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I received the following question over on my YouTube channel from user twochknsoftaco:
How do you feed raw bones to an inside dog without making a mess or spreading bacteria all over the floor or carpet?
This is such a great question because before I started watching raw feeding videos on YouTube, I didn't know the answer either. When I first began feeding my dogs raw meat, they didn't know what to do with it, so they took it to the sofa, to a corner, or anywhere away from each other and their dishes to check it out, investigate it, play with it – but they didn't figure out that they were supposed to eat it right away. It wasn't until I fed them ground raw that they made the connection.
But raw meaty bones were still an issue because they treated them the same way they treated bully sticks and other chews. So, how do you feed raw meaty bones without your dogs dragging them all over the house?
Benefits of Raw Meaty Bones
But first, if you're still on the fence about feeding raw bones to your dogs, let me give you something to think about.
I feed my dogs raw bones to…
- satisfy their chew drive
- keep their teeth clean
- work their shoulder, jaw, and back muscles
- meet nutritional needs
At the start of my raw feeding journey, I was terrified of feeding bones. I figured that I'd stick with human-grade bone meal or ground eggshells and I wouldn't have to worry about bones. The reason I stopped adding bone meal is that I learned that many brands of bone meal are sourced from outside of the US and the quality control in other countries varies. Also, bone meal is difficult for dogs to digest, so they may not be getting the calcium required to meet their nutritional needs. Ground eggshells weren't a permanent substitution because they just bring calcium to the diet, throwing off the calcium/phosphorus balance.
Another substitution for raw bones is green tripe. Green tripe provides the perfect balance of calcium to phosphorus, but the reason this doesn't work as a permanent substitution is that we're adding green tripe to a meal with other sources of phosphorus, which throws off that perfect balance unless we add more calcium. I don't feel like going back and forth so I feed green tripe as a supplemental meal once a week, not as a replacement for bone.
Once I learned these things about raw feeding, I knew raw bones were my best bet.
But how do I feed raw bones safely?
There were too many scary stories being shared and a blogging friend nearly lost her dog because of raw bones. But fellow raw feeders talked me off the “I'm Never Feeding Bones” ledge and I started my dogs with “safe” bones. What are safe bones? It depends on your dog. For my dogs, I started with HUGE bones and the biggest I could buy were beef knucklebones, which were nearly the size of my dogs' heads. Once I got comfortable with these bones (which are classified as recreational bones, not raw meaty bones), I became more confident and tried other bones with my dogs until I found bones that my dogs did well with and didn't scare me. I always monitor my dogs when they're eating raw meaty bones and I always have a high-value treat on hand in case I need to trade with my dogs because a bone isn't a good fit.
How I Feed Raw Meaty Bones to My Dogs
There are many ways to feed raw bones to your dogs. Our dogs eat their bones outside during the summer. Every weekend, I thaw out 5-10 bones (usually lamb necks, lamb shanks, duck frames, or beef knuckle bones), and the dogs and I go outside and I listen to an audiobook while they eat their bones. Each dog has a favorite spot and, by now, I know each dog's chewing habit and in what order they'll finish their bones. During the rest of the year, my dogs enjoy protein chews sourced from Real.Dog in the house.
But this isn't the only option out there for feeding your dogs raw bones without the mess.
- You can feed your dogs on a tarp. If you have more than one dog, you can give each goes their own tarp or you can feed the dogs on a tarp together. I don't recommend using a blanket or towel unless you're feeding on a hard surface.
- You can feed your dogs in a kennel. This gives the dog privacy while allowing them to take their time with their bone. This also prevents conflict if you have multiple dogs with one (or more) walking around trying to finish off everyone else's bones.
- You can feed your dog on a surface that is easy to clean. I still think a tarp is a good idea no matter the surface.
We don't have individual kennels for our dogs and we tried to feed on a tarp, but it was more trouble than it was worth because the layout of our living areas required me to move furniture to make room for all of the dogs to settle down and have space from their siblings. Feeding our dogs outside during the summer was the best solution for our pack.