If you’ve given your dog a particularly large bone, it’s only natural to question whether it would be a good idea to take it away from them. Especially if they have been preoccupied with it for some time. But can you, or should you, do so? Is it safe to do so? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know, including some extra tips and tricks.
So, should you take a bone away from a dog? There are some circumstances in which you should take a bone away from a dog – if your dog has been chewing on it for more than 3 or 4 days, if it’s become too small, or if it’s generally not appropriate for him.
Ultimately, you should take it away from your dog if it becomes dangerous. Whether that be because it could be harbouring harmful bacteria or it’s sharp or could be swallowed and cause choking.
But there certainly is a right and safe way to take away their bone. You shouldn’t just do so, unprepared.
I’ll be outlining how to do so shortly.
Can You Take A Bone Away From A Dog?
You can and should take a bone away from a dog if you feel it could cause him harm (so long as you do so strategically and safely). Just because your dog seems to be enjoying his bone doesn’t mean it’s good for him if it’s the wrong type or size.
If your dog has a bone and you are considering taking it away, you are probably right to do so if:
- The bone is the wrong kind.
- It’s a cooked bone (these are dangerous for dogs).
- Your dog has started chewing the bone into little pieces (he could swallow them and cause a blockage in his digestive tract).
- Your dog has had his bone for more than 4 days and you suspect bacteria are present.
- You know your dog has stomach problems (a bone can make it worse, not better)
- Your dog has pancreatitis or dental problems.
- There’s another dog visiting you (you don’t want to encourage fights over a bone).
Although there are advantages to dogs having bones to chew on, it’s worth knowing that the wrong type of bone or a bone left in a dog’s mouth for too long can cause:
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- Damaged teeth
By all means take away the bone from your dog if he’s had it for too long or if you suspect any problems.
However, when taking a bone away from your dog, do it as a trade for treats (see below).
If you try to snatch the bone away, scold your dog, or intimidate your dog, he’ll be more likely to feel threatened and want to aggressively protect his bone.
How Long Should A Dog Chew On A Bone?
A dog shouldn’t chew on a bone for longer than 2-3 days. Beyond this time, bacteria form on the bone, and it is no longer safe for your dog.
You will also want to keep the bone in the refrigerator between ‘chewing sessions’ to avoid the rapid growth of potentially harmful bacteria.
A good practice when giving a dog a bone to chew on is to:
- Offer him raw meat bones, perhaps with cartilage, marrow, or meat still attached (though be aware of the calories in marrow if your dog has weight issues).
- Let your dog chew happily for 10 to 15 minutes on his bone.
- Gently take his bone away (perhaps using distraction or other methods, see below).
- Put his bone in the refrigerator to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
- Dispose of the bone after three or four days.
As long as your dog has the right kind of bone and doesn’t chew on it for too long, there are some advantages to giving your dog bones:
- Bones provide calcium, minerals, and nutrients.
- Your dog is happily occupied (and perhaps won’t go after your shoes!)
- Chewing can help bring in adult teeth for puppies.
- Bone chewing can help prevent plaque or tartar buildup on teeth.
- The act of chewing can stimulate your dog’s stomach muscles and therefore help prevent bloat and anal glad problems, as well as help with healthy bowel movements.
When Should You Take A Bone Away From A Dog?
You should take a bone away from a dog if he’s been chewing on it for too long, if it’s too small for him, or if he seems to have broken off small pieces.
If Your Dog Has Been Chewing for Too Long
If your dog has been chewing on his bone for longer than 3 or 4 days, you’ll want to take it away.
Any longer than that and your dog may ingest harmful bacteria which could cause intestional problems.
The most common type of bacteria that can grow on bones and affect your dog’s health is salmonella.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea that may have mucus or blood.
If your dog seems more tired than usual and you suspect he has a fever, or if he’s thrown up, he may have a salmonella infection.
If The Bone Is Too Small For Your Dog
If the bone is too small for your dog, he may be tempted to swallow it whole.
Whole bones can cause blockages in a dog’s digestive tract.
If Your Dog Has Broken Off Large Chunks of Bone
Your dog has very powerful teeth and he may be able to break off large chunks of bone and swallow them.
Bone chunks are another cause of obstruction in a dog’s digestive tract (see above).
As a further precaution, don’t feed your dog bones that have been cut, such as leg bones.
