Winter is upon us, and here in the Boone, NC, that means lots of cold weather, short days, and SNOW! How do we keep our dogs from driving us crazy during those long winter nights?
Working on your dog training skills with your dog is a great way to burn off some of that mental and physical energy they have! I love teaching new tricks to my students, plus it’s fun to have something to show off to guests!
But… what do you do when you don’t have time for a dog training session? Get out the Kong!
First things first…
First off, you need to get the right size Kong for your dog. Kongs are available in sizes XS up to XL, and are made for puppies, adults, seniors, and super chewers! If your dog likes to destroy toys, get them a black Kong, and only use it when you can keep an eye on them 😉
You may have heard that giving your dog a frozen Kong is a great way to slow down their eating and keep them busy for 20 minutes or so. This is true! HOWEVER…. you can’t just hand them a frozen Kong. Most dogs will get frustrated and give up. You have to start easy, and slowly build up the difficulty.
Kong Training Your Dog
Now that we have the appropriate size Kong for our dogs, we need to pick some tasty food to go in it! Here are a few suggestions:
- their normal kibble
- a fun, high-quality kibble from the pet store
- Sojos or other dehydrated food, soaked for 10 minutes or so
- Peanut butter (CHECK FOR XYLITOL FIRST! It can kill your dog)
- Canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin, not pie mix 🙂 )
- Canned dog food (pate’ or chunks)
- Cream cheese
- cottage cheese
- small dog treats
- bully sticks
- The list is really endless!
To begin, I suggest giving your dog the Kong with a handful of kibbles or another dry treat that will easily fall out. We need to teach your dog that rolling the Kong around and playing with it makes food appear! Supervise your dog closely in the beginning so you can make sure they aren’t going to eat the rubber Kong, too! Pick it up and put it away once the food is gone.
After 3 to 5 sessions, your dog should get pretty excited when they see the Kong. Now, you’re ready to make it a little bit harder! Smear something goopy that your dog loves (like peanut butter) on the inside of the Kong, then add the Kibbles so they get stuck to the side! Now your dog has to use their tongue to get the goodies out, not just rolling the Kong around.
Once your dog gets the hang of that, you can start adding more food to the Kong and freezing it for short periods of time. For now, we don’t want it totally frozen. We want it to be just a little bit harder to get the food out. If we make it too hard, our dogs will give up and the fun is over.
After a couple of weeks, your dog should be a Kong expert! My favorite way to stuff a Kong is to mix my dog’s normal kibble with some soaked Sojos (dehydrated raw food) inside the Kong. I then cover the big hole with a layer of yogurt and freeze overnight! The yogurt plug is super yummy, and takes 5 minutes or more for him to work through! By the time he gets to the Sojos and Kibble, they have softened enough that he can get his tongue in to work getting them out.
A well packed Kong can take a dog 15 to 20 minutes to eat! That’s 20 minutes you don’t have to worry about them getting into the Christmas tree 😉 It is also mentally and physically tiring! Many dogs are content to settle down for a nap after finishing their Kong.
What would your dog like to have stuffed in their Kong?