Make sure you have the appropriate sized Kong for your beloved pet BEFORE stuffing it! I would also recommend that you wash the Kong out well with a mild dish washing detergent like Dawn to clear off the slight film that covers the rubber Kong and then soak it in chicken broth overnight to help with eliminating any rubber scent that may be aversive to the dog/puppy.
In the beginning, you may also have to teach your dog what the game is all about by making it very easy for the treats to fall out of the toy at first. They will need immediate gratification for interacting with the food toy. Help them by pointing to the toy and encouraging them to push it or by putting a dab of peanut butter on the out side of the toy so they are drawn to it right away. I always put dry kibble that falls out easily into the Kong so the puppy does not get frustrated with this new concept. Some dogs will have no idea what you are trying to accomplish with this new diversion. As the dogs get more interested and more proficient at retrieving the treats, then you can increase the difficulty of the stuffing.
The idea behind a food toy is to stimulate the dog (or sometimes your cat!) for a variety of reasons:
- Dogs need to chew.
- Some dogs are just not motivated to eat their meal in a bowl.
- Some dogs may have separation anxiety and the stuffed toys help keep them distracted.
- Some dogs may eat too quickly or more quickly than other pets in the household.
- Some dogs like the idea of the “hunt”.
What ever the reason for your dog, the result is almost always the same: they love it!
What do I stuff with and how do I stuff?
The quick fix is to smear a little peanut butter or a very small amount of cream cheese into the Kong or bone and put a few kibble in afterwards to fill it up.
That is pretty straight forward, but I encourage you to get creative with your stuffing.
- regular kibble to start with to make it very rewarding with very little effort on the part of the dog.
- regular kibble mixed with wet food or peanut butter or cottage cheese or plain yogurt.
- fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, peaches, plums, bananas, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, (avoid citrus, fruit seeds and perhaps “gassy foods”).
- freeze dried liver or Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance chubs.
- and the grand finale: freeze canned food into the Kong with a small biscuit treat stuffed into the small opening as a bonus!
I usually layer the Kong with the liver or chub at top (small hole end) and add other ingredients as I go, but I am careful to make sure I leave air gaps inside Kong so the dog can be successful. You can give your dog their entire meal that way or as a midday snack (especially for young puppies eating a lunch) or a special treat. I always recommend using them for crate training. I also like to hide the Kongs around the house asking my dog to sit / stay in one room while I hide it in another and then saying “Okay, go find breakfast or dinner”. If your dogs are going to be outside, you can also freeze the entire Kong in a plastic bowl that you turn out for them as a big frozen block with the Kong toy frozen in the middle. (This is the same idea we use at Sea World for the polar bears!)
There are several different types of food toys or Kong toys available and you will want to rotate them throughout the week. If you plan a head of time, you’ll be able to create a system that works for you and is sure to entertain your dog. Happy stuffing!