Kongs are wonderful toys that are very, very useful. They can often be used as part of a plan to help treat behavioural problems or just simply used to keep your dog entertained. They can also be stuffed with pretty much anything and frozen if required, to prolong the ‘experience’. They come in different sizes (black ones for ‘power chewers’, red Kongs for ‘standard chewers’ and smaller, softer ones for puppies) and they can take a lot of abuse.
The First Time
You may need to put something super-tasty in the open end the first few times to ‘get your dog into it’, especially if you freeze it. Some dogs will give up if they don’t get an instant reward, but they can learn to persevere. Begin by just putting kibble inside so that it drops out easily and then gradually make it more difficult by stuffing it with food that is harder to extract. You can even feed your dog’s daily meal allowance in a Kong (if you feed kibble you’ll need to mix it with some wet dog food or something else squidgy to hold it in place) and then he can ‘work’ for his food, chew and entertain himself all at the same time. You can even hide the Kong so he has to sniff it out – a good fun exercise for your dog if you’re going out for an hour or two.
You can also make it more difficult by stuffing larger bits of food that will be harder to get out e.g. chunks of fruit or veggies, larger biscuits etc. Another good one is a few large-ish bits of cheese mixed with kibble that are more difficult to remove and also stop the kibble falling out.
It is also best to supervise the first few times to make sure they don’t destroy the Kong and risk choking, but once you’re pretty sure that they’re safe, you can give them their Kong and leave them to it (even go out). Obviously, when you leave a dog with a chew-toy there is inherent risk but Kongs are by far the safest option (in my opinion). You may also need to consider (if you have multiple dogs) whether there will be any resource guarding issues as soon as you are not present.
What To Put In It
You can buy paste made specifically for Kongs, but guess what… it’s pretty pricey! Why not make your own healthy and cheaper alternative :)
It’s normally good to have a base made from boiled rice (I use brown rice) and/or sweet potato. Once boiled and mashed (especially together) you get a pretty sticky mess, before you’ve even added anything else. One dollop of peanut butter (from the health food shop – check it contains nothing but peanuts) and it’s super sticky and tastes great (if you’re a dog!). Spoon it in and refrigerate so that it sets a bit more, or pop it in the freezer for later. Some supermarket peanut butters contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol (so they can advertise it as sugar free/reduced) that is extremely poisonous to dogs.
You can add all sorts to this: treats/biscuits/bits of chicken etc. You are only limited by your imagination! …(and the list of foods toxic to dogs – see bottom of page)
You can even cook the rice in chicken broth to flavour it. Be wary of adding stock cubes as they often contain onion (a food on the ‘banned’ list).
Some dogs are lactose intolerant so watch out for that. But if not, plug the small end, fill with yoghurt and freeze for a nice cooling Kong lollypop. You can plug the end with peanut butter or anything that will create a seal and put the Kong upside down into a cup to fill it. Place it (still in the cup) into the freezer.
DANGER! Foods you should definitely avoid giving your dog!
Watch out for ‘hidden’ sources of onion too – stock cubes often contain onion and are very high in salt, so are best avoided.
Meat: raw and cooked meat is ok, raw bones are generally considered ok, but cooked bones can be dangerous, especially cooked chicken bones as they are small. When bones are raw, a dog can crunch them up as they are relatively soft but they harden when cooked and can cause internal damage if they splinter.
Giving any bones carries inherent risk (as does everything to some degree) so do a bit of research (Google ‘raw feeding’) and make your own judgement call. Personally, I’m happy to feed my dogs raw meaty bones but I wouldn’t leave them unsupervised.
This ‘banned’ list is by no means exhaustive. For more info on foods you can/cannot feed your dog, take a look >>here<<.
And finally… please feel free to send us any more recipes that your dog particularly enjoys and we’ll add them to the page!