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What Bones Are Good for German Shepherds? Safe Options

Last Updated: December 30, 2023

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 learn which bones German Shepherds can and can’t eat, common misconceptions, risks, alternative chew toys, including the pros and cons of both, and what to do if your dog swallows a bone.

Welcome to my complete guide on what bones are good for German Shepherds. Let’s get started!

A German Shepherd eating a large raw bone

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 break or chip easily.

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 only to give your dog raw bones.  

That being said, even raw small chicken bones, pork bones, and rib bones from any animal can also splinter. You should avoid them altogether to avoid causing severe injuries to your German Shepherd.

Watch this short 3-minute video of a dog that had eaten a chicken bone that became lodged in the roof of his mouth, resulting in a trip to the vet:

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 dogs’ most common cause of oesophageal obstruction.

Remember that your dog shouldn’t eat the bone but chew on it! Eating it can cause health issues such as a digestive blockage. To stay safe, 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 humans do if 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 don’t have to spend extra money on!

What Do People Get Wrong About Dogs Eating Bones?

The risks and dangers below aren’t meant to scare you away from giving your dog a bone. After all, bones provide numerous benefits, including calcium and phosphorus, helping keep teeth and jaws healthy and relieving 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 your German Shepherd can’t enjoy a delicious bone.

Check out the list below to see people’s common misconceptions about dogs eating bones.

  • You can’t give a dog any bone. The saying makes it easy to believe that dogs can chew on any bone you pull from your food. But 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 it can, but it’s your job to stop it before it swallows it. You should note that raw bones don’t splinter – they 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 you find 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 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. You might want to consider softer toys or treats if they can’t chew on a bone.
  • Rubber or plastic bones are a safe alternative for dogs to chew on. Usually, they’re an excellent choice. However, some cheap brands 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 my recommendations below.

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.

An 11 week old GSD puppy.

The Risks of Eating a Cooked Bone

It’s far too easy to pull cooked bones out of your meat when 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, they act 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 his throat. There is an increased risk of choking not only with cooked bones but also 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

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 available and virtually free if you pull them from the food you’ve bought. Furthermore, you don’t have to add any flavoring since they’re naturally covered in meat from the animal they came from.
  • If you pull 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. You’re good to go since large shank beef or lamb bones are the right sizes.
  • 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 must be 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 must 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 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 many vegans and vegetarian moral choices.
  • 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.

Note: Clicking the above link(s) will take you to Amazon or an online store where we have an affiliate relationship. If you make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

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

German Shepherd with a selection of treats
My German Shepherd with her favorite bone treats.

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

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

The Pet Qwerks Dinosaur BarkBone Chew Toy is a heavy-duty synthetic bone your German Shepherd can gnaw on. It’s designed for aggressive chewers and comes in bacon and steak flavors. You can choose from multiple sizes depending on your GSD’s weight.

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 varieties.

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 cause a blockage further down.

What Bones Are Good for German Shepherd Puppies?

When it comes to German Shepherd puppies, it’s important to choose bones that are appropriate for their age and size. Puppies have delicate teeth and jaws, so they need softer bones that are easier to chew and digest.

Here are some good options for German Shepherd puppies:

  1. Raw chicken necks or wings: These bones are small, soft, and easy to chew. They also contain cartilage and connective tissue, which can benefit joint health.
  2. Raw beef or lamb ribs: These bones are also soft and easy to chew, but they’re larger than chicken necks or wings. Make sure to choose ribs that are appropriate for your puppy’s size.
  3. Raw beef marrow bones: These bones are larger and harder than chicken necks or ribs, but they contain many nutrients and can be a good option for teething puppies. Make sure to choose a bone that is large enough so that your puppy can’t swallow it whole.

It’s important to note that cooked bones should never be given to puppies (or adult dogs), as they can splinter and cause serious injuries.

Additionally, any bone should be given under supervision and taken away once it becomes small enough to swallow whole.

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, they might bite off a small chunk and swallow it.

If this occurs, you must 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 swallows a splinter, you should immediately take your dog to the vet.

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 can safely enjoy meaty bones by following key guidelines: avoid cooked bones, choose large raw bones (like beef or lamb shanks) bigger than their muzzle, and always supervise your dog.

Many safe alternative chew bones are also available for your pet’s enjoyment.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

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