Freshly cooked dog food. Delivered.

Best chews for small dogs

Have you ever gone looking for your favorite pair of shoes only to find them torn to shreds by what seems to be a tiny pack of ravenous wolves? We’ve all been there. Dog’s love to chew and sometimes that means they may have chewed on something that may not have been intended for chewing. Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs, which not only provides them with mental enrichment but also helps clean their teeth and gums.

Many pet parents see that their dog enjoys chewing and they purchase them some “chew approved” toy and food options from their local pet store. However, like most things in life, not all chews are created equal. There are some really great chews out there that dogs really love and there are some that may actually be quite dangerous for your pet’s health. 

Finding the right chew for small dogs can be especially difficult. There are an abundance of chews that come in bigger sizes for large and jumbo breed dogs to monch on but let so for small dogs. While they may be trickier to find, there are some good ones out there for small dogs to enjoy too. 

As a canine nutritionist, I know how important it is to provide dogs with a safe and healthy outlet to chew to their little heart’s desire. I wanted to find what the best chews are for small dogs, so with the help of my cocker spaniel, Rio, I set to the streets and local pet stores to find the best chews for small dogs.

Jack Russell Terrier 10 years old - Cute little dog eats and chews with enjoyment. Doggie isolated against white background Jack Russell Terrier 10 years old - Funny little dog eats and chews with enjoyment. Doggie isolated against white background dog bully stick stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Why dog chews are good for dogs

Chewing is just in a dog’s nature, especially puppies and young dogs. They do this for a variety of reasons as chewing can help improve not only their physical but mental health as well. Chewing is also just a way that dog’s explore the world! So remember, if your dog chews a hole in your socks or shreds a throw pillow, they are not doing it to spite you, there is likely a reason behind their destruction.

Cleans teeth

Is anyone ever excited to visit the dentist? For dogs it’s even worse. Even something as simple as a teeth cleaning at the vet involves anesthesia and can be quite painful. If teeth are in bad enough condition, they may even need to be taken out. With such a costly procedure and no option for doggy dentures, what is the best at home dental care to give your dog in order to avoid a trip to the doggy dentist

Aside from bad doggy breath, gingivitis and periodontal disease caused by tartar and plaque build up can cause redness and inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue. This can be very painful for dogs and may lead to a dog refusing to eat. Dental disease also affects the majority of dogs and it is estimated that around 80% of dogs show signs of dental disease at some point in their lifetime.

All dogs are susceptible to developing dental disease, however certain breeds, particularly small breeds, are more prone to dental problems. A small dog’s teeth are smaller and more crowded than larger dogs, making them more difficult to brush and allowing for a greater chance of food getting stuck between teeth.

Chewing is great to promote good oral health. Chewable treats and toys wrap around the dog’s tooth as it chews, scrubbing the sides and base of teeth, removing plaque and tartar in a natural way. It also helps to reduce pain and inflammation in teething puppies!

Cute happy dog playing with a stick Dog playing in the park. dog smile stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Relieves anxiety and stress

When I find myself stressed or anxious, I can’t stop fidgeting. It is much the same for dogs. When they are stressed, they chew. This could be because they are afraid to be left alone, or are nervous during a thunderstorm. Whatever the reason, chewing is an outlet for dogs to relieve stress. 

“Mastication” or chewing helps to soothe your pup’s anxiety and distract them from whatever stimuli is making them nervous. This is because chewing helps to reduce overall cortisol levels (one of the hormones involved with a stress response) by reducing salivary cortisol levels, decreasing stress-induced cortisol levels in the blood and autonomic nervous system responses to stress.

Mental stimulation and enrichment

Boredom is a real issue for house dogs. Us humans like busy lives and sometimes that means our dogs aren’t getting as much stimulation and interaction as they would like. Offering them something to chew helps to keep them occupied and ensure that their mind is busy.

Chews are like a puzzle for your dog. They need to figure out the best way to hold the chew and sometimes even translate to play. It is a great way to keep your dog occupied and entertained. Mental stimulation from a chew will also help to tire your active dog out even if they are not actively getting physical exercise, which is great for rainy days or if your dog has a health complication that may restrict them from too much physical exercise.

