Wood Chew Toys - what you need to know
Some dogs are natural chewers, especially when puppies, and unless you guide them they will chew items such as shoes or furniture that are unsuitable, simply because they had a need to chew and those items were conveniently to hand.
There are many chew toys available from retailers but I wanted to write a cautionary note about a relatively new (but expensive) type of dog chew toy - wood or root chews - which can be bought in many pet stores or online. I have seen two main types of such chews. One is irregularly-shaped lumps of “tree root” available in a range of sizes, the other is a stick-shape, again in different sizes, described as “coffee wood”. I bought both for my Labrador Retriever pup who has been chewing anything wood that she can get her teeth into, including my kitchen chairs and sticks she found on or under hedges in the garden, many of which splintered when she chewed them. Wood splinters can cause really serious problems for dogs if swallowed, becoming wedged in the throat or palate, perforating the abdominal tract or causing an intestinal blockage. I bought the wood chew toys so that I could re-direct her to a safe alternative when she felt the need to chew.
The “tree root” chew worked very well. She was a bit unsure about it at first so I rubbed some cheese over the knobbly surface to make it more appealing. She chewed enthusiastically on the irregular shape, gradually wearing it down with no sign of splintering.
However, the “coffee wood” chew, although initially successful when she gnawed on the end, suddenly began to splinter (see photograph), and potentially could have been quite hazardous as the splinters were hard and sharp. I was particularly concerned as my pup was only 5 months old and so her jaw muscles are nowhere near as strong as an adult dog. I suspect an older dog could have been a lot more destructive.
All dogs are different so the moral of this story is that you really do need to make sure that you always monitor what your dog is chewing, and be very sure that it is indeed safe to leave your particular dog alone and unsupervised with a chew toy.