Client: “My dog doesn’t really like his Kong.”
Casey Lomonaco: “Well, that’s interesting. What are you putting in it?”
Client: “You’re supposed to put something in it?”
I’m not making that conversation up. It happens, often. I get excited when I have that conversation, because I know that chances are good life will improve in a substantial way for this dog and owner shortly!
While many dogs don’t play with toys, almost all dogs can (and should) learn to love a Kong. Here are some tips for making Kong time the best part of your dog’s day!
- Put something in it. Tomorrow, I’ll share a few of my favorite Kong stuffing recipes with our readers.
- Once your dog is good at and enjoys emptying his newly-stuffed Kong, freeze it. It takes my dogs about 2 minutes to empty out a room temperature Kong and maybe 15 -20 minutes (sometimes more, if I’m really crafty) to empty a frozen Kong.
- Once your dog is REALLY good at it, make it harder! My favorite techniques for making Kongs more complicated include:
- don’t fill it up all the way before freezing – the bottom is usually the hardest part of the Kong to empty, so it should generally be filled with the “best stuff you stuff!” Mokie empties her Kongs much more quickly than Cuba, so I stuff more Kongs for her but only fill the bottom 1/2 or 1/3 to make it more difficult for her to empty them
- start hiding them! A great variation of one of my favorite games the “kibble hunt,” the Kong hunt can be combined or substituted for kibble hunt and is a more challenging version. Instead of just handing your dog a Kong, begin hiding it and releasing your dog to “go find” the Kong. Initially, your hiding places should be fairly easy, but as your dog’s confidence and enthusiasm for the game increases, make your hiding spaces more difficult – under the dog’s bed, in the bath tub with the shower curtain mostly closed, in a box with the lid cracked a bit, etc.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about a variety of yummy, healthy treats you can stuff into those Kongs. Until then, happy training!
Head Trainer, Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training
Member, Board of Trustees, Association of Pet Dog Trainers