If the Bone Is Cooked
If you see your dog chewing on a cooked bone, take it away from him, no matter how happy he seems.
Cooking bones not only removes a lot of the nutrients, but it makes them more brittle – therefore, more likely to splinter and cause damage.
According to the FDA’s Consumer Update, giving your dog cooked bones could cause:
- Damage to your dog’s teeth, mouth, or tongue.
- A bone stuck around your dog’s lower jaw (very painful and scary for your dog).
- A blocked esophagus (your dog may throw up the bone in the best case scenario, but you’ll still have to see your vet).
- A blocked windpipe, even from a small piece of bone. This is an emergency as your dog will struggle to breathe.
- A pierced stomach from a stuck piece of bone. This will require veterinary surgery.
How To Safely Take A Bone Away From A Dog
The safest way to take a bone away from a dog is to use distraction
Here are a couple of things you’ll want to bear in mind to safely take a bone away from your dog:
- Get some high-value treats, such as fresh meat or a small amount of cheese.
- Show these treats to your dog so that he knows they’re there (you’re trying to instigate a trade).
- Offer small bits of the treat, praising your dog, and making sure you have his full attention.
- While feeding him a treat with one hand, take the bone away with the other hand. Do this with slow movements so as not to startle your dog, as some dogs will bite out of reflex.
- Once you have the bone, give your dog a few more pieces of treat so that he sees it’s worth his while to give up his bone.
Note: The first few times you do this, you may wish to give the bone back for a minute or so. Your dog will learn that just because you take a bone away doesn’t mean you’re removing it forever. He will be more likely to trust you in future as he’ll see you will always offer him good things.
Other Tips And Suggestions When Giving A Bone to Your Dog
Other good practices when giving a bone to your dog include giving him bones of the right size and type (not rawhide bones), while avoiding cut bones (like leg bones). In addition, give your dog bones at the right moment in the day.
Give Him The Right Sized Bone
Check with your vet what size bones your dog can have. If the bones you give him are too small, he may swallow them whole.
If the bones are too big, he won’t be able to chew them.
The larger the dog, the bigger the bone he can have.
A good practice is to abide by the American Kennel Club’s recommendation, which is that bones should be bigger than the length of your dog’s muzzle.
That way, your dog can’t swallow the bone whole.
Give Him The Best Type of Bone
The best kind of bones for your dog are raw bones, especially beef bones.
Many dog owners go to their butcher to request raw hip or femur bones that have cartilage, marrow, or meat still attached.
Pork or rib bones are not suitable for dogs because they are more likely to break off into shards.
Note: Rawhide bones are not recommended for dogs (despite their prevalence in many shops). Rawhide bones are known to splinter and break: the splinters can get caught or stuck in your dog’s stomach or intestines and cause obstruction.
Don’t Give Him Bones That Have Been Cut Lengthwise
Bones that have been cut lengthwise, such as leg bones, can pose a potential choking hazard for your dog.
They are more likely to splinter (like rawhide bones).
Even if he swallows these bones successfully, they can get blocked further along his digestive tract and cause problems (see above).
Consider When to Give Your Dog a Bone
Give your dog a bone when you are there to supervise him.
Never leave a dog with a bone unattended, as he may suddenly bite off a large chunk or even a small splinter of bone that could cause him severe damage.
Dispose of Bones Safely
Make sure your dog can’t retrieve discarded bones or carcasses from the trash can.
Chicken carcasses, for example, are full of small bones that can injure your eager dog.
Try Commercially-Made Bones
There are ‘bones’ available for dogs made from dog-friendly materials that don’t pose the risks of real bones or rawhide chews.
Ask your vet about some alternatives: it could be you’ll find something that is very ‘bone-like’ for your dog and much safer.
You should absolutely take a bone away from your dog in certain contexts.
Most of the time, this will be when they’ve had it for too long or it poses a risk.
Otherwise, you may want to take it away from time to time for health purposes.
That being said, make sure you use a process of distraction.
Dogs can be possessive of their food, and you don’t want to risk your dog becoming so over their bone.
Other related guides you may want to read:
- Why Does My Dog Bring Me His Bone? [And What To Do About It]
- How To Make Bone Broth For Dogs [And Why You Should Do So]
- Why Won’t My Dog Take Treats From My Hand? [& What To Do]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.