Is your puppy at that stage where they seem to chew everything in sight? And shred it in minutes?
Are you on the lookout for something for them to chew that can keep them occupied for a while and be good for them?
Perhaps you have heard about giving marrow bones to dogs and you wonder if they can be given to puppies?
Well, then. Read on because that is the main focus of my article today.
What age can you give a puppy a marrow bone?
Marrow bones tend to be incredibly hard bones because they tend to be the weight bearing bones from large animals, usually cows.
And so whilst there is a risk to all dogs from chewing such hard bones, you need to be especially cautious with puppies because of how hard their teeth are.
What do I mean by marrow bone?
If you have already started looking for marrow bones to buy online, you will have noticed just how much choice that there is.
But, when I am talking about marrow bones, I am referring to the raw type- the ones that look as if they have just been taken off a slaughtered animal. The ones with real marrow in the middle
And yes, that is real marrow in the middle!
I am not talking about the marrow bones that you will find on some sites that are so white that they look as though they have been bleached. These are the marrow bones where the filling is some kind of meat substitute.
These marrow bones do have their place and are very popular with some dog owners but they aren’t the focus of my article.
Neither am I talking about cooked marrow bones- these have a yellow roasted colour but again they are filled with a marrow substitute.
Dogs should never be given any bones that have been cooked because cooked bones are much more likely to splinter and injure your dog’s throat of stomach lining as it is ingested.
Now that I have told you I will and won’t be talking about marrow bones, it is time to turn our attention back to puppies.
When should marrow bones be introduced to them?
To start, let’s take a look at how their teeth develop in their first few months of life.
At what age do puppies get their permanent/ adult teeth?
All puppies are born toothless and they may not get their full set of puppy teeth until they are 5 weeks old.
Puppies don’t need their teeth when they are new born because they are feeding on their mother’s milk by sucking on her nipples.
By the age of five weeks most puppies will have a set of puppy or milk teeth.
There are twenty eight of these razor- like teeth.
If you have ever played with a puppy then you know how sharp these teeth are!
And they are so sharp because they haven’t be worn down by eating many solid foods or by chewing sticks.
But these teeth don’t hang around for long.
By the time a puppy is around 5 months old, adult teeth will start to appear or a full set may even be in place.
Instead of twenty eight teeth, a dog’s mouth will contain forty two adult teeth.
By the time that they are six months old, most dogs should have a full set of adult teeth. But this can vary from breed to breed and for some dogs a full set of adult teeth will take eight months old.
Now that we have tracked the development from puppy teeth to adult teeth, we can better answer the question at what age can you give a puppy a marrow bone?
What age can you give a puppy a marrow bone?
The more articles that I write about marrow bones, the more aware I am of just how contentious the subject of bones is amongst dog owners.
They really are a “Marmite” topic.
People either believe that since chewings bones is in a dog’s DNA, all dogs have a right to have the occasional one…
Or that bones are lethal objects that at the very least will break teeth and that dogs shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near them.
So focusing once more on puppies and marrow bones, there is a wide range of opinions.
But, the earliest that your puppy should be given a marrow bone is when this full set of adult teeth are in place.
One of the largest commercial suppliers in the U.K. recommends that marrow bones are only given to puppies that are at least 10 months old.
But in the public forums, you will find people that are dead against it.
Giving marrow bones to puppies is a big “no, no!” but some alternatives are recommended.
But if you want to give your puppy a marrow bone, then I think that there are two important issues to bear in mind.
The first of these is to take a baby step approach and the second is the importance of supervision
Build up slowly to giving your puppy marrow bones
Having looked at all of the evidence and spent hours reading people’s comments on forums, I think that if you want to give your puppy a marrow bone you should build up to it slowly.
What I mean by this is that you should start introducing softer and smaller bones for shorter periods.
I have already spoken about how, in comparison to other bones, marrow bones are very hard.
But there are a lot of bones which are far softer and would be more appropriate.
As well as softer bones, you are looking for a section of bone which will not be a choking hazard to your dog.
You want your dogs to chew the bones and not swallow them whole!
These include lamb rib bones and chicken wings but it does not include lamp or pork chops.
Another aspect of this small step approach is to limit the time that a puppy can chew on a bone for.
And the reason for this is that the longer that a puppy gnaws on a bone, the more likely they are to break or damage their teeth.
A major obstacle with limiting the time that a puppy is allowed to chew a bone is that if they don’t finish eating the bone in the time allowed, you have the problem of getting that bone back off them.
Bones are incredibly attractive to dogs of all ages and some dogs might be very, very reluctant to willingly give their bone back.
Even if the person who is taking it from them is their most loved person in the whole world.
And I speak from the experience of owning a puppy (now a four year old dog) who is highly possessive and aggressive around bones.
And what works for me is distracting her with a tennis ball.
Trying to gently plead with her to drop the bone so that I could take it didn’t work, neither did demanding that she drop it in much stronger terms.
Both approaches were far too confrontational.
And so now, I just distract her by bouncing a tennis ball, which she can never resist retrieving.
Sylvie drops the bone, bounds off after the ball and in that moment I get the bone, throw it in the bin and give her lots of praise.
Once you have sorted a softer type of bone to chew and an appropriate amount of time for your puppy to spend with it, the next consideration is supervision.
Supervise Your Puppy When They Eat Marrow Bones
When your puppy has a bone to chew for the first few times, they will need to be supervised.
In fact there seems to be a consensus amongst dog owners that dogs should always be supervised when they are given a bone, no matter how old they are.
But I guess it is the level of supervision that changes.
In all likelihood your puppy will try and find a quiet space where it can gnaw the bone without being disturbed.
Which is fine.
Just keep a very close eye on them by checking in on them every couple of minutes.
This is to check that your puppy isn’t choking because they have swallowed part of the bone whole, that the bone hasn’t got stuck on their teeth (canines) and that they haven’t broken any teeth.
As your dog gets older and has more “bone” experience under their belts, you should be able to relax the supervision so that you are not checking them every two minutes.
But, your supervision should never become so relaxed that you give your dog a bone to occupy them as you leave the house on the way to work.
There are too many things that can go wrong when your dog is chewing a bone and so you should at least be home when they are.
Small marrow bones for dogs
If you have decided that you want to try giving your puppy a marrow bone then your next task is to find one that is the right size for them.
But are there mini marrow bones for dogs?
Marrow bones come in a variety of “cuts” and sizes but can you get small marrow bones for puppies?
It is easier to talk about sizes first.
A quick look online shows that most marrow bones for dogs are about 10 cm (4 inches) – 20cm (8 inches) long, which are too large for a puppy or small dog.
However some suppliers do stock smaller marrow bones, which tend to be about 5cm (2 inches), which would suit smaller dogs or puppies.
Marrow bones come in two sorts of “cuts”: pipe or half cut.
A pipe “cut” is a marrow bone that is “bone” or sausages shaped- the only place that marrow is visible is at each end.
A half “cut” marrow bone on the other hand is a bone that has been cut along its length. It has a semi-circular shape and the marrow can be seen along its entire length.
Half cut marrow bones of any length are better for puppies because they can get at all of the marrow with less effort and chewing.
¹ Photo by Nina Childish on Flickr
² Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash