Discovering Bully Sticks
When I was a kid, I had to help care for my dog, Clancy. But by no means did I do all the work. While I picked up Clancy’s poop and often fed her at night, my mom — and to some extent, my dad — did the hard work of training Clancy, exercising her every day, making her vet appointments, and so on. When Clancy had her first and only litter of puppies, I was already sixteen years old. Technically, I could have helped my mother take Clancy to her vet appointments, build a whelping box, watch videos on how to assist a dog in childbirth, and so on. Once, I woke up to a floor covered in Clancy’s vomit — she’d been sick out both ends all night, and she gave birth shortly after. I helped my mom clean the carpet, but the burden of making sure it hadn’t irrevocably stained fell to her. Mostly, being a selfish teenager, I didn’t help nearly as much as I could have. And once the puppies were born, it was my mom who fed them (once they weaned), picked up after their messes, took them out for exercise, and so on.
So it was quite the shock when, ten years later and no longer living with my parents, I brought home a new puppy, Eira. While I’d had a baby before I ever brought home a brand-new puppy, I had expected a baby to be a lot of work. Everyone tells you about sleepless nights and round-the-clock feeding. But I had quite forgotten that puppies are almost as hard to care for as human youngsters. I probably forgot that because the heaviest load of work always fell to my mom — not me.
This, of course, is no longer the case now that I’ve been on my own for nearly a decade, raising my own family now. Now I’m the mom on whom the burden falls!
And boy, did the burden fall. All the way home from her breeder, Eira cried piteously while my toddler screamed with fright in the backseat. When we got to the basketball game we were due to attend that day, I held a whimpering Eira in one arm and a screaming, squirming toddler in the other. Eira was shaking; my son was sobbing. It was like having two highly needy toddlers to care for at once.
It didn’t get better at home. Eira didn’t want to leave my side even for a second. She wanted constant petting, interaction, and play — and so did my human son. Yet they weren’t completely comfortable around each other, so life was almost unbearably difficult in those early months. Desperate, I made several trips to the pet store. Eira hated the car and would howl the whole way, which made my toddler cry the whole way. But the solutions I found at the store, while most of them only gave me a few minutes of peace, were worth the hell of the drive.
The great bully stick.
A bully stick gets ready to meet Eira’s teeth. Stay tuned to find out which brand she loves best!
The first time I brought one into the car for the ride home, Eira chewed it for the entire drive. Because she was busy, she didn’t howl. Because she didn’t howl, my son didn’t sob. Because the car was peaceful, I didn’t nearly get into a car accident as I had several times in the preceding days.
It was heavenly. I wasn’t sure what was in a bully stick; I knew it smelled a little funky and seemed extra thick. Curious, I did a quick Google search. What I found both repelled me and made me laugh out loud.
A Bully Stick is a Beef Pizzle
And if you’re not from Old England, pizzle means penis. So yes, while I was driving home that day, Eira was happily gnawing on a former bull cattle’s penis. Grotesque, isn’t it? But dogs love bully sticks. Because they’re so high in density, they take forever to break down and ingest. Dogs adore their texture and flavor and will work on them for hours. (Eira did, and does, do exactly that.)
Here’s what to know about bully sticks before you buy them. First, they’re made from the removed penises of cattle. If you’re committed to a vegan lifestyle, this might make you cringe. But know that the cattle are not killed for the bully sticks, they’re killed for beef consumption. By purchasing quality bully sticks, you are helping to use every part of a slaughtered animal so that the animal does not go to waste.
Second, there are two types of bully stick: odor-free and regular. Regular bully sticks smell funky because the moisture hasn’t completely been dried out of them. Odor-free bully sticks have been dried for long enough that all moisture, and therefore odor, disappears.
Third, bully sticks are high in protein and low in fat, so in addition to being long-lasting treats, they’re also nutritious. And even better, they’re extremely safe for your dog to eat. They don’t splinter and they’re highly digestible, meaning you can rest easy when your dog is working on a bully stick. They are more expensive than other treats because they’re harder to source: you can only get them from male cattle — as opposed to something like tendons, which you can get from any cow. Bully sticks are thickest when they come from a bull, which makes the job even more difficult because there is typically only one bull in a herd of cows. Bully meat is a highly sought-after protein for dogs, but bully sticks are completely worth the money.
Fourth, make sure you buy bully sticks from cattle that lived a free-range, grass-fed life in North or South America. And bully sticks should contain no preservatives or grains. They should contain only beef pizzle.
Now that you know the basics of bully sticks, let’s find out which are the best bully sticks out there.
