One of the most common questions I'm asked as a trainer is, "What is the safest chew toy for my dog?" We see articles in the news all the time about the dangers of rawhide chews, bully sticks, and Nylabones. It can seem like there is a horror story about every type of chew out there!
The chew toy that I always recommend to people as being safe and one that can occupy your dog for a long time is a Kong. A Kong is a versatile chew toy that is a favorite in our house. Our freezer is always stocked full of Kongs ready to go. We use them to occupy the dogs when we aren't home or when we just need a peaceful moment. We love them!
The Kong is a beautiful thing because it rewards all of the behaviors you like to see in your dog. While they are chewing they are being rewarded for 1) Being quiet, 2) Laying in one spot, and 3) Chewing on their own toy. How great for them (and for you!)
To make the Kong your dog's favorite, first you need to know how to fill it up with goodies they love! The Kong is shaped like a cone, and it has holes in both ends. It has a large hole on one end so you can stuff it with yummy treats, and a small hole on the other end to prevent suction. When filling the Kong be careful not to shove food down into the small hole so that suction doesn't build up while your dog is chewing.
Here are four different options for the Kong, but feel free to get creative!
1) The meal Kong: Fill the Kong about 3/4 full of your dog's meal. Fill the last 1/4 up with wet dog food. A quick trick for using wet dog food in a Kong is to put the food into a sandwich bag and then cut the corner off the bag and squeeze the food right into the Kong. It's much quicker than using a spoon! Freeze the Kong to make it last longer.
2) The special occasion Kong: Use a knife to spread peanut butter, cream cheese, or canned food all over the inside of the Kong for your dog to lick out. Next, fill the Kong with kibble or treats. Finally, top off with the peanut butter, cream cheese, or canned food. Remember to freeze for longer-lasting fun!
3) The healthy Kong: Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the inside of the Kong. Next, insert as large of an apple piece as you can fit into the Kong. Dogs love this because they can lick the apple for a long time before it comes out!
4) The "very very good boy" Kong: First, spread a thin layer of canned food on the inside of the Kong. Next, put a teaspoon of crumbled bacon in the bottom of the Kong. For the next layer, use part of a hot dog cut into eraser sized pieces. Next, put in a couple of your dog's favorite dry treats. Top the Kong off with cream cheese, peanut butter, or canned food. Freeze for at least an hour.
Remember to check the label on your peanut butter and make sure that it is either not sweetened at all or only sweetened with sugar. Some peanut butter brands are starting to use artificial sweeteners that can cause serious health problems in dogs.
To clean your Kong, either use a bottle brush or put it in the dishwasher. Check to make sure that your dog got all of the food out of it before refilling it so that old food doesn't rot in there.
If you have any more Kong recipe ideas, feel free to send them in to DurangoFamilyDogTraining@gmail.com