Some of the most commonly given chews and chew toys are actually the worst for your Boxer’s health.
By far the best chews for Boxers are raw meaty bones which offer nutrition, teeth cleaning and psychological satisfaction, all in a natural form that dogs have been consuming throughout evolution.
Here is our how-to guide for choosing chews that support your dog’s health, and avoiding ones that are likely to undermine it.
I am not a vet. This post is for general educational and informational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer. Boxer Dog Diaries is reader supported. I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you buy via the links I provide.
Why Your Boxer Needs To Chew
Chewing comes as naturally to a dog as breathing.
This drive is most strongly displayed during teething, but is necessary for a dog’s health and wellbeing, lifelong.
Chewing supports your Boxer’s:
- Dental health
- Psychological wellbeing
- Nutrition (as long as you pick the right chew)
Chewing For Dental Health
Dogs in the wild don’t brush their teeth.
Nor do you need to attempt to brush your Boxer’s teeth — as long as you select the right chews.
So how do wolves keep their teeth clean?
They eat their natural canine diet, consisting of lean muscle meat, a little offal and lots of raw meaty bones.
The nooks and crannies in bone help to dislodge pieces of food and calculus, which is why raw meaty bones are called “Nature’s toothbrush”.
The sinews even act as dental floss.
In fact, raw meaty bones have been shown in one 2016 study to reduce dental calculus by 87 per cent in as little as three weeks.
This is important as dental calculus causes inflammation which in turn can lead to gingival hyperplasia or gum overgrowth in Boxers, a condition that can only be treated by surgical removal.
Give your Boxer plenty of raw meaty bones and you can forget the near-impossible task of brushing.
When your Boxer’s teeth naturally gleam, you can also say goodbye to the risk and expense of dental cleanings under anesthetic — a veterinary procedure that arose with the widespread adoption of kibble feeding.
Raw feeders also report a total absence of bad breath.
Chewing For Psychological Wellbeing
Chewing is soothing to a dog, as anyone who’s watched their Boxer while away an afternoon with a raw meaty bone can attest.
There are even studies backing up the psychological benefit carnivores derive from crunching on bones.
A dog that gets plenty of raw meaty bones will be more content, which will reflect in better behavior and less destruction of your property.
Chewing For Nutrition
Raw meaty bones are nutritional powerhouses.
They contain calcium and phosphorus in perfect balance, enzymes and a host of other nutrients.
They are a complete food, and the basis of the canine diet since the beginning of time.
As raw feeding guru and vet Dr Ian Billinghurst says in his book, Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life, raw meaty bones are the common component in the diets of dogs that brim with health .. and the missing ingredient in the diets of dogs that experience ill health and disease.
How To Choose The Right Chew For Your Boxer
For.a chew to be appropriate for your Boxer, it should be:
- All natural
- Free of synthetic ingredients and preservatives
- Not cooked, smoked, basted or flavored in any other way
- Soft enough to not crack your Boxer’s teeth
Apply this set of criteria to any store-bought chew you’re considering giving to your Boxer and you’ll inevitably find it comes up short.
Then, consider a well-selected raw meaty bone from the butcher and see the difference.
To meet the “soft enough” criteria, choose raw meaty bones that are:
- Non weight-bearing i.e. necks rather than leg bones
- From young animals i.e. lamb rather than beef
Another tip is to avoid the classic “soup bones” or “marrow bones” usually sold to dog owners.
These are often leg bones, which are too hard and also too fatty.
It is always a good idea to supervise your dog with raw meaty bones.
If you have a gulper, remove the bone once it reaches swallowable size.
How Not To Stop Your Boxer Chewing On Inappropriate, Non-Food Items
Out of desperation, owners of Boxers that are engaging in destructive chewing often resort to:
- Repellent sprays
- Crating the dog
Deterrent sprays are chemicals, which your dog will likely lick off and ingest.
Even if the product is marketed as “non toxic”, this is not something that belongs in your dog’s body.
Ingestion, or often just inhalation, of common household chemicals including scented plugins, fabric deodorizers, hair spray, perfume and fragranced candles is a frequent — yet, overlooked — cause of raised welts or hives in Boxers.
Perhaps you’ve already discovered that scolding a Boxer for doing what comes naturally will only confuse him, especially if it’s done after the fact rather than in the moment.
The most effective way to teach a Boxer to do (or not do) anything, is by positive reinforcement: catch him doing the right thing and reward the desirable behavior with treats, while completely ignoring the undesirable behavior.
