As the mother of two, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have made it through the exhausting newborn period without the help of my good friends the infant swing and the vibrating bouncy seat. Usually one or the other worked to give me enough time to do something requiring two arms, like showering, and kept my baby happy and relaxed. Without a doubt, the equivalent when you have a puppy is a Kong.
Kongs are wonderful in so many ways. They provide an outlet for a dog’s natural desire to chew, they provide mental exercise as the dog tries to work out how to get the food out, they make crate training a snap, and, best of all, they guarantee the puppy parents some quiet time. Our pup always gets his dinner out of a Kong (or two!) while we eat ours. This routine prevents pesky begging (or outright stealing) behavior and allows us to have some family time without always having to monitor his behavior.
He also gets a Kong when we are leaving the house. He could care less that we’ve just walked out the door because he’s so busy working on extracting the delicious treats. One word of caution, though, with young dogs, eating a substantial quantity of food can get the intestines moving. If you’ve just left the house for several hours with your pup in a crate, at a minimum, it might be very uncomfortable for the puppy if he has to go and is confined, and at worst it might result in a very unpleasant mess for you upon your return. I generally use a smaller Kong (I own a range of sizes) with just a few dry treats and a bit of peanut butter if I am leaving the house.
I have heard a few people say that their dogs don’t like Kongs. Usually it’s for one of three reasons:
First, start by filling the Kong with kibble and then putting a smear of something gooey over the hole to seal the kibble in. Your pup will lick the delicious goo off and then be rewarded with a shower of kibble.
The gooey stuff can really be anything depending upon your dog’s likes and intestinal fortitude. Ideas include:
After a few go rounds with this very easy to crack into Kong, it’s time to make it a little harder. This time, mix the kibble with the gooey stuff in a bowl and then spoon it into the Kong. You can still add the smear on top. Now, the kibble no longer falls out when your dog is finished with the smear. He will have to work much harder to get his reward (i.e. your peace a quiet time just got a lot longer!)
The final step is to take a Kong prepared as described above and then put it in the freezer for a couple of hours. When you take it out, add a fresh smear of goo to the top to get your dog interested. I use this technique when I know I need to keep my pup happy and occupied for a long time like when we have dinner guests, and I know we’ll be lingering at the table chatting.
As you figure out how effective your dog is at un-stuffing his Kong, you can get more creative. There are lots of fun ideas on the internet, some of my favorites are here. Best of all, Kongs are dishwasher safe, so you don’t have to be better than your dog at getting all of the goo out of the nooks and crannies!