My human students often hear me suggest the use of Kong toys to provide environmental enrichment, and mental and physical stimulation for dogs especially puppies and juveniles who are full of energy.
What is a Kong? A Classic Kong is a hard rubber toy that can be stuffed with your dog’s food or treats. If properly prepared and properly introduced to your dog, a Kong toy can provide many hours of happy entertainment for your dog. While somewhat more expensive than your average squeaky toy, it is definitely worth the extra cost to get at least 3 or more Kongs for your dog as these toys are not easily destroyed and – if appropriately sized – are safer for your dog to play with.
Here are 3 simple ways that I like to prepare Kongs for my dogs:
The quantities described are for use in Large to Extra Large Classic Kongs or Extreme Kongs, and are appropriate for large dogs such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers:
- Soak your dog’s regular dry kibble in water – enough to make it soft but not too mushy.
- Stuff the softened kibble into your dog’s Kong as tightly as you can manage it.
- Plug the end holes with cheese or maybe peanut butter.
- Leave the Kong in the freezer until it hardens.
- Prepare your dog’s regular kibble, grated cheese, and 2 other special treats – I like to use chicken liver bits, and some cat food pellets (stolen from my kitties’ supply!)
- Plug the small hole of the Kong with a piece of liver and/or cheese.
- Next throw in around a tablespoon of chicken liver bits
- Sprinkle cheese over the liver.
- Then add a tablespoon of catfood over the cheese
- Top this again with another sprinkling of cheese
- Lastly, add your dog’s kibble for a final layer, and sprinkle some more cheese over the kibble, only enough to cement everything together.
- Place the Kong in a microwaveable cup to keep it upright.
- Microwave the Kong in the cup for about 20-30s to melt the cheese. When the cheese hardens, it will bind all the treats inside – a fun challenge for your dog’s chewing habit!
- Prepare kibble and treats and a Pedigree DentaStick.
- Insert the DentaStick in the Kong
- Pack the empty areas around the DentaStick with softened kibble and various treats.
- Place the Kong in the freezer to harden.
- Prepare your Kongs in any one of the ways described above.
- Mix chicken broth or a cup of yoghurt with water, prepare enough of this to submerge the Kong
- Use a container to submerge the Kong in the flavored mixture and place it in the freezer to harden.
- You can submerge more than one Kong in the mixture if you have enough of it.
- Give this Kong to your dog in an area that’s easy to clean. This one can get really messy!
Introducing your dog to the Kong
Not all dogs will know how to chew and work at a Kong to get to its stuffing. So it’s important that you don’t pack your dog’s first Kong too tightly. If the food is too difficult to get out of the Kong, your dog may quickly give up all attempts to get the treats inside. Over time, you can make more compact or more difficult stuffed Kongs for your dog to chew.
Some dogs are just plain lazy and too used to getting food the easy way – out of an open food bowl. For dogs such as these, let them skip getting their regular meal out of the bowl and present the Kong when the dog is particularly hungry.
Kong instead of Food Bowl
It is a great idea to feed all of your dog’s meals out of a Kong or other interactive toy. This way, feeding time is never boring and chewing becomes a welcome exercise for the dog. Slower eating habits to reduce the risk of gastric dilatation volvulus or bloat, and dental maintenance are some of the added benefits that dogs get out of working on a Kong to get their food.
Always monitor food intake
No matter how you feed your dog, always monitor how much food and what you are feeding. Take into account treats and kibble stuffed into your dog’s Kong, and make sure his daily portion does not exceed what is recommended for his age and size.
If you have other great ideas for how to stuff a Kong, please feel free to share them in the comments section!