Clicker training will revolutionise your relationship with your dog and is the fastest way to a well-behaved Boxer.
It works by “operant conditioning”, which hinges on the principle that any creature will repeat a behavior that’s rewarded and stop doing one that is not.
All you need is a clicker and a treat pouch.
We use the Starmark Pro-Training Deluxe Clicker
Crates, when used correctly, can have a place in dog ownership.
But your Boxer should never be confined to a cage as punishment or in place of providing constructive outlets for the natural chewing instinct.
Otherwise it will just lead to frustration, anxiety and an exacerbation of problem behaviors.
Learn more about how to successfully crate train a Boxer.
How To Deal With Destructive Chewing In A Boxer
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
If your Boxer is wrecking your house or destroying belongings, it’s time to consider the whole picture of how the pup is being managed.
By identifying which of his needs are not being met, you will be able to eliminate the destructive chewing — probably much more easily than you think.
Here’s an easy-to-understand guide for how to tackle destructive chewing behavior in Boxers.
Hint: Raw meaty bones, exercise and mental stimulation are a big part of the solution.
Other Ways To Occupy Your Boxer With Food
In the wild, dogs have to think and problem solve, as well as expend physical effort, in order to obtain every meal.
If they don’t, they go hungry.
The domestic life, where food just appears in a bowl, deprives dogs of this mental stimulation.
There are a variety of ways to make mealtimes last longer and be more satisfying, such as:
- Slow feeders like the Outward Hound Fun Feeder
Note: we find the medium is a better size for Boxers than the large.
- Puzzle toys like the Nina Ottosson Dog Magic Interactive Toy (or any of Nina Ottosson’s puzzle toys)
- Licki mats like the LickiMat Slomo
- “Find it” games
Hide treats for your dog to sniff out.
Or have your dog retrieve objects, perhaps placing them in a basket, in return for food rewards.
- Snuffle mats, either home made or bought like the PatiencET Interactive Snuffle Mat for Dogs Encourages Natural Foraging Skills 17.7″x17.7″ or the Stellaire Chern Nosework Feeding Mat Machine Washable, Great for Stress Release will stimulate your Boxer’s keen sense of smell.
- Teaching tricks and practicing obedience using treats, to get your dog thinking and working for his food (Clicker training where you “click” and treat for good behavior is a game-changer when it comes to Boxers.)
See also: 5 Tricks To Teach Your Boxer
Worst Chews For Boxers
Your Boxer should never chew on:
Sticks, often chewed as part of play, out of boredom or for lack of a more appetizing alternative, can splinter into the gums and worse.
Far too many Boxer owners tell stories of losing dogs to intestinal blockages or perforations caused by eating sticks, twigs and bark.
Pig’s ears and rawhide — though sold in every pet store — are choking hazards and regularly feature among the items that vets have to surgically remove from dogs’ intestines.
Not all pets survive these procedures.
Artificial chews made from nylon, plastic and other synthetic materials are not healthy and generally don’t hold much interest for dogs.
Cooked or boiled bones are devoid of nutrition, will splinter and are wholly inappropriate food for dogs — it’s raw meaty bones that should be fed.
Antlers are too hard for teeth, offer negligible nutritional value and often don’t appeal to dogs once the novelty value wears off.
So called “dental chews” are all marketing.
These products are highly processed, full of inappropriate ingredients, preservatives, colorings and flavorings.
You can do much better for your Boxer.
Bully sticks might be alright if they were just dried bull penises.
Unfortunately, depending on the manufacturer’s process, they may also contain hidden ingredients like chemicals used during dehydration or added to extend the product’s shelf life.
It’s worth researching the particular bully stick you’re considering and asking the company how they’re prepared.
To give your Boxer the best chew, you don’t need to spend a fortune at the pet store.
Many objects sold as dog chews fail to capture a Boxer’s imagination and can do more harm than good to your dog’s health.
Skip the gimmicks and the artificial “bones” and head straight for the real thing: a raw meaty bone from the butcher, or the meat aisle of the supermarket.
Bond, J. C., & Lindburg, D. G. (1990). Carcass feeding of captive cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus): The effects of a naturalistic feeding program on oral health and psychological well-being. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 26(4), 373–382
Lonsdale, Tom, Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health, 2001
Marx, FR et al, Raw beef bones as chewing items to reduce dental calculus in Beagle dogs, Australian Veterinary Journal, 2016