What a wonderful tool. Yes, a tool. These snowman-shaped rubber Kongs (usually red or black, though some now come in colors to indicate hardness and widen the sales market) - with a big hole at the bottom and a tiny one at the top - have been around for many decades. That's right, a long time. While a lot of people think it’s a toy, it’s not. It was developed by some serious canine behaviorists to help dogs lick more to lower their stress hormone levels by putting a lick-able food inside.
But there is more to a Kong than just something to lick. (Please be aware that there are a lot of knock-offs out there that try to tell you their product is the same as a Kong. Trust me, they aren't, at all.) Kong is special, and it's a tool I highly recommend. You see, there is a special lip only in a Kong that gets your dog to really use its tongue to get to the goody you've smeared in there.
By licking, your dog is exercising the largest muscle of its jaw muscle system and by manipulating it, your dog is instinctively calming itself down - lowering several “stress”hormone levels (though overexcitement can be part of creating that).
When a dog is anxious and can’t lick or use a resistive toy to get a similar result, they’ll find something they can chew to relieve their “stress,” because they feel that have to do something - couches, doors, sheetrock, metal crates, vinyl flooring, door trim, your best dining room chairs . . . . The list is extensive.
Kongs come in different sizes and hardness, even for power chewers. And frankly, most all dogs can use a Kong, but there a some that really can take them apart. Hence, the Kong Extreme or Ultra. It's better to go bigger than not big enough. You don't want to frustrate your dog. You want to be sure your dog can really get to the goodies.
WHAT DO I PUT IN A KONG?
I often hear people say peanut butter. I’m not necessarily a peanut butter fan. Some dogs don’t like the stuff, but for those that do, you'll want to head for the low fat aisle. By the way, never use just biscuits and pry them into the Kong. You can frustrate your dog and that is NEVER good. It can even turn your dog off a Kong for good! Don't be lazy. Get out the gooey stuff.
Here’s a list of what you might want to use.
Peanut Butter - low fat
Cheese in a squirt can
Cream cheese (consider low fat)
Canned dog food (especially if your do is on a special diet. Just be sure to use your dog’s brand.)
Kong’s gooey mix (comes in a squirt can) (Kong has changed its formula from what it was when it first came out - thankfully.)
Or mix up your own “pate” in the blender
Then there are the fillers, because you DON’T want to literally fill your Kong with just peanut butter or cheese, etc. This can help keep fat levels down. I like to add high-value little surprises in there for my dog. Here are some suggestions:
Kibble - your dog's brand
HOW DO I PUT ALL THIS TOGETHER?
Easy peasy. First take your gooey product, like peanut butter, and ice the inside of the Kong like you would a cake, but really lay it on in there on the sides. Next, put in some kibble or cheese - or whatever you’ve decided to use as your filler - then add more goo, which is going to act as your glue. Then add more kibble or cheese, then more peanut butter . . . . You get the idea. You’re making a mix, as a contractor would when making a sidewalk. He mixes the cement then adds his gravel. The peanut butter is your cement and the filler is your gravel.
Once the Kong is filled, just run your butter knife across the bottom to clean it off. Wha-lah! Done! “Here, Phydo! Look what I have for you!”
WHEN DO I GIVE IT TO MY DOG?
If I have a stressed dog, I give a Kong once a day, sometimes twice, and I cut back on the amount I feed at mealtimes. For starters, a Kong should be given during quiet time. After a week, or even two, I then start freezing my Kongs for my crew. (When I had three dogs, there were 12 Kongs in my freezer after I loaded them. With my schedule back then, I needed to be prepared.)
Do NOT give your dog a Kong only when you are leaving! Your dog will see the Kong as a negative, connecting it to your LEAVING, and you’ll lose a wonderful de-stressing tool. Once a dog does this, it’s unlikely it will ever touch a Kong again, no matter what you put in it. I recommend waiting a few weeks before giving that a try.
HOW DO I CLEAN A KONG?
Never put a Kong in the dishwasher. It's made of rubber. Wash by hand, if necessary. I rarely washed a Kong, my dogs were that through. And lastly, I recommend having 3-4 Kongs on hand.