composters. These healthy dog chews are also Climate-Neutral Certified. Petaluma also participates in 1% for the Planet, a program that invests 1 percent of their profits in environmental and social justice organizations.
Price at time of publish: $18
Flavors: Sweet potato, peanut butter and sweet potato | Primary Ingredients: Organic sweet potatoes | Size: Varies widely | Quantities: 12-ounce bag
Our top pick, SmartBones SmartSticks, are highly-digestible, satisfying chews made with real chicken, peanut butter and healthy vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals. If you have a puppy or small dog, try Nature Gnaws Turkey Tendons, which are single-ingredient, long-lasting treats from an environmentally responsible source.
What to Look for in a Dog Chew
Dog chews come in a variety of types including:
- Soft Chews: Small and often used as rewards
- Supplement Chews: Vehicles for specific vitamins, nutrients, or medications
- Dental Chews: Support gum health and scrub teeth clean
- Long-Lasting Chews: Provide entertainment and stress relief, like a toy might
- Calming Chews: Deliver ingredients that help with anxiety and sleep
Pay attention to the type and quality of the ingredients in the chews you select. Ideally, you can recognize most or all of the ingredients and they are foods that you might also be willing to eat, like meat and vegetables.
Opt for organic where you can and check for those that carry a seal of approval from a nonprofit or third party with high standards like the The Honest Company Beams Ocean Chews Dog Chew Treats, which include FDA verified human-grade ingredients that are also non-GMO Project verified.
Common ingredients include:
- Beef pizzle (penis muscle)
- Tendon or trachea
- Wheat flour
- Added vitamins and minerals
There are also ingredients best avoided, especially rawhide and antlers. Most bones are also inappropriate for dogs. “Dog owners should avoid bones–both raw and cooked, chicken, turkey and other brittle bones. They aren’t safe because they easily splinter and cause digestive upset or can puncture the intestine,” Reed told The Spruce Pets.
Hardness, Longevity and Size
Except for chews whose purpose is to deliver supplements, vitamins or calming ingredients, you’ll want a chew that lasts. The longer it lasts, the more plaque and tartar can be removed and the more gum stimulation and stress-relieving chewing can happen. But to be long-lasting, the chew has to be hard enough to stand up to your dog's persistence. It also has to be soft enough that it's not brittle.
Longevity is dependent on the durability and treatment of the ingredients. Chews made with cartilage or tendons are naturally tough and therefore, long lasting. They, and treats made from muscle and other fibers, are made even tougher by the drying and dehydration treatments that give them their incredible shelf life. Bully sticks like the dental-friendly sticks from Jack & Pup are known for their long-lasting ability.
Chewing is a natural instinct for most dogs, especially when they are puppies. It helps them develop strong healthy teeth and gums, helps remove baby teeth as they are pushed out painfully as new teeth emerge, especially during the first year of life.
When selecting a chew for your puppy, opt for one that doesn’t splinter easily to protect their sensitive gums and avoid those that might break down into small pieces that they could choke on, like the Yeti Naturals Himalyan Yak Cheese.
Is rawhide bad for dogs?
Rawhide chews are not appropriate for dogs because of their potential to cause digestive irritation, choking and intestinal blockage.
“Some dogs are simply sensitive or allergic to rawhide or other substances used in their manufacture, with the potential to cause diarrhea," The Pet Buzz host Charlotte Reed told The Spruce Pets. "Sometimes, abdominal surgery is needed to remove unchewed rawhide pieces from the stomach or intestines. If left unresolved, a blockage can lead to death.”
Are antler chews safe for dogs?
“Antler chews will never be entirely safe for any dog, and the risks of damage to the teeth, gums, mouth, jaw or guts will always be there,” says Reed. ”However, antlers for dogs are an excellent source of protein and amino acids, which are vital for the body function of canines. Additionally, they are loaded with various minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. If your dog needs more amino acids and proteins, try antler powder as a topper on your dog's food instead.”
How often should I give my dog bones and chews?
“Once a week is a great treat,” Reed says. “They’re also appropriate whenever a dog is stressed, such as when you have a lot of visitors, during thunderstorms or when there are other sources of stress.”
What should I not let my dog chew on?
Reed advises against dogs chewing ice, tennis balls, rocks and other similar items. “Ice cubes can contribute to broken teeth and damaged gums,” she told The Spruce Pets. “Small breeds are especially at risk for cracking or loosening teeth while chomping on ice. Frozen berries are a good, healthy alternative frozen treat.”
While not as hard, tennis balls can be chewed into small pieces, potentially causing choking or intestinal blockage.
Not letting your dogs chew rocks might seem like a no brainer, but dogs can be drawn to them, especially puppies. “Rocks are horrible and can cause broken teeth and can be swallowed,” says Reed. “They can also get caught in your dog’s throat and block airways, causing a choking hazard.”
Why Trust The Spruce Pets
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two dog companions in her home for the past 35 years. When researching these brands, Wilde evaluated the type and quality of the ingredients, hardness and longevity of each chew, the company’s research and development, and their business ethics.
Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science. She is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets and our plan.
Charlotte Reed is a leading pet trend and lifestyle expert. Millions have had the opportunity to watch her on Better TV, CNN, Comedy Central, Fox & Friends, Nate Berkus, The View, Steve Harvey, Today's Show as well as many other television and radio shows around the globe, discussing “The What’s New” for pets and their people. Reed is the Executive Producer and Host of “The Pet Buzz,” a syndicated pet talk radio show, airing throughout the United States.