A Kong redemption

We love Kongs.  But we have a Kong conundrum:  They are beloved, classic toys with a million and one uses.  Yet, they are THE toys that our clients complain about the most.  We know that’s partially because Kongs are so popular that nearly every dog guardian has one.  But the main complaint is, “My dog won’t play with it.”  So, we’re writing this post to help you & your dogs love your Kongs again!

Very young puppies will play with almost anything.  They especially love Kongs because they bounce & roll unpredictably.  But as Pup grows, she might ignore any toy that remains stationary, read as boring.  Think about it:  Why do dogs love tennis balls?  Because they interact with you via the ball.  If you put the Kong on the floor & never touch it again, your dog won’t either.  Try turning your Kong into a more interactive toy:  Play fetch with it!

If Pup isn’t impressed by a game of Kong fetch, don’t despair.  Pick the Kong up & put it away.  This recreates it’s novelty value so that the next time you bring it out, you’ll peak Pup’s interest.  A word of warning, though:  A naked Kong that’s been ignored by a dog, even as a fetch toy, is likely to be ignored again.  So don’t reintroduce pup to her Kong until you’ve dressed it up a bit.  How?  Stuff it!

There are endless ways to stuff a Kong and countless benefits from doing it.  Let’s start with the benefits.  Dogs who forage for food from Kongs eat slower, which is healthier for them.  Feeding Pup meals or nutritional snacks from multiple Kongs improves her behavior & builds her confidence, too.  Give Pup her fave food in a Kong before you leave her alone or before/during thunderstorms or fireworks, for example.  Occupy Pup with a Kong when you have guests, on rainy days, or in the evening when you want to unwind.  Use food-filled Kongs to help Pup like her crate or to prevent destructive chewing.  You get the idea.

We’re often asked:  “But isn’t it cruel & frustrating for my dog?”  Not if you present it as a toy with goodies inside, cheering Pup on as she works to empty it.  Dogs are natural foragers & problem solvers.  If given a fun task, involving her nose,  Pup’s confidence can blossom.  But set her up to succeed & enjoy it.  Only gradually increase the Kong’s degree of difficulty as Pup masters the previous, easier-to-empty stuffing style.  Minimize frustration to maximize persistence!

We found a few videos that nicely illustrate the art of Kong stuffing, keeping Pup’s level of expertise in mind.

For the beginner, hesitant or easily distracted dog:

For problem-solving, persistent Pups who’ve mastered simple Kong stuffings:

(Much thanks to eileenanddogs for the above videos!)

One more video that we love.  Rick Woodford, aka “The Dog Food Dude”, focuses on a healthy homemade, low-fat stuffing that’s better for Pup than gobs of peanut butter & cheese.  Check out his quick, easy recipe.  (We also like Rick’s recipe book, “Feed Your Best Friend Better”.)  Bonus tip:  Did you know that Kongs are dishwasher safe?  Awesome!

Related posts & pages:

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