You’ve all seen them and have probably even got one but are you using your KONG effectively?
The Classic KONG is a fantastic toy to keep your dog busy and get them out of your hair for a little bit but did you know that they can also be an even better tool to help eradicate unwanted behavioural problems within the home such as:
- Whining / Crying
- Destructive Behaviour
- Separation Anxiety
- Irregular Eating Schedule
- Crate Training
There are hundreds of recipes available on Pinterest and other various blogs which have almost began to complicate the KONG and distract away from it’s key function; so in this blog post I aim to show you that there are some very simple things you can be doing which can be applied to help almost any dog with unwanted behavioural issues in the home.
Buying your KONG
When it comes to picking the right size KONG for your dog, try to remember that they are thick (to be durable) so don’t hold as much as you might think. The best rule of thumb is to find the size which feels right for your dog and then grabbing the next size up!
The bigger the KONG, the bigger the feeding hole, which means they are more likely to maintain an interest in the rewards and not give up out of frustration.
The next thing to remember when buying your KONG is not to get just one, you want at least three. I know, it sounds crazy but stick with me…
Having more than one KONG allows you to have some in reserve so your dog is never left without and you can keep managing their behaviour. You want one always filled and ready to go, a second one with the dog and a third one being washed. It does increase the initial investment but trust me on this one, your life has just become a whole lot easier!
Stuffing your KONG
The first thing to bear in mind when it comes to filling your KONG is that you must keep it simple. So you’re not using apple, cream cheese, mashed potato or shredded carrots in your dog’s KONG? Who cares?! These all over complicate the simple idea of KONG, make prepping much more of an effort and deter you from actually using the KONG as a regular tool.
Of course, if you enjoy doing it there is no reason why you shouldn’t get involved with those recipes. In fact, KONG have a list of approved recipes on their website and we also have a simple, fun feeding suggestion available.
These should be thought of only as the occasional treat though. Don’t let this put you off stuffing the KONG in future and definitely don’t fall into the trap that your dog isn’t going to enjoy working at a KONG unless they have dried cranberries and pumpkin puree in it.
The reward a dog gets from a KONG is as valuable as you make it and with that in mind, the most straightforward filler is their own dried dog food. It is easy for you to get a hold of, it is always on hand and it is cheap – remember, this is all steered towards creating a sustainable longterm tool.
Be responsible and figure out how much of your dog’s daily food allowance each KONG holds. Take their daily KONG feeds off of their morning or evening meals to ensure you aren’t overfeeding.
To fill the KONG, stuff it with the dry food and pour water in it. Once it’s stopped dripping too much, place it on a plate in the freezer and wait 4 hours or so for it freeze over – this is where having multiple KONGs really comes in handy!
By freezing the KONG you are creating work for the dog, incentivising the reward and ensuring it lasts longer. Unfrozen dry food will fall out too quickly and before you know it the dog is finished and back to causing trouble!
Once you take your frozen KONG out of the freezer pop a dollop of something quick and easy like PeaMUTT Butter to hook their interest.
Feeding the KONG
When you are introducing this new world of KONG to your dog it is important to train them to love it and have structure.
This may mean that you avoid using a bowl altogether for the first week or two, until they are at a point where they go loopy at the sight of the KONG.
It is also vital to stick to the same routine each time. When you reveal the KONG ask the dog to go their bed or their crate and this is where they eat it – the same place every time. this kind of routine is integral to training and will be the difference between success and failure.
You then simply leave the dog alone and let the work at their KONG. This is a self-rewarding activity for the dog – the harder they work, the more of a reward they see. By instigating this kind of self-training the dog is getting used to being on their own, they see there is nothing to be afraid of or anxious about and before long they will actually enjoy their KONG time.
Now that your dog loves the KONG, it is time to move them back to their regular feeding schedule and routine of putting food in their bowl each morning and evening. You then only bring the KONG out when you really need it.
This whole process is engineering your dog to be comfortable on their own. That is the central idea behind a KONG but it does need to be trained into a dog.
A common misinterpretation of the KONG is that you just chuck things in it and your dog is going to automatically resolve all of their nervous or destructive behaviours. So many owners tell me that they tried it and it didn’t work, when in reality they haven’t given it a fair shake.
By initially using the KONG as a training tool, you are conditioning their brain to be relaxed within their own company. That means that when you need to go out or take a bath, you can trust that they are far less likely to get bored and begin to bark or destructively chew.
Bear in mind that this one method is not the only thing you will need to change to improve their behaviour. You will still need to walk and stimulate your dog regularly, after all all they want is love and attention!
If you would like to find out more about the KONG method, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or pop into an EveryDog. We offer private 1-2-1 training sessions to really focus in on your dog’s individual needs and get the best results.
We stock the Classic KONG in store and on our online shop, so don’t delay – train your dog to love KONG, help them to get more comfortable in their own company and see a difference in their behaviour!