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HIS favourite chew toy is the Kong for dogs toy. Why? Read on.
Kong toys for dogs
There can be few dog owners who have never bought at least one Kong toy for their dog, and fewer still who haven’t heard of the Kong.
If you’re wondering whether to buy one or to buy another one, hopefully this page will help you decide.
It also include some tips and ideas on using Kongs and highlight a few Kong problems.
What isi the Kong dog toy?
The Kong Company has many Kong products but here we’re concentrating on the original Kong. It’s made from hard rubber and shaped like three donuts stacked on top of each other. As that probably isn’t a very good explanation, here’s a thousand-word picture.
Kongs are hollow with holes at both ends. A popular way to use one is to stuff it with treats. The dog will chew at it to get the treats out and/or roll it on the floor so they spill out.
This is great fun for the dog as it provides both mental and physical stimulation.
Murphy and his Kong chew toy
I said this is Murphy‘s favourite toy although who really knows? But I suspect it is because he can get the treats out slightly faster than the now-defunct Satellite, and he gets more of the treat out at a time, too.
As I said in Satellite, Murphy chews toys. He can actually get his teeth between the inside of the hole and the outside of the Kong. This helps release the treats but he also manages to chew the Kong rim in the process.
The two main problems with the Kong toy
Hundreds of thousands of Kong toys have been sold and the vast majority of owners are very happy with them – in fact they have a 4.5 rating on Amazon.
However, there are two main problems which you should be aware of before buying one.
The first is that they are not indestructible.
I’m sure that didn’t come as a complete surprise! 🙂
They are made from a very durable dog-safe rubber but a dog that chews will likely destroy it sooner or later. Most of the unhappy owners had a dog who destroyed it sooner!
Know your dog’s chewing behaviour
The Kong Company has produced a helpful guide which divides dog chewing behaviour into three types. It’s worth a read but I’ll briefly summarise here:
- Gentle chewers who can be given soft and plush toys without usually destroying them.
- Average chewers who may destroy soft toys but rarely rubber ones.
- Aggressive chewers who will destroy soft toys and who need hard rubber ones.So before you buy a Kong, know what sort of chewer your dog is.
If they are an aggressive chewer, select a larger size Kong than you might otherwise pick. This will make it more difficult for them to get their mouth around but still enable them to remove the treats.
Also, go for one of the Kong Extreme chew toys which are made from a more durable rubber.
Watch out for excessive chewing
Another thing to do – and this is most important – is to watch your dog while they play with the Kong, certainly for the first few times. Most dogs will try to nibble at the hole or learn to roll it around to get at the treats.
When the treats are out they may start chewing the Kong for the sake of chewing so you need to take it from them at that point.
Most dogs are very food-oriented and will stop chewing when they realise they aren’t going to get any more treats but if a dog is bored, and particularly if they are alone, they may carry on chewing.
If your dog just tears at the rubber without making any attempt to get at the treats, try guiding them to the holes and show them there are treats inside. Also, put looser treats in so they come out more easily.
Rare is the dog who prefers chewing rubber to eating treats. But if you have such a dog, no hide-a-treat rubber chew toy will be suitable. Make sure your dog stops chewing the Kong after extracting the treats before you leave him or her alone with it.
Light chewing is fine, and many dog chew their Kong lightly or just ‘mouth’ it, but you don’t’t want to return home to shredded rubber all over the place.
It’s up to you to know your dog and their chewing habits.
Murphy’s chewing type
I would class Murphy as an aggressive toy chewer but always more interested in the treats than in chewing for chewing’s sake. He did occasionally start in on a previously-emptied Kong but not for long and I could leave him alone with a stuffed Kong with no ill effect. The eventual destruction came only after many months of normal use.
I suspect some of the owners who reported early destruction either didn’t fully understand their dog’s chewing habits or bought a Kong a size too small. Many did, in fact, complain that the Kong was smaller than they thought but the physical sizes are there to see before you buy There’s a useful size list further down the page.
Murphy’s two Kongs have been Classic Kongs – the red ones. I started with a Large one and then got an Extra Large one. There’s not a massive difference in size between them and I don’t think he found the larger one much more difficult – and it did hold more treats!
So picking the right size is important. There’s a useful guide to sizes down below.
I never felt the need to get a Kong Extreme but maybe it would have lasted longer.
So be aware that a determined dog may well destroy a Kong if they are left unattended and particularly if the Kong is too small.
They are not indestructible.
The what’s-a-Kong problem
The second problem is when the dog shows no interest in the Kong. This is much more rare but some dogs don’t seem to get the idea that a bit of a chew will release lots of goodies.
