Your German Shepherd likes to chew. It needs to chew. Not only is chewing its instinct, but the act of chewing for a German Shepherd is vital for keeping healthy teeth and gums because it’s good jaw exercise.
And frankly, they just love it.
Chewing on things has a pretty high entertainment value for your GSD. And if you don’t provide your GSD with something to chew on, your GSD will find something all on its own!
Chew toys are essential for GSDs, from a young age through adulthood. However, when purchasing a chew toy for your dog, it is important that you don’t just go to a pet store or look online and buy something which looks appealing to you.
Dog toys and packaging are often designed to intrigue you, the dog’s owner, since you are the one actually buying the toy (I have yet to train my dog to shop!).
And since this is your responsibility, you need to go about doing it in a responsible manner.
The most important consideration when buying a toy for your dog is to never buy a toy that you would not feel comfortable leaving your dog alone with.
In your absence, your dog has nothing but time. GSDs are amongst the most intelligent breeds of dog, so it will persist. And if a toy has any weak points, your dog will surely find them.
So it is paramount to your GSD’s safety that you purchase only very resilient and durable toys for it.
Age and size appropriate toys
Keep your dog’s age in mind when buying a toy for it. Remember that puppies still have their baby teeth, so softer toys are more appropriate for this time. Avoid giving your puppy any toys made of hard rubber while they are teething. This will last up until they are about 9 months old.
As your puppy grows into an adult, its jaw will be strong enough for hard rubber toys and as well as playing with rope pulls (more on rope pulls later).
During adulthood, your GSD will be able to play with every type of toy, but it’s important to be aware that your puppy turned adult will eventually become a senior dog.
At about 6-7 years of age, a GSD is entering its senior phase of life. As your dog ages beyond these years, it’s jaw strength will become less and its teeth won’t be able to stand the vigorous chewing that they once did.
Inspect before you buy
When purchasing a toy for your dog, do not simply look at something and decide that your dog will like it because it looks fun to you. It’s important to investigate further.
- Check to see if the toy has any loose parts or parts which may easily break off. Never purchase a toy with any removable parts like rubber bands or anything that clips or ties on.
Your GSD can swallow these and choke on them, or the loose parts could actually obstruct your dog’s intestine. Also be aware of anything with a squeaker or bell inside, because they hold the same risks of choking or being swallowed.
- Read the label carefully. a lot of dog toys actually contain toxins, like lead or they’re coated with toxic ingredients like a stain guard. Stay away from these.
This may seem like common sense, but just like many of us don’t read the labels on the food that we’re buying, at least we know that the food must be of at least a certain grade to be made available to the public.
There is no strict oversight of dog toy production. So the responsibility lies with you to make sure that you are purchasing safe toys for your dog.
- If the toy is not clearly labeled, avoid it. Again, this toy is really made to be sold to you and not your dog, so it’s just likely to advertise how much fun it’s going to be for your puppy.
It may not represent the little (big) harmful details. If you are really set on a certain toy and the label doesn’t contain much information, is a good idea to look further into it.
Any reputable manufacturer will have a website that clearly states all important information about the toy.
And just use your common sense. Feel the toy, and smell it. Yes, smell the toy! If you smell harsh chemicals, and trust me you will if you smell a few dog toys, then just stay away from it.
Your German Shepherd is a big dog, and as such you should never give it a small chew toy. They can actually swallow these toys whole, so make sure that whichever toy you purchase is larger than your dog’s mouth.
And remember, when your GSD is chewing something, it’s not chewing it like we chew a piece of gum. Our goal is to just chew the gum and then discard it.
Your GSDs goal is to tear apart its toy – it wants to destroy it. So keep this in mind when thinking about the durability of the toy that you purchase.
I’m not the biggest fan of stuffed toys for an adult GSD, but to some people they are irresistible. My recommendations for any stuffed toy for your dog are:
- Make sure that it is very solidly constructed. Examine the stitching closely, and pull on the seams. Use a bit of force as well. If there is any indication of weakness at this point, just put the stuffed toy back and move on.
- Stay away from anything with a filling of seeds, not shells, or beads of any type. And it is especially important to always monitor your dog in the presence of a stuffed toy.
Your GSD can tear just about anything apart. One of my GSDs got into a cupboard and decided to chew on some tin cans. He punctured a number of them with his teeth. Imagine what your GSD is capable of with a stuffed toy!
- Choose toys made of nylon or very hard rubber. KONG toys are great, and they have been around a long time. Tried-and-tested – this bone made by KONG is basically indestructible.
Also, be sure to check on the condition of your GSD’s toys from time to time. Even though they may be labeled as indestructible, your GSD will find a way.
Just like your car tires, even the most indestructible toy will rack up the miles and will have to be replaced. It’s a small price to pay for your dog’s health, safety, and well-being.
Treat balls and food puzzles
These are is there a good option for GSDs, especially puppies. They hold your dog’s interest, and they are fairly indestructible.
One popular food dispensing toy which I recommend is the KONG. This toy works off of your GSD’s natural instinct to work for their food. This is because, just like people, at one time had to work for their food. It is their instinct to do so.
A KONG keeps your dog engaged and is an excellent solution for boredom and lack of exercise, which are 2 common reasons that dogs develop behavioral problems.
Food puzzles are also gaining in popularity, and for good reason. These take the idea of your dog working for food and add a twist of creativity. There are a variety of food puzzles available, but they all require intellect and work from your dog to reap the reward.
And, like the KONG toy, food puzzles work well to curb behavioral and anxiety issues that often result from boredom and feeling alone.
One food puzzle which I’ve used the PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat. I’ve used this puzzle with 2 of my dogs, and they never seem to tire of it.
However, in my experience, it is important to shake out the mat every few days and give it a rinse at least once per week. If you don’t maintain this mat, it will begin to develop a not so pleasant smell.