Even though I prefer dogs of the black-and-tan-and-German variety, I am a huge fan of pit bulls.
Aside from having a soft spot for most maligned and misunderstood animals, I just find them incredibly fun, lovable, and impressive looking.
But they aren’t perfect – many pit bulls (as well as American Staffordshire terriers and combinations of the two) are absolutely murderous chewers. They’ll quickly destroy most mainstream dog toys, and they may even tear apart your car/couch/bomb-shelter if you leave them alone for a half hour.
So, if you’ve got a pit with a steel-trap set of chompers, you’ll need to give him a toy befitting his impressive jaws and tenacious demeanor.
Almost all dogs love to chew on stuff – it is a hard-wired instinctual behavior that probably traces back to their wolf-like ancestors, who chewed bones to satisfy their nutritional needs. Despite the fact that modern dogs benefit from complete nutrition in a bag, most still need an outlet for their compulsion to chomp.
That being said, there is a big difference in the chewing tendencies of a run-of-the-mill pooch and a “power-chewer.” These dogs are willing and able to inflict an entirely different level of destruction on their toys, and they’ll make quick work of toys that would last normal pups years.
This causes two problems. The first, and least consequential, is that power-chewing pit bulls and other breeds will go through more toys than normal dogs. This will tend to cause you equal parts money and frustration. But more importantly, power chewers often suffer very serious health problems when they swallow pieces of toys.
In a worst-case scenario, pieces of plastic or any other poorly digested material can accumulate in the intestinal tract, leading to potentially lethal obstructions. Even in the fortunate cases in which the blockage can be successfully removed, your dog will be looking at a lengthy and painful recovery, and you’ll be looking at an empty bank account.
I know what you’re thinking: I just won’t give my pit a toy. That way, he won’t destroy it, swallow the pieces and escort us into the poor house.
But this won’t work either.
Power chewers simply must chew. And if you don’t give them something to chew, they’ll find something on their own, like your shoes or phone. Both of these things can be just as dangerous as a chew toy, and they’re much more expensive.
So, it still makes sense to give them a chew toy. You just need to give your dog one that can withstand his impressive mouth.
Let’s be clear: Individuals of any breed can exhibit super-intense chewing instincts. There are Jack Russell terriers that will chew through a flimsy toy as quick as your pit bull. But, pit bulls do seem to exhibit power-chewing tendencies more reliably than many other breeds.
The question is: Why?
First of all, let’s dispense with a few myths. Pit bulls are not “vicious,” “bloodthirsty” or any other hyperbolic adjective commonly associated with the species.
Further – and it pains me to have to actually explain this — pit bulls’ jaws do not “lock.” That is an anatomically absurd suggestion that is not only untrue, but logically ridiculous – how would they eat? Wouldn’t their jaws just keep locking?
But forgetting silly myths and wives’ tales, pits do have three different traits which combine to help make them the power-chewers they are.
While some small dogs can dismantle a rugged toy in a matter of minutes, most problematic power chewers have large heads.
Even relatively small pit bulls in the 40- to 50-pound range often have heads that are the size of dogs weighing twice this much. These larger heads mean larger teeth, jaws and muscles, which usually spells doom for fragile toys.
While the larger proportions of many pit bull heads provide increased jaw power, the mechanical advantage supplied by the relatively wide jaws of pit bulls also plays a part in their power-chewing prowess.
Because pits often have wider jaws, they can apply more leverage and torque on their toys (or whatever happens to suit their fancy), which allows them to make quick work of even the most durable items.
Early pit bulls were selected for their willingness to complete the task at hand, regardless of negative stimuli – a characteristic called “gameness.”
In the old (and tragic) days, this meant that pit bulls were selected for their willingness to fight, despite any pain or injury they had suffered. Of course, few chew toys fight back, so even a run-of-the-mill pit bull is often willing to persevere until their toy is utterly destroyed.
No matter what types of claims a manufacturer makes, understand that no toy is truly “indestructible.” Sufficiently motivated dogs can often chew through bones, metal, or just about anything else you throw at them.
Accordingly, it is important to keep a few safety guidelines in mind whenever you give your pit bull (or power-chewing dog of any other breed) a new toy.
Never leave an unattended dog with a new toy. No matter how carefully you scrutinize a product or how much you pay for it, you’ll never know how it will hold up to your dog until you try it out. Always wait to leave your dog alone with a toy until you have seen how well the toy takes what your dog gives.
Immediately take any broken toy away from your dog. The strength of a good chew toy is greater than the sum of its parts, which is to say that a good toy is more resilient when completely intact than it is once your dog rips out a big chunk. These types of pieces can lead to intestinal obstruction, so you’ll want to take away broken toys at once.
Avoid giving your dog a toy small enough to be swallowed. In general, it’s always safer to give your dog a toy that is too large, than one that is too small. In fact, it is almost wise to always err on the large size when selecting chew toys.
Use caution providing toys with large gaps. For example, some of the ring-style toys may fit over your dog’s muzzle, where they could potentially become stuck. While this may not cause any serious problems in itself (assuming you remove it quickly enough), sensitive or nervous dogs may panic, leading to stress and potential injuries.
As with any toy, try to purchase products made in places with high quality-control standards. Poor-quality toys are occasionally tainted with toxic substances, which can make your dog sick. There is no way to ensure complete safety, but by purchasing toys made in the USA, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of purchasing tainted products.
Pay attention to safety or wear indicators. Some of the best toys change colors or present some other type of visual cue that alerts you that the toy should be replaced. Always err on the side of caution, and replace such toys immediately – the cost of a new toy is far less than an expensive veterinary surgery.
While no toy should ever be considered truly indestructible (I’ve seen dogs chew through chain-link fence before), the following five are among the toughest and most durable on the market.
About: KONG is one of the more popular manufacturers of durable dog toys, and their Extreme Goodie Bone is one of their most durable products. Made from KONG’s legendary Extreme Black Rubber, these chews are built to stand up to your pit bull’s teeth for hours of chewing fun.
About: Goughnuts produces a number of super-durable chew toys, and the Maxx 50 Stick is the toughest one in their product line.
Like most other Goughnuts chew toys, the Maxx 50 Stick features a unique two-color warning system, that helps owners know when the toy should be retired. As long as you only see green or black, your dog can continue use; but once red becomes visible, the toy should no longer be considered safe.
Fortunately, the KONG Rubber Ball Extreme works just like a tennis ball, gives your dog the same kind of jaw-satisfying pleasure, and is strong enough to last.
About: The West Paw Design Jive Ball is another super-tough ball toy that will hold up to all of the abuse your pit bull can inflict, and it has an extra added bonus: Thanks to the ball’s unique design, it bounces in crazy, unpredictable ways, which will drive your dog nuts-o.
About: The Benebone Flavored Wishbone is a great option for dogs who are picky about their chew toys. These nylon-based bones are not only extremely durable, they are flavored with real chicken.
That finishes up our recommended list of pit bull-worthy dog toys. If you’re a proud pitty owner looking for more pit-proof supplies, make sure to also check out our guide to the best dog beds for pit bulls and our top picks for pittie dog food too!
Have you found a toy deserving of the “indestructible” moniker? Or do you have any experience with the other toys we’ve covered? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below (be sure to describe your dog’s breed or type and approximate size).
And I know all of this talk of pit bulls and their incredible chewing powers has riled up some of you with other breeds that could chew through the side of a submarine. Let’s hear about them!
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.