by Jenny Turner
To be able to use a Kong to its full potential we first need to understand what a Kong is. Kongs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but essentially they are a device or toy made from very durable, dishwasher and microwave safe rubber, and they normally have a hole through the centre. These features are what make the Kong a very valuable training tool. All you need is a dog who loves food and you can keep him amused for hours with a Kong. If your dog exhibits undesirable behaviour due to boredom (i.e., digging, barking, chewing or escaping), then the Kong is about to become your best friend.
Choosing the Right Size
It is important to choose the correct sized Kong for your dog. Too large, and your dog will have trouble getting his teeth around it; too small and your dog may choke. Kongs come in small, medium, large, extra large, and king sized. Small is designed for toy breeds (e.g., small terriers, Chihuahua, Toy Poodle, etc.). Medium is for small breeds (Jack Russell, Pug, Sheltie). Large is for medium sized, fine boned or short jawed breeds (e.g., Collie, Boxer, Standard Poodle). Extra large is for medium to large breeds (e.g., Goldie, Dalmatian, and our very own Samoyed) and King Kongs are designed for large dogs with strong jaws such as German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Great Danes, etc. As individuals within a breed can vary in size, be sure to discuss what is the right sized Kong at the place of purchase.
Styles of Kongs
Next thing to consider is the style of Kong you choose. There are a number of types including one with a rope attached. This is great for playing fetch or tying the Kong just out of your dogs reach, to make emptying the Kong harder for advanced dogs. The most popular style of Kong is shaped something like a snowman with a small hole at the top and a large hole at the bottom. This is the most versatile shape and the one I assume you’re working with for the recipes below.
To make the Kong irresistible simply fill it with food and hand it to your dog as a challenge. The easiest method I’ve found is to stuff the Kong when I’m preparing my dogs nightly meal. I put something dry in the small end, such as liver treats, biscuit pieces or doggy chocolates for dessert, then I stuff the rest of the Kong with my dogs normal meal of raw mince and vegetables. My dog gets the remainder of the food for dinner and the Kong goes into the fridge or freezer for the night. In the morning when I leave for work, doggy gets a Kong and my garden beds get a reprieve from the normal Samoyed excavation!
Here are some more suggestions:
Vege Kong: Microwave mixed veges then mash, or use leftovers from diner (but no onion or potato). Put a layer of dry treats in the small end of the Kong, stuff the rest with mashed veges, sprinkle cheese over the end and microwave for 20 seconds, give to your dog once the cheese is cold and has set to form a plug. If you don’t think your dog will go for this vegetarian version, you can mix in some meat such as sausage or steak chunks.
Kibble Kong: If you like my idea of preparing the Kong using your dogs nightly meal, but it won’t work because you feed dry kibble instead of “wet” food, then try this. First plug the small end with something like melted cheese, peanut butter or cream cheese. Fill the Kong with dry kibble then pour water, or better still, beef or chicken stock into the Kong until it’s full. Keeping upright, place the Kong into the freezer overnight and in the morning – instant Kongsicle!
Tuti Fruit: If your dog has a sweet tooth like mine, then he’ll love this Kong. Fill the Kong with small pieces of cut fruit, then either plug the end with mashed banana or fill with water or juice and freeze. Remember to plug the small end if you are going to fill the Kong with liquid!
Speedy Kong: No time in the morning? Here is the recipe for the fastest Kong in the west. Simply stuff a chicken wing into the Kong and give to your dog. Be sure to place the wing in such a way that it’s going to be difficult for your dog to get it out.
At first you’ll find that it may take your dog many hours to empty the Kong, but over time he’ll become more efficient, so it’s up to you to make the stuffing more difficult to remove. Packing the food tighter, using soft foods all the way through the Kong, and freezing are all strategies that will make the Kong harder to empty. When your dog is at the “master” level, you can even tie the Kong just out of his reach. Tie a knot in the end of a length of rope and thread the other end through the small hole of the Kong so the knot is on the inside. Stuff as usual and suspend via the rope from a tree in your yard so your dog needs to jump up to get the Kong (not advisable for old dogs or dogs with hip or knee problems).
How often you give your dog a Kong depends on how many Kongs you have! But remember, if your dog is getting a Kong everyday, you will probably need to reduce his nightly meal. Better still, feed your dog his nightly meal in the Kong. If your Kong is the right size for your dog, his nightly meal should fit into approximately two or three Kongs. By keeping all Kongs loaded and feeding one in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening, you will ensure hours of work and entertainment for your dog. Or feed a raw Kong in the morning and hang a frozen Kong in your yard for the afternoon.
It is easy to see now why the Kong is a valuable training tool. This device trains your dog while you are away by rewarding him with food for keeping himself occupied with an acceptable activity. A dog that spends three hours getting a treat has little time for digging, barking, chewing or escaping. Give it a try, your dog will thank you.
Note: Kong sizing suggestions came from the manufacturer’s website.