This is primarily down to how curious and food-oriented they are.
If you have ever brought home a new dog toy, chances are your dog knew. They see how excited you are when you take it out and show it to them, and they are keen to play with it.
The uninterested dog
If you’ve done this and your dog shows no interest, you need to encourage them. Be excited about the toy, tease them with it, play had to get, show that it contains treats.
This is not a dog training page or a page about dog behaviour but if your dog shows no interest in a new toy, even after encouragement, there could be a problem and it’s well worth a visit to your vet.
I have never ever owned or met a dog that was not curious or interested in food.
Maybe I’ll get that engraved on my gravestone.
Stuffing a Kong
When you first give your dog a Kong chew toy, pack the treats lightly so they come out easily. Your dog will quickly learn that the Kong is a source of treats and play with it accordingly.
If they need some encouragement, you can spread a little peanut butter or light cream cheese around the inside of the rims of the holes but make sure it’s a safe peanut butter without xylitol.
Bigger Kong challenges
Once your dog understands how to get treats out of the Kong, you can make it more challenging by using treats that don’t roll out so easily.
Obviously, larger treats are more difficult to remove. Also, packing the Kong tighter makes the treats more difficult to access immediately, although once your dog has got a few out, they flow more readily.
Whether this teaches them the benefits of persistence, I’m not sure. Perhaps.
Another option is to mix dry and wet food so it sticks together, again making it more difficult to get out.
How to freeze a Kong
You can also freeze the contents which makes it last longer. You can use ‘normal’ food and stick it in the freezer. If normal good is dry, adding a little wet food will make it more ‘freezable’.
You can also put water in a Kong and freeze it. Most dogs love ice and this is an easy and long-lasting treat on a hot day – or any day.
To free liquid in a Kong, plug the small end with something. Many sources suggest a dollop of peanut butter but I have found smaller Kongs can be bunged with a Markie.
Place it in a mug, fill with liquid and put in the freezer.
It will come as no surprise that there is a vast range of ready-to-go fillings for stuffing into a Kong. The Kong Company makes a lot of them and has a Stuff ‘N Treat range:
These are very convenient and are totally safe for dogs.
However, if you have a little time you can prove to your dog what a good chef you are – they probably know this already each time you feed them! – by creating your own fillings.
Kong stuffing ideas and recipes
There are hundreds of foods and recipes that you can make to fill a Kong. Anything your dog likes will work; wet or dry, or a mixture. There are Kong stuffing ideas for puppies and older dogs.
Just make sure – double check – that whatever you use is safe for dogs.
Rather than offer some recipes here, I’ll point you to some of the best Kong stuffing out there on the web:
Unsurprisingly, Pinterest has a super page of very visual links to Kong recipes – Kong Stuff ‘N Recipes.
And here are two PDFs which will download when you click on the link:
Something fishy going in!
One thing I’d caution against – but this is, obviously, up to you – is using tuna or fish paste. It absolutely stinks!
If your dog is using the Kong in the house, some of it will get into the carpet and possibly the furniture and it is a very difficult smell to remove.
Using the Kong outside may be better but in any event your dog will have fish all over their mouth, paws and legs, and they will have fish breath.
This has been a public information broadcast made on behalf of the Good Breath and Clean House Society, not the fishing industry.
Kong stuffing – you don’t have to get fancy
With Murphy’s Kong I use kibble (although this rolls out easily) and some of the little bone-shaped biscuits. I sometimes put in a Markie or two as he really likes them.
I never used any spreads or pastes and never made a frozen Kong. Murphy was quite happy trying to get the food out so there didn’t seem a need for additional encouragement although ice on a hot day might be nice to try.
The point is, you don’t have to spend hours preparing a Kong if time is short. Your dog will probably be very happy with their normal treats.
Kongs are great but don’t overfeed
If you’re putting your dog’s normal food such as kibble in the Kong on a regular basis you may want to reduce the amount of food in their daily feed.
Don’t tell them I said so.
3 ways to use a stuffed Kong
A Kong filled with goodies keeps your dog occupied. It allows him or her to engage in the physical activity of chewing to get food, and also occupies their brain with the mental challenge of how to get the food.
When they have a Kong, they are usually very engrossed and you can use this to reinforce many behaviours:
- If your dog is prone to chewing items around the house, you can distract them with a Kong and show them that Kongs can be chewed but other things cannot.
- Separation anxiety can be a problem, especially with puppies and new dogs. Giving them a Kong when you leave makes them look forward to you leaving 🙂 and helps distract them during the crucial initial leaving minutes.