Blue Heeler Mix Chewing Bully Stick on Grass Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) Mixed Breed Chewing Bully Stick outside Grass with natural lighting dog bully stick stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

What to look for in a dog chew

There are so many different types of chews out there. There are a number of things to look for when choosing the right chew for your pup. From a canine nutritionist and pet specialist, these are my recommendations to look for.


Some chews can be very dangerous and actually pose a risk of breaking or fracturing your dog’s teeth if they are too hard. The best chew to look for is one that is pliable or malleable. Avoid any material that is going to be harder than your dog’s teeth or poses a risk of splintering. Some good options are dehydrated meat products, nylon chews or soft wooden chews as these are least likely to cause harm to your dog’s teeth.


We don’t want to add too many extra calories to your dog’s diet. Avoid fatty chews or chew that have added artificial ingredients like preservatives, colors or flavours. Opt instead for chews that are all natural and not over processed to keep things healthy.


Finding that right size chew for small dogs can be tricky. However, it may actually be better to pick up a chew that’s too big rather than too small. A very small size chew may pose a choking risk to your pup, which is why it is always important to supervise your dog with their chew. 

Most labels and packaging will indicate the size and weight of dog that the particular chew is intended for. Double check that the chew is suitable for the size of your pup.


We only have one planet, so let's preserve it! Look for chews that are ethically and sustainably sourced. Packaging is also important! Look for chews with limited packaging or packaging that is biodegradable or recyclable. 

While the word by-product may be scary to some pet parents, it is important to know that not all by-products are bad. Certain by-products like bully sticks and organ meat are actually very healthy for dogs and make great chews. It also uses animal parts that would otherwise go to waste.

The 6 best chews for small dogs 

My dog Rio has so graciously volunteered to test out some of the chews I found at the pet store. These were his final suggestions for the best chews for small dogs.

Bully sticks

Cocker spaniel looking at a bully stick

Bully sticks are a classic chew. Made from 100% all natural bull pizzle, bully sticks are low in calories and are minimally processed. They are not an overly long lasting chew but are still more durable than a dental chew or treat. We also like bully sticks because they are palatable and come in a variety of sizes.

Bag of bully sticks

Yak chews

Cocker spaniel looking at a yak chew

Yak chews are a neat new chew on the market. They are made from cheese from either yak or cow’s milk that is then baked into a hardened chew. Rio absolutely loved the taste of these. We got the smallest size which still seemed quite large for a small dog. The good news is that this treat will last your pup a very long time. The best part is when your dog gets close to the end, you can take the leftover piece, soak it in warm water and place it in the microwave to make a cheese puff!

yak chew in packaging

Gorilla chew

Cocker spaniel looking at a gorilla chew

Gorilla chews are great for dogs who love to chew on sticks but without the worry of choking or splinters! They are made from natural java wood that is sustainably farmed and ecologically harvested. Like the yak chews, it was a little difficult to find an extra small size for this one. One benefit of this type of chew is that you don’t have to worry about any extra calories and it is great for promoting tooth and gum health!

gorilla hew on kitchen counter

Beef jerky

Cocker spaniel looking at beef jerky

Probably the tastiest chew on this list, beef jerky is great for picky eaters. It is made from dehydrated beef trim and can be cut into any size you want. One downside to beef jerky is that it may not be as long lasting as some other chews.

bag of beef jerky


Nylabone Small Dog Value Pack

Nylabones are my go to recommendation for puppies. As the name suggests, they are made from nylon, a thermoplastic polymer. As such, this product is not meant to be eaten but simply chewed. This means that nylabones will last a very long time. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and even flavours!


