All too often I find that new puppy parents know they should buy the classic Kong toy but are not sure how to utilize it to its fullest potential. Countless times I have heard puppy clients say “we have a Kong but they don’t seem interested in it”. This is for 1 of 2 reasons; 1) they don’t put anything in it and, 2) they stuff it to the brim with peanut butter. With the latter the puppy’s initial reaction may be “wowee this is amazing, I have the best humans in the world!” but that reaction may quickly wear thin. Think about it, have you ever put a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth? If so, how often have you followed it with a second spoonful? That is without pairing it with milk or a banana? Peanut butter is sticky stuff and when stuffed into a Kong it can make quite the challenge for a puppy. Once they get past the initial first inch of the Kong they can either grow tired of the peanut butter or they simply can’t reach it well enough to work it out of the Kong. This is when they give up and find something easier to entertain themselves with.
When utilized to its fullest potential the Kong classic toy can assist you with training your puppy. It has proven to be a great pacifier for crate or long term confinement training, it teaches your pup to seek out an appropriate chewing outlet, and is easy to take on the go for reinforcing calmness in new environments. So let’s go over how to best use a Kong:
- Choose a size that is appropriate for your puppy, you may have to go up in sizes as they grow.
- Have more than one. We have 10 Kongs in our home for 2 dogs, it’s always beneficial to have a stuffed one ready to go! As your puppy moves through the difficulty levels it is always good to provide them one at the higher level they are moving into as well as the level they are moving on from. This allows the puppy to fall back on the easier Kong if the new level proves to be a little too difficult.
- Follow this stuffing guide:Easy/Beginner: This level is best for introducing dogs to the Kong toy for the first time, stuffing a Kong loosely encourages them to finish the Kong. If the Kong is stuffed too tight for a beginner they are more likely to give up out of frustration and move onto something that’s easier to chew with a faster payoff, in other words, your furniture. To stuff a beginner Kong for success start out by placing a tasty/smelly treat in the very tip of the Kong followed by some loose dry kibble with a smudge of peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food at the opening to “cap” it closed. The looseness of the stuffing will guarantee an easy win for your dog and keep them attracted to the Kong. As they continue to “win” at this level you can then move onto the next level. *Great for brachycephalic (smushy faced) dogs
Moderate/Intermediate: Once your dog has successfully and repetitively completed the beginner level you can then move on to play around with the intermediate level. I have 2 mini levels within this one: 1) Place a tasty/smelly treat in the very tip of the Kong, followed by some loose dry kibble. Then place another small treat on top of loose kibble then fill in the rest with moistened kibble and cap off the opening with peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food. *Great for brachycephalic (smushy faced) dogs. 2) Place a tasty/smelly treat in the very tip of the Kong, followed by moistened kibble then another treat in the middle topped with more moistened kibble and finally cap off the opening with peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food. *to moisten kibble, soak kibble in a bowl of hot water for 15-30 minutes until soft and mushy.
Hard/Advanced: Once your dog has conquered the moderate levels of the Kong they are ready to test out the advanced levels…you can be very creative with this one! Place a tasty/smelly treat at the very tip of the Kong, followed by moistened kibble packed in tight then cap the opening with peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food. If it’s still too easy for your dog, try freezing it overnight before giving it to them! Remember to be creative, the key to the advanced level is that the stuffing is moist and well mixed/blended then stuffed in tight. If you stuff it too hard for your dog be sure to help them finish it! You can grab a spoon and help them dig it out or step on the Kong and roll it under your foot to help loosen the stuffing.
- Change up your recipe to keep things interesting! See our printable handout and recipe guide here: All About Kongs