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Ode to a Kong

I think that there shall never be/A toy as useful as the K-O-N-G/They give our dogs stupendous joy/Who hasn’t used this wonderful toy?

A Kong gives a bored dog a mental workout

Have you ever used a Kong? I find creative stuffing is the key to success. So often my clients tell me they have one, but that the dog isn’t interested. Then, I shove a tiny delicious treat in the small end, pack in some kibble and seal it with a semi soft treat. Voilà, the dog is entranced!

A stuffed Kong is useful in so many ways. I have one dog that eats really fast so I feed him everything in a Kong. That evens out the time it takes for the other dogs to consume their food. All three finish in about the same amount of time so I don’t have to monitor mealtime.

For busy puppies, feeding from a Kong can give you some peace and quiet. Pack their meal in the Kong and seal it with a bit of fat free cream cheese. In addition to giving you a break, it teaches the dog to chew on appropriate items rather than your shoes or furniture.

Sometimes you have to help a dog learn to unload a Kong. You can pack it loosely so the kibble falls out at a slight touch. Once the dog gets the idea, you can gradually make it more difficult and create a Kongaholic. You can even load a Kong with something slightly moist and freeze it. Then you have a pupsicle, suitable for ambitious chewers and summer fun.

A dog with a Kong will be less focused on what’s going on around him

For dogs with separation anxiety (SA), I recommend feeding all their meals from Kongs. Once the dog is comfortable being fed this way, the owners can begin leaving the room and moving about the house. The dog will be busy eating and much less focused on what his people are doing. This is the very beginning of disconnecting from the dog, an important step in treating SA. Not to mention that the act of chewing in itself is an anxiety reliever. Why else would all those sports players chew gum!

Many dogs spend a large portion of their day alone and really need more mental stimulation to occupy their time. Using a Kong is an easy way to provide some interest to their day. You can stuff and freeze several Kongs ahead of time. Then hide them around the house before you leave. Imagine how much fun that would add to their day! The dog can have a lovely scavenger hunt while you are busy elsewhere. Then, because he’s had to use his brain to figure out where the Kong is and then how to get the stuffing out, you have a tired, relaxed dog.

So, dust off your old Kong and fill it up. Give your dog some fun and interest at mealtime. Even my 15-year-old dog enjoys a Kong for a special treat!

By Cecelia “Cissy” Sumner CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA

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