Why your dog needs a KONG

I admit it. I’m addicted to KONGs.

Even though I have only one dog, I own a dozen KONGs.

The classic KONG is one of my favorite dog toys. It’s also the toy that I most frequently recommend to my dog training clients. Not only do KONGs have a multitude of uses, they are also (almost) indestructible.

Keep reading to learn why I love KONGs and why your dog needs at least one KONG.

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Why your dog needs a KONG. Or needs 10 KONGs! The KONG dog toy is a great play toy and chew toy. Stuff it with food to make it even more interactive. Great enrichment for your dog or puppy!

What’s a KONG?

At first glance, there’s nothing too exciting about a KONG. It’s a snowman-shaped rubber toy that is hollow on the inside. KONGs originally were red, but they now come in other colors as well.

In addition to the red KONGs, the KONG Company also produces black KONGs (made with a tougher rubber for dogs that really like to chew) and blue and pink KONGs for puppies (made with a softer rubber to soothe the gums during teething).

KONGs come in six different sizes, which means they are an appropriate toy for almost all dogs, from small puppies to adult large breed dogs. They’re available from Amazon, as well as from most major pet stores, including Petsmart and Petco.

(You’ll want to make sure you get the right size for your dog. For example, my mom’s 30-pound Brittany spaniel needs a medium KONG. But Logan the 70-pound lab needed a large or extra-large. Unsure about what size your dog needs? Check out this sizing chart. Or, leave a comment, and I can help you out.)

Why do dogs love KONGs?

Play with it. Many dogs think that a KONG is a pretty fun play toy! It’s great for chasing after during a game of fetch and durable enough to be played with outdoors. On hard floors, the toy’s strange shape means that it bounces in funny, unpredictable ways, which adds to the entertainment. Logan loves to play by himself with his KONG. He’ll pick it up and drop it, just to watch which way it goes bouncing. Then, off he goes to catch it.

Chew on it. Many dogs are natural chewers. Puppies especially need plenty of appropriate chew toys. A KONG makes a great chew toy because it is virtually indestructible. If your dog is a heavy chewer and excels at destroying regular toys, make sure you buy the black KONGS. They are made out of a tougher rubber that can withstand (almost) all dogs.

Stuff it. This is what most dogs love the most about the KONG and why KONGs can create hours of interaction. The hollow design means that you can stuff a KONG full of dog food or treats. Depending on the amount of food and how well it is packed into the KONG, the dog must work for quite awhile to try and remove all of the food. It’s a fun challenge and a great way to keep an active dog entertained.

Why do dog owners and dog trainers love KONGs?

As I said at the beginning, I usually recommend that my training clients buy at least one KONG, if not more. I know many other dog trainers and veterinarians who also highly recommend KONGs.

Star loves eating a stack out of her KONG dog toy. It's great enrichment and entertainment for this pup!Great for training and enrichment. Bored dogs get into trouble. The KONG is a great way to keep your dog busy and give him something interesting to do. Especially when stuffed with food, a KONG provides great mental stimulation for your dog. This can be helpful when working on crate training,* and it is also great for puppies who are constantly looking for something to chew. In the past, when I’ve fostered active, young dogs, I’ve often had the dog eat all of his food out of KONGs and other interactive toys.

(*Most dogs do great with KONGs. However, as with any toy, you’ll want to supervise your dog carefully at the beginning. Do not leave your dog alone with a KONG until you are sure that he can play with it safely without chewing pieces off of it.)

Different challenge levels. Many interactive dog toys are “one-size-fits-all.” There is no way to adjust the difficulty of the puzzle. This makes the toy too hard for new dogs and much too easy for dogs that have experience with the toy. For young puppies or dogs new to the KONG, you can fill the KONG with a handful of small treats that fall out easily when the dog nudges the KONG. Or, you can smear a spoonful of wet food right inside the opening, where the dog can easily lick it off. For experienced dogs, the KONG can be stuffed full with a mixture of food and treats and then frozen to create an even harder challenge.

