Review and recipes for Kong dog toys.

Despite owning and training dogs for many years, I have never purchased a Kong dog toy before.  Mainly because my dogs always had company and rarely left alone and because I was lucky enough not have a dog that would fret when left.  However, I have only one dog these days – a batty collie names Floss.  She’s getting on in years now and has recently become rather clingy.  A couple of times I have returned home after a couple of hours to hear her barking as I get out of the car and on top of this, my neighbour informed me that one day Floss was barking for quite a long time – although she did say that wasn’t the norm (phew).

Nevertheless, on hearing this, we decided to set up a camera to see how she behaves when left. We discovered that she whines and paces as soon as the door is closed.  She will settle, but only right behind the front door, periodically lifting her lead and listening for any clues that someone might be returning.  She doesn’t really move from this spot and chooses to lie on the itchy doormat rather than her cosy bed!

It was then that I decided to try a Kong toy to provide her with a distraction for the few times we have to leave her alone.  The Kong product, devised by Joe Markham in the 1970’s, has quite an interesting background in fact.

While working on a vehicle in his yard, he noticed that his German Shepherd dog Fritz began chewing on a hard rubber suspension device and since it bothered him that Fritz spent a lot of time chewing on hard items like rocks, he decided to see if he could develop the suspension device into a dedicated dog toy.  He spent nearly six years experimenting with various compounds which would re-produce the vehicle part and it allegedly got its name because a friend of his remarked that it looked like an ear plug for King Kong!

Nowadays, it is probably one of the best known dog toys in the world and even though there have been new styles made by other manufacturers, this remains the most popular and well known interactive dog toy.

The toy comes in three different sizes to suit all breeds of dogs and the key aspect is that it can be stuffed with food or treats to distract and occupy dogs; particularly useful for dogs that suffer mild separation anxiety as it provides stimulation and helps the dog to remain calm.

Because it takes a bit of effort for dogs to extract the food from the toy, it helps to reduce destructive behaviour and helps them feel less anxious when left alone.  Chewing is in fact, a natural stress buster for dogs since it releases calming hormones, but this often means they will chew and destroy things you would rather they didn’t!

On first introducing Floss to the Kong, I stuffed it with raw mince and grated carrot which I chilled in the fridge the day before.  We set up a video to see how this would alter her behaviour when she was left for an hour.  The result was quite dramatic.  Floss took the Kong with great gusto and took it off to settle in the living room and barely gave any attention to us leaving the house.  She spent all of her time, chewing and rolling the Kong and didn’t pace or whine once.  The only disappointing element was that managed to lose the toy underneath a chair where she couldn’t reach it and this meant that she immediately went back to whining and sitting at the door.

I began to think about what to stuff the Kong with, bearing in mind that if you freeze the Kong and its contents, it will last much longer.  You could even stuff one or more Kongs if you intend to be out of the house a little longer.  Many people have two Kongs that they rotate the usage of, as they will need rinsing and cleaning after each use.

What to stuff in a Kong?

There are lots of things you could stuff the Kong with; many of them really healthy additions to your dog’s diet too!  Here are few ideas to get you going.

  • Mashed sweet potato; either on its own, or mixed with small pieces of cooked liver, peas, grated raw carrot.

  • Peanut butter is another popular choice and dogs love it. BUT, it is high in calories and it is also important to check the label carefully in case it contains artificial sweeteners, such as Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

  • Any wet or dry dog food that your dog usually eats.  Biscuits can be briefly soaked in a little warm water.

  • Scrambled egg; on its own or mixed with a small amount of soaked whole meal bread.

  • Tuna

  • Cottage cheese (on its own or mixed with tuna)

  • Raw mince (good for freezing).

Freezing Kongs are a good way to make them last longer and great for warm days too.  Use onion and salt free stock (mix some cooked chicken or liver with it perhaps) and you have a fantastic tasting doggy lollipop that your dog will relish!

I was really impressed with the instant effectiveness of the Kong and not only is it ideal for anxious dogs when they are alone, they are great for helping dogs to settle when visitors come round for instance, or to keep him occupied while you are busy at home.  Floss already associates us leaving the house with being handed a tasty stuffed toy treat – if she could talk, I think she would even be asking when we are next going out so she can settle down with her Kong!