Nature Gnaws Small Bully Sticks
These 2-3 inch, hand-inspected bully sticks are perfect for puppies and smaller dogs. They’re made with one ingredient: beef pizzle. And the packaging states that the cattle who helped make the bully sticks were raised on grass in South America. The treats themselves were treated and packaged in the USA. This is the size of bully stick that kept Eira entertained as a young puppy. These sticks would probably be on the small side for medium or large dogs, so keep them in mind only for your littlest canine companions.
Sancho & Lola’s 6-Inch Bully Sticks
These bully sticks are perfect for small and medium dogs. Like the Nature Gnaws Bully Sticks, the Sancho & Lola’s Bully Sticks are made only from beef pizzle, and they’re processed in the USA from beef raised in the US or elsewhere in North America. These bully sticks do have a mild odor. As the product listing says, however, this is to be expected, when you consider that the moisture that makes them smell is leftover urine. The pizzles did, after all, once house the bull’s urethra. Yes, this sounds disgusting. But it’s quite possible that your dog will like bully sticks with some odor even more than odor-free bully sticks. Celebrate the stink! You can always give your dog the bully stick in her crate or a specified area (or use a bully stick holder) to make the mess less.
Jack & Pup 6-Inch Extra-Thick Bully Sticks
If your dog goes through regular-sized bully sticks pretty quickly, try these Jumbo Thick Bully Sticks from Jack & Pup. Because Eira is a medium-large dog with an appetite for chewing, these are the bully sticks I got her.
Eira enjoying her jumbo-sized bully stick. As you can see, even the 6-Inch stick hangs out of her mouth. It’s the perfect size.
Eira loved the bully stick right away. And my toddler loved feeding the stick to her, as you can see in the video below.
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/laddQ4a1wxA” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>
But here’s where I need to issue a word of warning. The bully stick didn’t bother Eira or me at all when we touched it. But, I forgot to consider that a bully stick is essentially raw meat, and I failed to wash my son’s hands after he touched the sticks. He has had a head cold, so he went to rub his itchy eyes with his hand. His cheeks looked extra red, and when I leaned in close, I noticed that he had small hives on his face and hand where he’d touched the bully stick and then rubbed his face. His eye began to get red and slightly puffy and watery. I washed his hands, applied topical Benadryl to his face, and called my husband to ask him to bring liquid Benadryl home.
I was worried that the reaction would get more severe, but after about half an hour the redness and hives went away and I didn’t need to give my son Benadryl. He has sensitive skin, so I believe that’s why the bully stick affected him. If you have sensitive skin or young children who do, feed your dog the bully stick with a glove on or wait until the kids are in bed. From now on I’ll be feeding Eira her bully sticks when my son isn’t around, because I don’t want him to get irritated skin again.
Allergies aside, this bully stick is fantastic for Eira. It takes her several hours to chew it down to nothing, and it has no ill effects whatsoever on her. I gave her a bully stick while Abel’s friends came over to play, and it kept her busy and entertained the whole time so that she didn’t barrel the kids over with her glee.
Natural Farm Pet Braided Bully Sticks
Unlike several other bully stick companies, this Brazil-based company raises its meat in Brazil and then manufactures and processes it all in the same place. They have complete quality control over their products, which are USDA and FDA certified for dogs. And unlike the other bully sticks on this list, these are braided, which isn’t necessarily a plus or a minus. It just means that if your dog is bored with regular bully sticks for some reason, you can give her a braided bully for added texture and challenge.
Another neat thing about this company is that its packaging is 100% recycled, often made from the by-products of local crops like sugarcane. And like all the best bully sticks, these bullies are made from the loins of grass-fed, free-range beef.
Pawstruck 12-Inch Braided Bully Sticks
Does Fido need a bully stick that’s a little longer than 6 inches? Then try this extra-long braided bully stick from Pawstruck. These low-odor bully sticks are made from free-range, grass-fed, South American cattle and have one ingredient: beef pizzle. Pawstruck also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee with any of their products, so if your dog doesn’t care for their bully sticks, they’re confident they can make things right. And you can purchase a pack of 5 bully sticks…or a pack of 250 or more (for more than 250, contact the seller directly to negotiate a price!). The price per bully comes down with the higher the amount of bully sticks are contained within a package. The sticks aren’t easy on the wallet, but they do last an extra-long time — longer, even, than Nylabones in some instances!
Now that you know which bully sticks are made with the highest standards, you can choose the best one for your dog. Bully sticks are such a win-win for everyone: they’re safe, they’re healthy, and they clean your dog’s teeth. What could be better? Just make sure you wash your hands after handling any bully sticks, and clean up the area where your dog was chewing the bully stick once he’s done — especially if you have little humans crawling or toddling around.
My toddler won’t be touching bully sticks anymore — thankfully Eira has plenty of other toys she can share with him!
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.