What Bones are Good for German Shepherds?


We all know that German Shepherds love to chew on bones, but there are plenty of concerns about the risks involved. After all, some types of bones can chip and become lodged in their throat. So, what bones are good for German Shepherds?

Large raw bones are good for German Shepherds. Cooked bones are softer and can splinter causing injuries to your dog’s mouth, throat, or digestive tract. Bones should be larger than their muzzle so they can’t swallow it whole. Good choices are beef and lamb shank bones.

Throughout this post, you’ll also learn which bones German Shepherds can and can’t eat, common misconceptions, risks, alternative chew toys including pros and cons of both, and when to see the vet.

Can German Shepherds Eat Bones?

Most German Shepherds will eat pretty much whatever you put in front of them. They have incredibly strong force coming from their jaws, so it’s important not to feed them anything that can splinter or break. They get second place in terms of dog breeds with the strongest bite force. 

Unfortunately, certain types of bones tend to easily break or chip.

You should never feed your German Shepherd a cooked bone, especially those you see in some pet stores!

Once they’re heated up, the bone structure starts to splinter and break apart. These sharp pieces can cause serious injuries and even be fatal so it’s best to only give your dog raw bones.  

That being said, even raw small chicken bones, pork bones and rib bones from any animal have a chance of splintering as well. You should avoid them altogether to avoid causing severe injuries to your German Shepherd.

Watch this short 3-minute video from “Dog Advice Videos” of a Golden Retriever that had eaten a chicken bone which became lodged in the roof of his mouth resulting in a trip to the vets:

Many pet owners like to reach for rib bones since they’re so common, but they’re often too thin to be safe. This study showed that bones or bone fragments are the most common cause of oesophageal obstruction in dogs.

Remember that your dog shouldn’t eat the bone, just chew on it! Eating it can cause health issues such as a digestive blockage. To stay on the safe side, throw the bone away when it has plenty of gnaw marks. 

There are two ways to give bones to your German Shepherd to chew on. Let’s review them both below so you can find the method for your dog.

  1. Remove raw bones from the meat that you buy. Good bones to use are large cow or lamb shank bones. Almost any bone will do as long as it’s not too small, sharp, cooked, or from an animal’s ribs. You can wash them with water, but dogs can eat raw meat without facing the same consequences that humans do as long as usual hygiene standards are met.
  2. Freeze raw bones in the freezer to give to your dog later. This process makes it harder for your German Shepherd’s powerful jaws to tear through the surface of the bone. The result is a long-lasting chew toy that you didn’t have to spend any extra money on!

What Do People Get Wrong About Dogs Eating Bones?

The below risks and dangers aren’t meant to scare you away from giving your dog a bone. After all, bones provide numerous benefits including providing calcium and phosphorus, help to keep teeth and jaws healthy, and are good to relieve boredom, stress, and anxiety.

Large Raw Bone for German Shepherd

It’s natural for dogs to want to chew and with safe supervision, there’s no reason that your German Shepherd can’t enjoy a delicious bone.

Check out the list below to see the common misconceptions that people have about dogs eating bones.

  • You can’t give a dog any bone. Thanks to the saying, it’s easy to believe that dogs can chew on any bone that you pull from your food. Never feed your dog sharp, small, cooked, pork, or rib bones. The results aren’t worth a few minutes of fun for your German Shepherd.
  • Dogs shouldn’t actually eat bones; only chew on them. Your GSD will do its best to consume any bone that they can, but it’s your job to stop them before they swallow it. You should note that raw bones don’t splinter, they just break off into smaller pieces that can become a choking risk or cause stomach problems. A good tip is to give your German Shepherd a bone after a meal when his stomach is full as he’s more likely to chew it rather than try to eat it.
  • Only bones from home are safe, in most cases. You shouldn’t give your dog a bone that you find out in the woods, nor should you trust the garbage can at a local butcher shop! In any case, bones should be disposed of after a couple of days as bacteria will begin to form.
  • Not all dogs can chew on bones. Many German Shepherds have poor or weakened teeth. Whether they have tooth decay, exposed enamel, or gum disease, chewing on a bone can cause instant sharp pain for your dog. If they can’t chew on a bone, you might want to consider softer toys or treats.
  • Rubber or plastic bones are a safe alternative for dogs to chew on. Usually, they’re an excellent choice, however, some cheap brands will contain materials that break down, allowing your German Shepherd to chew and swallow small bits. They can be equally as dangerous as splintered bones so choose wisely. You can see below my recommendations.

