We all know how much puppies love and need to chew, right? In order to save your stuff from those piranha teeth you might have heard antlers mentioned. Antlers aren’t just the big spikey things on Bambi’s head. They are often recommended as safe puppy chews. In fact, you’ve probably been recommended a puppy antler chew to deal with your puppy’s teething but are deer antlers for puppies really a good idea?  

In this article we’ll help you decide… 

  • Should you buy antlers for puppies?
  • Are antler chews safe for puppies or is there an antler alternative?
  • Are there health benefits of giving antlers to puppies?
  • How to introduce antler chews, or alternatives to antler chews to your puppy

Just to add, puppies chew a lot when teething, and they pretty much all go through a big biting phase. If you’re looking for help with this, or other parts of your puppy’s training, socialisation and educational journey, download the zigzag puppy training app. We have a team of expert puppy coaches ready to talk to you about any of your puppy’s quirks and foibles. 

Dog licking lips
Photo by Laula Co on Unsplash

Should I give my puppy Antlers?

So, back to those antlers, should I give my puppy Antler chews? Well we’re afraid the short answer is no, and here’s why; Puppy antler chews might seem like a great idea to give your puppy, especially if they’re a strong chewer as you want something that will last, right? Chews get expensive, don’t they, and so people tend to go for harder and less easy to wear down materials. 

The problem with deer antlers for puppies, is they’re simply too hard for them. Most vets advise not to give them to puppies at all. Even split puppy antler chews, which are recommended in pet stores as being safe, are too hard. Sorry, we know that’s probably not the answer you were hoping for. 

Instead of antlers for puppies consider a nylabone antler alternative such as this Nylabone puppy starter pack. Nylabones are also long lasting but are safe for puppies to chew on. They come in a range of different sizes and shapes from nylabone puppy teething rings which we LOVE at Zigzag, to Nylabones you can freeze like this dino toy. to the more traditional chicken flavour nylabone

Are Antler chews safe?

Not really, like we said, we don’t recommend giving antler chews to puppies. Despite them being sold as good for dental health, and teeth cleaning, chews as hard as antlers frequently break teeth and cause problems for puppies and dogs. 

If you’re looking for a safer antler alternative, we suggest you look at coffee wood chews, olive wood chews, root chews, and no-hide venison chews. They are softer than antler chews so will have more give in them and not risk damaging your puppy’s teeth. Also, consider a Nylabone antler alternative like these teething keys – puppies love them!

If you’d like to learn more about puppy dental health, check out our article on how to clean a puppy’s teeth, or what toothbrush and toothpaste are best for puppies. 

puppy running on grass
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash

Health Benefits of Antlers for puppies

The health benefits of chewing are well documented in dogs, and having recreational chews are important for all ages of dogs from puppies up to seniors. 

Antler alternatives help teething puppies

Your puppy will be chewing like crazy when they come to you and they’re trying to push their first set of teeth out, ready for their adult teeth to come through. They will be wanting to chew on everything to release that gum pressure so giving antler alternatives like Nylabone teething keys, root chews or frozen chew toys can help.

Chewing helps to strengthen jaws – give pups an alternative to antler

Once your puppy has gone through teething and hits their adolescence stage, they will need to chew to build up their jaw muscles. There is nothing you can do to stop this, they will need to chew, and if we don’t give them antler alternatives, they’ll probably start chewing on skirting boards, dining chairs and our favourite shoes!

Chewing antlers or antler alternatives is great for stress relief

Chewing feels really good for our pups, it actually releases ‘feel good’ chemicals in their cute little brains, and is something most dogs will enjoy for their whole lives. Yes, even our senior dogs love to chew, even if we get them a chew toy that’s a bit gentler on those older teeth. 

Chews help to relieve boredom in puppies

Yes, chewing on antler alternatives is something fun for puppies to do, and gives you some peace and quiet when you need it too! Why not try a stuffed Kong as an alternative to an antler chew and see how your puppy gets on?

Antler alternatives can help to clean teeth

People often get deer antlers for puppies, because the marketing says that they clean teeth. Consider an edible dental chew, or a dental chew toy to help clean teeth instead, you can even put (dog friendly) toothpaste in the grooves.

Antler chews for puppies are natural

Don’t we all want to give our puppies something free of preservatives and additives? Of course we do, but consider something softer like the coffee root chew, or a Nylabone antler alternative.

How to introduce Antlers to my Puppy? 

  • When introducing alternatives to antlers such as nylabones, kongs, west paw chew toys or similar, make sure they are the right size for your puppy. Too small can risk swallowing and be a choking hazard.
  • Some toys similar to puppy antler chews such as Nylabones or wood and root chews are relatively unscented and might seem uninviting for puppies. Hold them in your hands and get your scent on them, or run some cheese over them to spark your puppy’s interest.
  • If you’re using an antler alternative like a Kong or West Paw toy that you stuff with food, don’t pack it with food too much. Make it easy for the food to come out, or else you risk your puppy getting frustrated and bored. 
  • Give the antler alternative to your puppy in their bed and crate, and let them explore the toy. They might be a little slow approaching and getting into the toy at first, especially if they’re a bit weird about new things, which can happen if they’re in a puppy fear period.

PRO TIP: Your puppy might get over excited about the new antler or alternative chew toy you’ve just given them. We know it can look a bit extreme, and it’s tempting to think ‘this is too much’ and take it away from them. We see this happen a lot, and it can easily lead to resource guarding. 

puppy taking treat from hand
Photo by Ayla Verschueren on Unsplash

Imagine you’re given something you really love and then someone says ‘no, you’re having far too much fun with that,’ and takes it off of you? You wouldn’t be very pleased would you? You’d feel frustrated and upset and rightly so! This happens all the time with puppies being given new toys – especially things like pigs ears! Leave them to it. If you really need to take it away, you’ll have to have practised lots of drops and swaps first, and give them something amazing to trade.

We hope you’ve found our article on antlers for puppies useful and perhaps considered there might be a safer antler alternative for you to try with your puppy. While you’re here, you might enjoy our article on puppy chews, should you give your puppy rawhide or bones, or perhaps you’re considering a raw diet for puppies?

Download a trial of the Zigzag puppy training app today, and start your puppy’s training journey. You’ll find a tonne of information about your puppy’s development, socialisation and habituation, toilet training and more! We also have our expert puppy coaches ready and waiting to talk to you all about your puppy and any problems you might be having. Contact them on the phone, email or on Whatsapp, whichever you prefer. They’re here for you 7 days a week, so you never have to feel alone with your puppy. With the Zigzag app you really do have a trainer in your pocket!