DEAR OLD TRAINER: What is your opinion of Nyla-Bones? Lily, my 3-year old English Sheepdog, has one she loves. My vet told me as long as she doesn't break off chunks, it's OK but she does throw up tiny pieces of it. Is there a type of safe Nyla Bone? If I take it away she constantly looks for it.
A: Some Nyla Bones are safer than others and are safer for some dogs than others. The dog most likely to suffer harm is one with jaws powerful enough to break off sharp splinters and one who chews on it all the time. Lily fills the bill on both counts.
Nyla Bones are generally safe. A piece breaking off will usually pass through, but any piece with a sharp point may cause problems.
If you see by the condition of the bone Lily is not breaking off slices it's probably safe, but a Sheep Dog is strong enough to splinter one.
My dogs don’t have much interest in Nyla Bones so I have two alternatives, depending on what each individual dog likes.
For indoors I buy pressed rawhide bones--not regular rawhide, pressed rawhide—put them in the freezer until frozen solid, then give one to my dogs. They chew for half an hour or so before they soften one up.
When they do I put it back in the freezer and give them another frozen one. They can chew as long as they want but never get anything off the bone, and if they do it's just a small piece of soft rawhide.
For the dogs who chew outdoors I have my butcher cut the main beef leg bone into pieces about five inches long. I freeze those too. All dogs love beef bones. They eventually get the marrow out, but keep gnawing on them and hiding them and stealing them from each other for months. Sometimes I put a little peanut butter in the hollow center after they clean out the marrow and it keeps them amused for hours working to get it out.
It's a rare dog with jaws strong enough to chip pieces off a beef leg bone and if they do it's just a small nugget with no sharp edges.
Dogs love to chew bones—it’s in their DNA—so I always have something safe for mine to work on when they feel the desire.
The other part of your question is the intense love affair some dogs develop with objects. It can be anything. Suzy, my English Bulldog, has a foot-long piece of plastic pipe she loves. She sleeps with it, carries it all day, and always has it in her mouth when she romps and plays.
The pack can chew her ears or steal her sleeping spot and she doesn’t mind, but they know better than to touch her beloved piece of pipe.
There’s no logical reason why dogs fall in love with an object, but the love is real so when one of mine loves something I let them keep it.
You don’t mind Lily having her Nyla Bone you just don’t want her chewing it, so try to outsmart her. If she starts to chew the Nyla Bone replace it with one of the options above. When she’s tired of chewing give her back the Nyla Bone.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.