As you can see, there are plenty of problems that dog owners run into when they’re giving a bone to their German Shepherd. Now that you know what to avoid, you can find good bones that fit within the healthy parameters from the previous section. Let’s continue with the dangers of cooked bones for your German Shepherd.

The Risks of Eating a Cooked Bone

It’s far too easy to pull cooked bones out of your meat when you’re eating a rack of ribs or to remove chicken bones from your plate and toss them to your German Shepherd. This could be the worst mistake that you’ve made as a pet owner.

Here are the five risks of feeding cooked bones to your German Shepherd:

  1. When bones splinter, it acts like glass. Sharp edges can cut your dog’s stomach, throat, and digestive system. Internal bleeding is often impossible to detect in a dog until it’s too late. Even if they don’t swallow the pieces, the splinters can cause lacerations in their mouth.
  2. Choking is another common risk of eating cooked bones. If your German Shepherd is chewing on a bone, a piece can easily break off and go down their throat. There is an increased risk of choking not only with cooked bones but bones that are way too small for your dog’s muzzle.
  3. Bones are incredibly dense, which is why they can lead to blockages when consumed. If your German Shepherd manages to swallow a piece of a cooked bone, it can get lodged in their digestive tract and cause a blockage. Sometimes, the only way to remove it is to pay for surgery.
  4. Some German Shepherds are sensitive to bone marrow, which becomes easily exposed from chewing on cooked bones. If your GSD has a sensitive stomach then ingesting too much bone marrow could cause sickness and diarrhea as it is too rich and high in fat.
  5. You should never feed cooked or any other type of bone to your puppy if they’re teething. Loose teeth can become shattered or ripped from their roots. Wait until your puppies’ adult teeth are solid in their gums.

Raw Bones vs. Chew Toys for German Shepherds

KONG Bone Chew Toy

Large raw bones are typically a safe choice for your German Shepherd to chew on, as are most chew store-bought bones.

There are several differences between good raw bones and chew toys, so let’s examine the pros and cons below to help you find out which is best for your German Shepherd.

Pros of Raw Bones

  • Raw bones are readily available and virtually free if you pull them from the food you’re already bought. Furthermore, you don’t have to add any flavoring since they’re naturally covered in meat from the animal that they came from.
  • If you pulled them from a large animal, most big bones are the perfect size for German Shepherds. Raw bones should be big enough to prevent your dog from swallowing them whole. Since large shank beef or lamb bones are the right sizes, you’re good to go.
  • There’s no need to worry about chemicals and other additives in raw bones. Since they’re 100% natural, there are no harmful preservatives for you to worry about. On the contrary, your GSD will get a nutritional boost from the raw bone from the calcium and phosphorus.

Cons of Raw Bones

  • You have to be very precise when choosing a raw bone for your dog. Anything too small, such as chicken, rib, or pork will be dangerous, whereas bones that are too big or the wrong shape could get stuck in your dog’s jaws. Many animals don’t have bones big enough for your GSD to chew safely, which makes it harder if you only eat small animals. You have to choose the right size and shape bone for your dog as this lab/shepherd mix discovered.
  • Bone marrow can cause all sorts of stomach issues if your dog is prone to tummy upsets. Although it’s much more challenging for a German Shepherd to chew through an uncooked raw bone, they can still manage to do so if you don’t keep an eye on them. Supervision is necessary.

