Bully sticks have become extremely popular because people who have dogs are always looking for new ways to keep their dogs entertained, mentally stimulated and satisfied. Regular dog treats or training treats are gone in one gulp, whereas bully sticks typically last much longer.
So, what exactly are bully sticks? Well, let's just say they are made from (ahem) certain parts of a bull or steer, which are then dried or baked. They can be cut into different sizes and curled, twisted, or braided to create bully sticks for small dogs or large dogs, for light chewers or heavy chewers.
They sometimes are sold as pizzle sticks, bully stix or tendons.
Types of bully sticks
Bully sticks come in many different sizes and shapes. Here's a rundown of the differences:
- Size -- Bully sticks come in various thicknesses and lengths. Common lengths for bully sticks include: 4-inch, 6-inch, 12-inch, 18-inch and even 36-inch. Thicknesses typically are: thin, standard, thick and extra-thick, though different companies have different names.
- Shape -- Bully sticks come in a wide variety of shapes. Available shapes include: twisted bully sticks, braided bully sticks, curly bully sticks, and bully stick rings.
- Flavorings -- Different companies flavor their bully sticks in different ways, such as smoking them, and some don't flavor them at all. One company even offers a carob-dipped bully stick, and another seller offers a yogurt-dipped bully stick.
- Odor -- Some humans don't like the odor that some bully sticks have, so many companies offer odor-free bully sticks.
- Natural or not -- Many bully stick companies market their products as all natural -- they are made from bull parts after all -- but natural means different things to different people. Consumers concerned about feeding their dogs natural products will want to do research on the company and the origins of the bully sticks they buy. Questions include: What cattle do these come from? Are they free-range? Grass fed? Have they received antibiotics and hormones? Also, how are the bully sticks processed? Are chemicals, preservatives or flavorings added to the bully sticks?
Benefits of bully sticks
- One of the main benefits of bully sticks is that many dogs love them. I have two dogs myself and am very active in fostering and rescuing homeless dogs, and I have yet to meet a dog who does not like bully sticks. I'm sure those dogs are out there, but I'm guessing they're few and far between. I recently gave a 12-inch bully stick to a rescued pit bull mix for an hour-long road trip to hew new home. It kept her totally busy in her crate during the journey, and there was still a little bit of bully stick left when we arrived at our destination.
- Another benefit of bully sticks is they are naturally low in fat. This can be helpful for owners who are concerned about their dog's weight or not giving too much extra in the way of fat and calories.
- Bully sticks wear dogs out. Ask almost any dog trainer, and they will tell you many dogs in the United States today do not get enough stimulation. They're bored. Maybe they go for a walk once or twice a day, if they're lucky, and they spend a lot of time chilling out at home with their people. Bully sticks give dogs both mental and physical stimulation. After my dogs spend an hour or two finishing off bully sticks, they look and act tired!
- Bully stick are good for the teeth. Many dog owners seek out treats and chews that will help keep their dogs' teeth clean and minimize the number of times their dogs need to get professional teeth cleanings, for which most veterinarians use anesthesia. The action of gnawing on a bully stick helps get debris and tartar off dogs' teeth.
Bully sticks explained
Why are bully sticks so expensive?
Most dogs are crazy for bully sticks, but also can finish one off in less than an hour or two. Dog owners who give their dog a bully stick for the first time probably will quickly calculate that it will cost a small fortune to keep their dogs in bully sticks. Since a large bully stick for a big, heavy chewer can cost $10 or more, that adds up to $300 a month or more to give a dog one bully stick per day.
The reason bully sticks are so expensive is that, for one, a very limited number of bully sticks can be made from each adult bull/steer. Second, many companies source their bully sticks from grass fed South American cattle that have not been given hormones or antibiotics.Third, the process for making a bully stick is time consuming, since a bully stick must be drained and dried.
Dog owners for whom cost is a factor often will buy bully sticks online in bulk or will make the bully stick an occasional, rather than a daily, treat.
Watch this: dogs love bully sticks
Bully stick safety
While many people with dogs want to give their dogs long-lasting chews to keep their dogs busy and engaged when they are not home, bully stick manufacturers warn that this is not a good idea. As with all types of chews, dogs should be supervised with bully sticks.