So when I would hear people speak of bully sticks, I immediately lumped them in with rawhide and never even considered giving them to my dogs. Fast forward to the bad weather of this winter and living with 3 crazy dogs needing an outlet for their energy! I live up on a hill and it's been a snowy icy prison this year, despite having a yard. My dogs need to get out, off of our property, smell things and burn off some energy so without a walk it can sometimes get annoying. I had heard mention of bully sticks from the founder of a rescue group called Unchained New York, when I asked her what supplies they were really in need of. I have been volunteering with this rescue group for a few months now and it has been life changing. "Unchained New York's mission is to improve the quality of life of chained and neglected dogs through community outreach, education, rescue and advocacy." (That is a topic for another time!) Bully sticks are especially needed to keep these dogs busy both when they are stuck in the hell of living outdoors but also when they are brought inside, to keep them occupied and out of trouble.
So I began researching bully sticks and discovered there is a big difference from rawhide. Bully sticks (for the most part) are 100% dried meat (actually they are made from bull's penises, gag I know, and I am a vegetarian and don't even wear leather!) They are far more digestible in dogs systems than rawhide (rawhide just passes right through) and they last a very long time! I found a couple of brands made in the USA, one in particular and immediately ordered a bunch for the Unchained dogs but also stocked up for my own dogs.
Bully sticks come in all sizes but I buy either the 9" or 12" ones but there are smaller too depending on your dog and even larger ones. They also come in varied thickness. They are not cheap, at all, I have found some great sources online to buy in bulk. If you buy them in the store you will go broke. I buy them from and they are often on sale at chewy.com. right now they are a case of 35 of the 12 inch size for $119.99 and fast free shipping. They have a case of 35 of the 7" ones too for $69.99 and so on. There are many size and price options. These are made from free-range, grass-fed beef. I have also purchased from bestbullysticks.com. Looks for coupon codes for bestbullysticks.com online and make sure to click on the Made in the USA menu. Chewy.com never has coupons.
One other thing to keep in mind is the caloric content, it can be high and they are high fat! So consider this and don't overdo it. Truth be told, Cookie got a little chubby this winter so I think I am going to buy a smaller sized bully stick to have around for her, and she's on a little diet! I also give my dogs digestive enzymes daily which really manages their gas and helps them digest!
There have been many days this winter, around 2 or 3 PM, that if my dogs didn't have a bully stick to chew on, I would have lost my mind. I work from home and I can't get anything done if they are barking; like if Cookie is chasing Annie Cat or if Cookie and Rory are wrestling and rolling around non-stop (with sound effects) on the rug behind my desk. They are very expensive and so the rule I made was definitely to only feed them to them when there is a serious need to manage energy. On days when we have a good walk in the morning, I almost never give out bully sticks. I usually don't need them on weekends. So usually 3X a week. My other rule is to never ever feed them to the dogs when they are unsupervised god forbid they choke and of course with multiple dogs, just in case there is a battle over possession. Luckily my dogs have shown respect to each over their sticks but if you have a multi-dog house, definitely separate them into their corners and be sure to tell your kids to steer clear just in case. Rory always finishes hers first, can take anywhere from 30-60 mins depending on width and the day, Cy is second taking from 45-90 minutes., and Cookie once took almost 3 hours! Aaaah. Cookie is a smaller dog but also the troublemaker so I am glad to keep her BUSY. However sometimes Cookie will get up after a long time to get some water, which is when Rory always moves in and takes it, and Cookie at that point shrugs and moves on. Oh and when they are done chewing on their sticks, guess what they do? They sleep! Ah yes, it's nap time and I am a happy dog mama.
A final benefit of feeding bully sticks or similarly a stuffed kong or other busy toy or treat is to give them out if you have a dog that is stressed with a contractor or someone doing work at your house or any other reason your dog might be stressed or barking at your home (while you are home.) They can be a life saver.
When we bring bully sticks to the chained and penned outside dogs, they usually get pretty excited and this amazing dog Bebe immediately buries hers in her straw for later. Some take them into their igloos or houses and hide them inside in the back. Just thinking of them enjoying their sticks when they are alone or cold, helps me sleep at night. Consider donating some bully sticks to a local rescue or outreach group in your community.
That is the tale of the bully stick. It really has made for a much happier winter for all of us.