- Hide the Kong. This is a great game to teach them to sniff out objects – food in this case! Murphy loves this. I started by rolling the Kong over the floor so he could pick up a scent. We quickly graduated to putting him in one room while I hid it in another. It’s an absolute joy watching him scour the room. Do give your dog a hint if they get stuck, which can happen over an old scent.
You will probably come up with many more uses once you see how you dog interacts with their Kong.
Here’s another great game that doesn’t necessarily need the Kong to be filled, although it can help with certain dogs.
The bouncing Kong
Although most dogs probably look for a food reward inside a Kong, some will also quite happily carry an empty Kong around and retrieve it when thrown.
If you dog will fetch, retrieving a Kong is a great fun game to play. Because of its irregular shape it bounces in random directions making the chase more fun and challenging.
If your dog is a reluctant chaser, you can put a treat or two in the Kong to give them an incentive to chase it. Then you just need to teach them to bring it back
This shouldn’t be any more difficult than teaching a normal retrieve, with a reward when they do any positive action.
If they get close to you but are reluctant to drop it, you can entice them into a ‘swap’ by showing another Kong. Most dogs will drop the one they are carrying and prepare to run after the one you’re ready to throw.
Some dogs don’t necessarily look for a food reward. If your dog chases tennis balls, sticks and other thrown objects they will love chasing a Kong.
Cleaning the Kong
Unless your dog licks its Kong spotlessly clean you’ll notice that it can get dirty very quickly. Food dries inside, and a spread can stick around the rim. Also, check for cracks and split and see if any particles have lodged in there.
If it’s dirty, give it a wash to remove dirt and bacteria. Kongs are very easy to clean.
Hot soapy (washing up liquid) water does the trick. Let them soak in it to loosen any dried-in food.
If you can get your fingers inside, wash them by hand. If not, and for really dried-in food, use a small brush like you’d use for cleaning bottles (home brewers know what I mean).
They are also safe to put in the top rack of a dishwasher.
Do rinse it thoroughly.
As I hope you’ve noticed, it’s important to get the right size of Kong for your dog. The Kong Company provide a handy size guide which assigns Kong sizes to a dog’s body weight.
XS < 2kg (5lbs) 5.7 x 3.6 cm
S < 9kg (20lbs) 7.6 x 4.4 cm
M 7-16kg (15-35lbs)8.9 x 5.7 cm
L 12-30kg (30-65lbs) 10.2 x 7 cm
XL 27-41kgs (50-90lbs) 12.7 x 8.9 cm
XXL > 38kg (85lbs) 15.2 x 9.9 cm
The sizes are for the Classic Kong. Not all the other types of Kong are available in all the sizes.
However, you also need to take account of your dog’s mouth size and, of course, chewing habits. The general recommendation is, if in doubt, go up a size, but, on occasion, a little trial and error may still be required.
Here’s another guide from the Kong Company listing a range of breeds and the sizes that are typically suitable for them. You’ll see that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
The four Kong types
As well as different sizes, there are also four Kong Types which take into account different types of chewer and the age of the dog.
As it says, these are for puppies up to around 9 months. They are softer than the Classic Kong, designed for puppy teeth and gums.
The Classic Kong is the original and the one most people buy for their adult dogs. It’s made from tough rubber and can withstand a lot of chewing but remember that no chew toy is indestructible.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer or likes tearing, the Extreme Kong made from a tougher rubber compound will prove more durable than the Classic. But, just to point out – again! – it is not indestructible.
These are designed for older dogs who still like the Kong challenge. They’re made from a softer rubber specially designed to be kind to older teeth and gums.
Use these Kong types as guidelines ans use common sense. For example, you need to take into account when your puppy’s adult teeth have come in, how hard your dog chews, and when you see signs of them struggling to chew.
Kong chew toys – summary
Hopefully this has helped you decided if a Kong is suitable for your dog and, if so, what size and what type to get to ensure it’s the best one for your dog.
You also know some of the different ways you can use it, fill it and how to clean it! 🙂
Kongs aren’t very expensive so you can afford to experiment a little if the first one isn’t quite right.
Many people buy several Kongs. You can then prepare two or three to give your dog throughout the day or freeze them on hot days. You can also have a read-to-go Kong while the other is in the wash.
Currently, the best prices are on Amazon who stock the full range and sizes of Kongs so you can easily buy the one you want.
Kogs on Amazon.com
If you have any questions about Kongs, please leave them in the Comments below and I’ll get back to you very soon.
Also, I’d love to hear how you and your dog use your Kong and how long it takes your dog to eat all the treats.
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