Kongs are one of the most popular dog toys in existence, worldwide – but do we know how to use them?
Are you one of those Dog Mamas or Dads? I sort of am, but my kong went into disuse because Indie’s a monkey, and hasn’t ever been all that food motivated. I was totally guilty of some of the advice I’ve put in here (you’ll see!) – But, since gaining the Coonhound girls, (there’s a post coming introducing these gorgeous girls!) – I’ve suddenly got two very food-oriented dogs who are ideal targets for this weapon of awesomeness.
This means I can walk you through how to start using a kong, what you should fill it with, some ideas for how to make it easy, more difficult, and guide you through the process!
One of my biggest delights in gaining Shelby & Lucy was that I could finally play around with Kongs, with recipes and have an interested audience who would be able to give me valid feedback (in tail wags and speed of eating!) in how they engage and what they enjoy! This was something I knew I wanted to write up from the very beginning, so here are some of my learnings, for you to benefit from.
You’re going to love this if you’re even partway curious on how to make the most out of this sort of activity for your dog, and your dog is going to love you for it if they’re food motivated. Believe it or not, this isn’t an exact science, so make sure you vary what you do a little from what I am to make sure your dog gets the very best out of this experience!
Step 1 – Pick your Kong
The importance of this step cannot be understated. You’ve got to pick the right tool for the job.
The important questions are;
1 – Is this the right strength for my dog?
You need to look at how tough the toy is for your dog. For puppies? There is a special gentle rubber which is great, but probably still not the most appropriate if you have a bull breed or a german shepherd… or an old dog! There are some special rubber strengths especially for the older age, younger age, and your gods chew-ability! So pick wisely!
2 – kong size is important.
You need to pick something that cannot get wedged inside your dogs’ jaws, whether that’s lengthways, diameter, sideways or upside-down wrong way out (ok, a little extreme there!) but let’s just pick an appropriate size to make sure no one gets it stuck – if you’re ever unsure? Go one larger.
Step 2 – Pick your fillings!
My best tip here is to start simple. If you research beyond this blog (which I suggest you do!) – you’ll see a lot of recipes that are like “place a layer of kibble, a layer of home-cooked, blended roast dinner, a layer of greens, freeze-dried liver to cap, and close it up with peanut butter” – now, this sounds awesome? Right?
Well, kinda? I mean, yeah! Great idea, but please remember to adapt these for your dog, build the difficulty up. Why? Because if you make it too tough to get into, and you have a cavapoo, they’re likely not going finish it, or get to the yummy bits, because they’ve gotten frustrated and given up right at the start.
Which means – you – if you’re anything like me – will go “Why didn’t you eat that?” And then get totally disheartened.
Start simple, start with looser fillings that are tasty but not too much. Balance it between delicious and exciting and easy enough to access. I’d thoroughly recommend using either an awesome bone broth recipe or yoghurt or something sticky enough but not too sticky to start!
So my top tips for picking fillings to start;
- Use 3 different ingredients
- Pick one item for texture
- Pick one item for sticky
- Pick one for flavour
- One for nutrition
You have to make this work for your dog – pick foods they like and are going to eat to start with before you develop to some more adventurous flavours. One thing I try and do is grab things out of the fridge before they go out of date – it’s a great way to make the most of your products and minimise your bills.
If you still need some ideas? Here’s a bunch of stuff to get your brain salivating.
Dried Fish Skin
BananaCheesePeanut butterCream Cheese
Canned dog food
* Please make sure these have dog-safe ingredients! Please never include cooked bone
** Ensure this is dog friendly (Xylitol free!)
Still Unsure What To Use?
Why not check out our 10 tried and tested Kong recipes! Shelby & Lucy adore them!
Step 3 – Fill Your kong.
This bit is easy. Mix it in a bowl, pop it into the kong (I found a spoon is the easiest way, though if you know a better one, do let me know!). Be careful not to make it too dense, and be very careful not to overfeed.
If you feed your dog a Raw diet, why not try separating the aspects of your dogs’ diet (meat, offal, bone, and other supplements!) into the different layers? Indie loved this!
Did You Know?
Kongs can be a great tool for helping your dog lose a little extra weight. If you fill out your dog’s regular meal with some vegetables, add in a little natural yoghurt and stuff it into a kong, you’ll find your dog will eat slower and they’ll get fuller quicker!
If you need more help with helping your dog lose a little weight, check out our 10 Tips For Canine Weight Loss.
Now, you can choose to feed, chill or freeze – I wouldn’t recommend chilling or freezing to start. These are things to work up to, but they’re not for a ‘beginner’. Set your dog up to succeed (and you not to shelve your kong forever).
Step 4 – Feed!
Your gorgeous dog is either wondering why you’re doing weird things to their food – or what sort of deliciousness this is… and they’re right! This is a good bit!! You get to see your pup develop an excitement for these yummy yummy treats, you get to work their brain, you get to exercise their mind and fill their tummy!
They may fumble a little at first, and if you need to help them a little, or entice them in, do. Sit with them and encourage – words of praise, or occasionally breaking up a smidge, or spilling a little on the floor to remind them how delicious what is inside actually is.
Step 5 – Clean
Clean up sucks – that is no word of a lie. If you’re like me, this is the boring bit, hehe! They are dishwasher safe (so that’s a bonus!) – use a bottle brush or an old toothbrush to scrub out this inside and make it sparkly clean for the next time you want to use it.
Step 6 – Learn & Develop
I know you’re a nerd like me when it comes to keeping your dogs mentally stretched. So, how you move on from here is increase the difficulty. Here’s a couple of ideas on how you can work your dog a little harder…
- Chill it! Start with the fridge and move on to the freezer for a super difficult Kong!
- Pack the food tighter
- Make the insides stickier
- Add in a very diverse range of fillings! Make it fun and challenging for your pup
Literally, this is one of those things where the only limit is your imagination (and your dogs palette I suppose!) so get those thinking caps on and start making some awesome recipes!
Never leave your dog with these totally unsupervised with any toy, feeder or similar, it’s not a good plan and is way too risky!
A tired dog is a good dog.
Tiring your dog out takes more than working their muscles. Work their brain too – Kong’s are a great way to start – which is why they feature on out 19 Ways To End Unwanted Chewing, 8 Awesome Enrichment Toys & Games to buy and 7 Ways to Encourage your Dog to Eat – they’re a hugely powerful little tool when you use them right!
Most dogs are delighted to get their food in a more challenging way. They’ll love it. So get started! Pull that Kong out of retirement and get it working for you and your woof! It’s also a great idea for older dogs to feed them this way! You can add in stimulation without taking too much energy out.
Good huh? Why not share your success stories and favourite recipes with me! I’d love to hear them and I’m sure Shelby & Lucy would love some new recipes to try!