I’m always careful about giving my dogs any type of toy or chew. Kona, the Lab, has never had a “toy”–I follow the belief that “squeaky toys” encourage poor mouth manners; not what you want in a retriever. But, chews and bones become necessary for good dental hygiene. Hoss, the 12-year-old bulldog, has had all sorts of toys and chews. And he’s destroyed most of them.

Here are the bones that I’ve found work well. They’ve held up to the massive jaw power of the bulldog and the Lab without posing risks often associated with other products.

Nylabone: These hard chews last a long time with the added benefit of “bristling” as they wear; providing more tooth and gum cleaning/stimulating action. There are usually two or three of these around the living room.

Red Barn Filled Knuckle Bone: I tried these on a whim one day and the dogs loved them. Both Hoss and Kona went to town for about two days trying to get the meat-flavored material out of them. I was about to schedule a dental cleaning for Kona, but after working the knuckle bones over, it wasn’t necessary. While they’re the new favorites around the house, they do have a tendency to break off and leave small pieces on the carpet. They also don’t seem to last as long as Nylabones either; just something to keep an eye on.

Some products I don’t use:

Rawhides: I learned my lesson with these from Hoss. While the smaller items didn’t work and were quickly devoured, he loved the larger ones and would chew on an end for hours. Unfortunately, he would also soften the rawhide and could fit a thick chunk of it down his throat. I pulled a good 6 to 8 inches from his esophagus on more than one occassion; if I weren’t home he might have been in serious trouble.

Pig ears: Similar to rawhides, pig ears either didn’t last long enough to do any dental good, or they became softened and lodged in the back of my dog’s throat. To me, these pose an even greater risk than a large rawhide because there’s nothing to grab to pull it out. At least with a large rawhide you, or even the dog, can leverage the un-softened portion; with a pig’s ear it gets moist and becomes flexible, easily sticking to the throat.

Greenies: Many people enjoy Greenies and use them without issue. I’ve just heard of too many problems from a few users, on message boards and even from veterinarians to use them.