Cocker spaniel looking at a dogwood chew

Similar to gorilla chews, dogwood is for those dogs who just love chewing on sticks. It is made from compressed wood so that your pup never has to worry about splinters or choking. Dogwood also comes in a range of sizes and flavours.

dogwood chew in packaging

Chews to avoid giving your small dog

Antlers, hooves and horns

On the animal, antlers, hooves and horns are hard structures, designed for protection. They are made of bones and keratin which can be as hard or harder than your dog's teeth. This puts them at great risk for tooth breakages and fractures. Many vets will warn you of the horror dental stories that antler, hoof and horn chews have caused.


Like the above chews, it is best to avoid bones, cooked or raw. Bone chews are also very hard and can cause serious damage to teeth and gums. Bones also have a tendency to splinter, causing internal damage and choking hazards.


Rawhides are made from the dried skin of animals. Not only are they highly processed, they often contain chemicals like colors and preservatives that could make your dog sick. Furthermore, rawhides are a major risk for foreign bodies. The ingested rawhide soaks up your dog’s saliva and swells, getting stuck in the digestive tract.


Sticks might be a natural chew for your dog but they pose a lot of potential risks. They can splinter and cause internal damage or get stuck in your dogs’ teeth or esophagus. Furthermore, if your dog swallows too many splinters, it can make them very sick, causing vomiting.

Rope chews

Rope chews are very dangerous for dogs, which makes me wonder why they are so widely sold in pet stores. Dog’s have a tendency to swallow the shredded rope. Since they cannot digest it, it gets stuck in their digestive tract, causing them to need surgery to get it removed.

Take home message

From Rio’s review, our favourite chews for small dogs are yak chews, nylabones, bully sticks, beef jerky, gorilla chews and dogwood. Just make sure to always supervise your dog while they are chewing for their own safety.

Small cocker spaniel chewing on a yak chew outside
Small cocker spaniel chewing on a yak chew outside

View Sources

Kubo KY, Iinuma M, Chen H. Mastication as a Stress-Coping Behavior. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:876409. doi: 10.1155/2015/876409. Epub 2015 May 18. PMID: 26090453; PMCID: PMC4450283

Quest, Bradley W. "Oral health benefits of a daily dental chew in dogs." Journal of veterinary dentistry 30, no. 2 (2013): 84-87.

Ruamsap, P., S. Lertworasirikul, H. Rimkeeree, and T. Suwonsichon. "Product development of dental dog chew." In The Proceedings of the 44th Kasetsart University Annual Conference, Kasetsart, 30-January-2 February, 2006. Subject: Agro-industry, Economics, Business Administration, pp. 316-323. Kasetsart University, 2006.

Freeman, Lisa M., Nicol Janecko, and J. Scott Weese. "Nutritional and microbial analysis of bully sticks and survey of opinions about pet treats." The Canadian Veterinary Journal 54, no. 1 (2013): 50.

Arhant, Christine, Rebecca Winkelmann, and Josef Troxler. "Chewing behaviour in dogs–A survey-based exploratory study." Applied Animal Behaviour Science 241 (2021): 105372.

June, TB Thompson DVM. "Vet-Recommended Dog Food for Bad Teeth."

Cohen, Hsin-Yi. "The risk of bones." Veterinary Nursing Journal 21, no. 12 (2006): 21-22.

Try Kabo

Freshly cooked dog food. Delivered.

Now serving Ontario, British Columbia, Montréal, Winnipeg, and Calgary.
Formulated by expert nutritionists.
Free delivery!
Learn More
Days 1 & 2
75% old food
25% Kabo (cooked, kibble, or both)
Days 3 & 4
50% old food
50% Kabo
Days 5 & 6
25% old food
75% Kabo
Days 7+
100% fresh, human-grade Kabo!
Try Kabo

Freshly cooked dog food. Delivered.

Nutritious, human-grade, Canadian food customized for your dog.
Developed by nutritional experts & Vet recommended.
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed.
Get Fresh - 40% OFF

More from our blog

February 20, 2024
5 minutes
Want more healthy tips for your dog?

Subscribe to our newsletter

* Add a notice about your Privacy Policy here.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
River Park
Bowmont Park
Sue Higgins Park
Nose Hill Park
Tom Campbell's Hill