A Stuffed Kong is a fantastic, long lasting treat that you can use as a tool to help manage your dog’s arousal levels. Remember chewing and sniffing really help your dog manage their arousal levels.
It isn’t just a case of filling a Kong and putting it down for your dog.
We need to think about things like the value of the treat that you are using to stuff the Kong. To begin with, we may need to use a high value treat to get your dog interested in a Kong. Like anything, your dog will need to learn how to use a Kong and extract the tasty treat. It can be pretty difficult to begin with, so a nice, high value treat will keep your dog’s attention.
You can use a wet food, we love the trays of our own Positive Pet Training grain free dog food or wet food of any other good quality diet. Or you could use peanut butter or squeezy cheese. But it is very important to check out the ingredients of products such as these to make sure that there isn’t anything in them that dogs shouldn’t be eating e.g. Xylitol is a poisonous sweetener being used in some peanut butters.
Then we have to think about difficulty. Before we can get to the stage of stuffing a Kong tightly and freezing it to create a really long lasting treat. We have to train the dogs how to use a Kong. If we make it too difficult to begin with. They may give up and not learn to stick with the Kong until they’ve extracted every last bit of the tasty treat.
I would start by placing a few bits of kibble, mixed with some cut up cheese or some scrambled egg into a Kong and placing it on the floor for your dog. This will begin to build up the association of a Kong with a tasty treat. It shouldn’t take your dog long to get all of the treats out by rolling the Kong around. But it will also start to teach them the required techniques when using a stuffed Kong such as dropping the Kong, chewing the outside and licking the inside.
We can then think about making the stuffed Kong a more difficult prospect. But remember, we’ll be moving forward nice and slowly to make sure that we are not progressing too fast for your dog. If your dog ever gives up on the Kong think next time you may need to make it slightly easier. Next, plug the end of the Kong with something hard and edible like a piece of carrot. You can fill the Kong up with the same kibble and cheese mix. But push a bit of carrot into the end and this will mean your dog needs to chew, lick and drop the Kong in order to unplug the carrot and gain access to the tasty treats inside.
Over the next few weeks, you can start to make it even more difficult by jamming in lots of treats and a larger piece of carrot. Once you are happy that your dog will work at a Kong quite happily. Then you can think about making it even harder. We tend to use wet food, mixed with a bit of kibble. It’s good for stuffing into the Kong and you know the ingredients are of a good quality.
Using a spoon or your fingers if you don’t mind the mess, fill the Kong with the wet food/kibble mix. You can still plug the end with a piece of carrot and place it on the floor for your dog. Remember that this will be a really high value and exciting treat for your dog. So make sure you give them space to enjoy it. As your dog becomes accustomed to gleaning all of the wet food from the Kong. We can again look at making it more difficult for them.
Place the stuffed Kong in the fridge for a few hours before giving it to them. You can place the stuffed Kong into a freezer bag or a tuppaware container before placing it into your fridge. This will help firm up the wet food and make it more difficult for your dog.
Always make sure that your dog is happy licking all of the food out of the Kong before you move onto the next stage. We can then think about part freezing the stuffed Kong. This will make it really difficult for your dog and will turn it into a super long lasting treat. Leave it for 3-4 hours in the freezer, take it out and run it under a warm tap for a few seconds (to ensure their tongue doesn’t stick). Then it is ready to be given to your dog. Then last stage is to freeze the stuffed Kong for 24 hours before giving it to your dog. Dogs love working at the stuffed Kong and in summer a frozen Kong is a great way of helping them to keep cool.
Once your dog is accomplished at working their Kongs, you can be imaginative when filling them. You can use a layer system of wet and dry food to make the Kong more interesting.
When using a stuffed Kong, it’s really important to consider your dog’s daily calorie intake. If you are going to be giving your dog a stuffed Kong as part of their daily routine. Then it is a simple case of deducting the calories contained in the stuffed Kong from the dogs daily food intake. So reducing the amount of kibble they receive over breakfast won’t be noticed by your dog. But it means they won’t be gaining any weight.
Once your dog is happy with using a Kong stuffed with high value treats, you can then try reducing the value of the treats. There is no reason why we can’t make a really fun, long lasting treats for our dogs using their normal kibble.
First put a measure of your dog’s kibble into a bowl. Then carefully pour boiling water over the kibble. Put the bowl somewhere safe and inaccessible to pets or children and leave it to stand for 3-4 hours. Then make sure it has totally cooled down, you can add a drop of cold water to the bowl, just to make sure. Then you will notice that the kibble has expanded and turned soft. The same technique is used as stuffing wet food, stuff the Kong until it is tightly packed. Then pop the filled Kong in the freezer and use it in the same way as the high value treat stuffed Kong.
We also need to consider what size of Kong we should be using. Kongs come in 5 different sizes. We need to make sure that our dog can fit a good portion of their tongue inside the Kong to enable them to lick the tasty treats out. We also need to make sure that our dog can fit their mouth around the fattest part of the Kong. This is important when the dog applies the chewing motion on the outside of the Kong to crush the frozen treats inside which is great for dental hygiene too.
Finally, there are some really important dog welfare points that we have to consider when using stuffed Kongs.
Because we may be using high value treats. It is important that we give our dogs their own space to enjoy their treat. A place where they won’t be disturbed. This will prevent them from feeling anxious around the stuffed Kong and will prevent them from feeling the need to resource guard.
If you have more than one dog in your household. It is really important that they are given their Kongs to enjoy in separate areas of your house. This helps prevent any possible anxiety and conflict that may arise from them trying to enjoy their stuffed Kongs in close proximity. Our Labrador and Miniature Pinscher are great friends but both very food motivated. So we would never put pressure on their relationship by giving them a long lasting treat in the same room together. Plus this time apart is a great way to build up confidence and good experiences being separate. Which is always important in a multi-dog household.
We whole heartedly recommend the use of stuffed Kongs. If you decide that a stuffed Kong should become part of your dog’s daily routine. It is important to be consistent with them. Studies have shown that if a dog becomes used to a treat, such as a stuffed Kong, and then the treat stops happening. It can have a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. Therfore, if you decide to use a stuffed Kong as part of your dog’s daily routine. Then it is important that it is a commitment you are confident that you can keep up for the long term.