Pros of Chew Toys (Bones)

  • Convenient and easy to find. Perhaps the main reason that so many dog owners choose plastic bones (such as the Nylabone Power Chew XL Bone) is that they’re readily available from Amazon or any pet store. You don’t need to buy meat, nor do you have to go hunting for the right size bone for your dog!
  • If you’re a vegetarian, chew toys are a perfect solution. They allow you to continue to provide bones for your dog without requiring you to buy raw meat. On top of that, plastic bones don’t go against the moral choices of many vegans and vegetarians.
  • Plastic bones last much longer than raw bones. They are great for destructive chewers and you’ll get months of usage, depending on how often your dog chews on it. If you choose a heavy-duty plastic bone, such as the Nylabone mentioned above, then your German Shepherd will be able to enjoy it for quite some time and they also come in a range of flavors.

Cons of Chew Toys (Bones)

  • Plastic is bad for the environment since it’s nearly impossible to break down. If you don’t want to add to the landfill, then you’ll have to find a way to recycle it.
  • Some chew toys don’t have any flavor added. Your dog will have to enjoy the task of chewing without being able to gnaw away at delicious raw meaty bits. Choose a flavored chew bone for your dog.

Alternatives to Chewing on Bones

If you don’t want to risk giving your dog raw bones, there are still many alternatives which are fantastic for your German Shepherd to have a bit of fun and a good chew.

Here’s a handful of recommended chew toys from Amazon that are ideal for German Shepherds:

  • The Pet Qwerks Dinosaur BarkBone Chew Toy is a heavy-duty synthetic bone that your German Shepherd can gnaw on. It’s designed for aggressive chewers and comes in bacon and steak flavor. You can also choose from multiple sizes depending on the weight of your GSD but I recommend the XXXL one.
  • My favorite is the KONG Goodie Bone Dog Toy as you can stuff it with treats or organic peanut butter. It’s made from the best tough rubber that not even your German Shepherd’s teeth can get through, even if he is a power chewer!
  • The Benebone Real Flavor Wishbone is a hot choice for thousands of pet owners. The wishbone shape is ideal for dogs to grip and hold. It lasts seemingly forever, and the flavor stays around unlike some chew toys. You can choose from chicken, bacon, or peanut.

Tip: Don’t give antlers to your dog as they are just too hard, even for GSDs! They can cause cracked teeth and other dental injuries.

Tip: Don’t feed rawhide bones as they are a bigger choking risk than natural raw bones and are unsuitable for German Shepherds. When the rawhide becomes soft it becomes easy for your GSD to break chunks off and swallow them. The rawhide can easily get stuck in the dog’s esophagus or causes a blockage further down.

What to do if Your German Shepherd Swallows a Bone?

Dogs love to eat anything they can, so there’s always a chance that they could swallow part of a bone. Even if it’s uncooked as recommended in this article, they might bite off a small chunk and swallow it. In this case, you will need to monitor them and keep an eye on their stools. Sometimes, it’s inevitable that tiny pieces will get eaten.

However, if your GSD has accidentally eaten a cooked bone such as a rib or small chicken bone and they swallow a splinter, then you should take your dog to the vet immediately. Signs of intestinal obstruction include vomiting, lethargy, a painful tummy, and having no desire to eat.

The sooner you can have your vet take a look, the sooner your dog will be safe. Bones can take a couple of hours to digest, so don’t assume that just because they are fine right now means they’ll be okay later.

Note: Always watch puppies when they chew bones. They’re still learning and constantly using their mouths to explore. They might literally bite off more than they can chew, so you need to be there to remove anything sharp or too small for their mouth. To be extra safe don’t give puppies a bone until they’re at least one year old.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds love meaty bones just as much as any dog. As long as you follow the safety suggestions found in this post you can safely let them enjoy a good chew.

Here’s a quick recap of the main points:

  • Never feed cooked bones to your German Shepherd.
  • Choose large raw bones bigger than their muzzle.
  • Raw beef or lamb shank bones are a good choice.
  • Supervise your dog at all times.
  • There are many good alternative chew bones.

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Sources:

Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a 5-year-old female German Shepherd named "Willow" and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with my dog and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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