Fairly easy to clean. It really annoys me when I find a dog toy I like, but it’s really difficult to clean. Luckily, it’s not too hard to clean out a KONG. If a KONG has been stuffed with food, there will sometimes be little bits that your dog won’t be able to get out. I start by soaking the KONG in some hot, soapy water. This loosens up any food left inside. I then use a scrub brush with firm bristles to clean the inside and remove any remaining pieces of food.

Why I own a dozen KONG toys

Yes, I own a dozen KONGs! Although you can survive with one, I think there are a lot of advantages to having at least three or four KONGs.

There are always several in the freezer. I love giving my dog frozen KONGs, especially in the summer. However, since it takes a few hours for a stuffed KONG to freeze, this requires some prep time and planning ahead. Rather than having to worry about stuffing and freezing a KONG a few hours before I leave, I always mix up several at once. This way, there’s always at least one or two in the freezer.

frozen KONGs make my dogs happy

More games and options. There are several KONGs in my freezer right now, but it’s also nice to have a couple around the house for the dog to chew on or for taking into the backyard for playing fetch. You can also get more creative if you have multiple KONGs. Fill several with your dog’s dinner and then hide them around the house (or the yard) so that your pooch can hunt for them. And if you have more than one dog, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have several KONGs. Since I have foster dogs and dogs in training who stay with me, I also make sure I have KONGs in several different sizes.

Save time and less mess. When I factor in prep time and clean up time, it takes me just a little bit longer to stuff half a dozen KONGs as it takes me to stuff one. So, I can save a significant amount of time by stuffing several KONGs all at the same time. Once they are stuffed, I put them in the freezer and use them over the next week or two.

Three easy KONG recipes

Kibble + wet food. This is a great recipe if you want to feed your dog his dinner in a KONG. Measure out enough kibble to fill the KONG (or to fill all of the KONGs you want to stuff). Add two or three spoonfuls of canned food to the kibble, enough to give it some moisture and make it stick together. Use a spoon* to fill the KONG with your mixture. Once your dog has some experience with KONGs, you can freeze the KONG to make it last even longer.

*I sometimes just use my hands, and then let the dog lick my fingers afterward. It’s pretty messy, but the dogs always say that they prefer when I do it this way!

Here's a fun KONG recipe that you can try with your dog. Stuffing the KONG with food makes it into a great interactive puzzle toy. This provides mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog or puppy.  Your dog will think that it is a very fun treat!

Peanut butter banana. Mash up one banana and mix it with about four spoonfuls of peanut butter to give it some stickiness and extra taste. Gradually mix in one and a half cups of your dog’s kibble. This will make enough to fill about 5 large KONGs. If you only want to fill one KONG, use a few slices of banana, a handful of kibble, and one spoonful of peanut butter.

Leftover stew. Who doesn’t like leftovers? There are some human foods that a dog can eat, and this will add some novelty and variety to your dog’s diet. I like to mix a little bit of meat, such as several bites from a chicken breast, with some dog-safe vegetables, such as carrots, green beans, cooked (unseasoned) sweet potato, cucumbers, celery, broccoli, or bell pepper. Just remember that dogs cannot have onion or garlic. (So, pay attention to seasoning or other foods that have been added to veggies.) Here’s a good list of foods to avoid from the ASPCA

One KONG, two KONG, red KONG, blue KONG

I often give Logan a KONG in his crate if I am going to be gone for a few hours, and he can’t come with me. He’s certainly figured out the routine. When I open the freezer in the kitchen and get out a frozen KONG, he immediately runs into his crate in the living room, lies down, and waits patiently for me to bring him his KONG.

What about you? Does your dog have a KONG? Perhaps he has more than one?

Does he play with it, or does he prefer for you to stuff it with food? If so, what’s your pup’s favorite KONG recipe?

Leave a comment and let me know!

And if your dog doesn’t have a KONG, it may be time for a trip to Amazon or to your local pet store…

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