How To Choose The Best Recreational Bones For Dogs

bones for dogs

Let’s face it … most dogs suffer from boredom.

They lie around the house all day, and wait for their people to get home from work or school. Even if you work from home like I do, your dogs probably still get a lot of downtime. That’s one of the reasons dogs look forward to dinner time! It’s an exciting break in their day.

But for most dogs, meals only last for a short time and then it’s back to relaxation. That’s where recreational bones for dogs come in …

Ripping into a nice big bone is one of the best activities your dog can do! It’s a great muscle-building activity for your dog … it builds a strong neck and spine. In fact, if you watch your dog work on a big bone, you can see it working his whole body!

Bones are also nature’s toothbrush … chewing removes plaque and tartar from teeth and freshens breath.

But don’t grab any old bone. The type of bone you give your dog matters …

Choose the right bone and you’ve given your dog an afternoon of fun activity … choose the wrong bone and your dog could end up in the emergency room!

This isn’t meant to scare you off bones … in fact, bones are your dog’s best friend! But you need to choose a bone that matches your dog’s size and chewing habits.

So let’s take a moment to help you choose the safest (and most enjoyable) bone for your dog …

Choose The Right Bone Type

There are two types of recreational bones for dogs: long bones and flat bones.

Long Bones 

Long bones are the bones found in the legs and wings of animals.

Long bones tend to have a hard, smooth surface along with a center filled with loads of marrow. The ends of these bones are soft and contain a lot of cartilage.

Flat Bones 

Flat Bones are the bones found in the spinal column, ribs, pelvis and shoulder. They’re softer than long bones and don’t contain as much marrow.

I prefer to give my dogs flat bones … I’ll tell you why in a moment when we get to safety.

RELATED: Find out how to add calcium to your dog’s cooked or raw meals.

Choose The Right Bone Size For Your Dog

The size of the bone (and the dog) determines how edible the bone is.

In general, recreational bones are an addition to a balanced diet. Your dog shouldn’t eat too much of the bone … that would give him a lot more calcium than he needs.

In a perfect world, the bone should be large enough that he’ll strip all the meat off but not eat too much of the bone.

Large Dogs
Bones from cows, moose and other large animals are good for large, aggressive chewers. Some options for large dogs include beef neck bones (my favorite), beef rib bones and pelvic bones.

If you’re not squeamish (and you’re sure you won’t terrify your neighbors) … you can even feed beef, sheep or goat heads (most ethnic markets carry these).

Small And Medium Dogs
Bones from smaller animals such as deer, goats, pigs and lamb can be eaten by smaller dogs but … not by larger breeds.

Safe choices include beef rib bones, lamb neck bones (which are very meaty), pork or lamb ribs and heads.

Poultry bones are mostly edible for all sizes of dogs … but you shouldn’t give them to your dog as recreational bones.

Now that you know about the types of bones, let’s talk a bit more about safety …

RELATED: Find out why I stopped feeding raw chicken for dogs …

When It Comes To Recreational Bones … Safety First

Chewing bones, although safe, can create problems in your dog if your bone choices are poor.

Here are some more tips to help you increase the safety of your dog’s favorite pastime …

Cooked Bones

Never feed cooked bones of any kind!

Not only can some cooked bones splinter … cooked bones are hard and can break a tooth. Even kibble-fed dogs can enjoy a nice raw bone without fear of diarrhea or bacteria if you choose the right bone.

RELATED: How To Make Bone Broth For Your Dog …

Bowel Blockages

Long bones have soft ends that are more cartilage than bone.

These types of bones may not be a good choice for large, aggressive chewers as they can tear off a lot of that cartilage. The cartilage can accumulate in the bowels.

If your dog isn’t used to bones or he really overdoes it, he could end up at the vet’s for an enema … or even surgery to remove the blockage.

Signs of an obstruction can include …

  • Bloating
  • A hunched over posture
  • Frequent unsuccessful attempts to defecate or vomit

Just be aware of these signs or, better yet … don’t feed these types of bones (such as femurs) to large dogs.

Broken Teeth

Long bones are quite hard on the surface and can break your dog’s teeth. Flat bones are a better choice for medium to large size dogs because they’re much softer and harder to clamp down on.

Flat bones will also last longer. This is because they have craggy surfaces that hide the meat better than long bones. That makes them a much more interesting chew.

As bones dry out, they can also become brittle. Don’t let your dog’s bones lay around for days or you’ll be sure to see a cracked tooth sooner or later.

Let your dog chew on them for a day or two, then toss them in the garbage or organic bin.

HINT: If you’re still worried about broken teeth, or your dog’s already got broken teeth, you can add an air-dried bone powder to your dog’s food.

Loose Stools

Dogs who are new to bones, or dogs who eat more bones than usual, can suffer from loose stools.

This is normally caused by the rich and fatty marrow inside the bone.

Long bones contain more marrow than flat bones, so flat bones may be a better choice if loose stools are a problem.

RELATED: Learn how to stop dog diarrhea n 4 simple steps …


If your dog eats large amounts of bone, it can cause constipation. You might see white or yellowish, powdery stools or even yellow, runny stools.

It’s important to check on your dog to make sure he’s focused on the meat. You don’t want him to eat too much bone.

In general, if your dog eats more of a recreational bone than you intended … feed him more meat and less bone for the next couple of meals (if you feed a raw diet). This will balance out his minerals, including calcium and phosphorus.


Stay away from bones from older animals … they’re more likely to have toxins and pollutants in them.

It’s best to find bones from young grass-fed, animals. Organically raised animals are also a safer choice for the same reasons.

Where To Buy Your Bones

You may think “Yikes, those bones in the pet food store are expensive.” And you’d be right!

But don’t worry … you can find recreational bones for dogs for free or very cheap if you check out the following places …

Grocery Store
Larger grocery stores will have whole carcasses and dispose of the bones. Make friends with your butcher and don’t be afraid to ask because most of the time, they’ll give you a bag for free.

Chances are you’ll have to pay for your bones at the butcher but if you’re a good customer, your butcher will be good to you too. Always ask … don’t assume that, because there aren’t any in the display case, your butcher doesn’t have some bones set aside.

Ethnic Market
Many cultures love bones. A trip to the ethnic market could result in a windfall of yummy bone choices for your dog!

Pet Food Store
If money is no object, you can buy your bones at any local pet food store. Make sure they’re raw and stay away from those white, sterilized bones or the smoked bones, which are cooked and can be dangerous.

Is there good weather in the forecast? Why not give your dog a nice afternoon in the sun with a healthy and delicious treat?

You’ll find your dog’s tired and happy after a day with a bone … and there’s nothing better than a tired and happy dog with a full belly!

RELATED: The Best Dog Bowls Evaluated

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