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:
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!