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. 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 behaved 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. The whole time she’s alone she periodically lifts her head; listening for clues that may suggest we are returning. She doesn’t really move from this spot and chooses to lie on the itchy doormat rather than her cosy bed!
History and development of the Kong toy.
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.
While working on a vehicle in his yard, Joe noticed that his German Shepherd dog Fritz began chewing on a hard rubber suspension device. 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. The toy allegedly got its name because a friend of Joe’s remarked one day that it looked like an ear plug for King Kong!
Nowadays, it is probably one of the best known dog toys in the world. Even though there have been new styles made by other manufacturers, the original Kong remains the most popular and well known interactive dog toy.
What makes them different from other dog toys?
The toy comes in three different sizes to suit all breeds of dogs. It can be stuffed with food, or treats, to keep dogs busy. They are said to be particularly useful for dogs that suffer mild separation anxiety. The treat toy 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 reduces destructive behaviour and helps dogs feel less anxious when left alone. Chewing is, in fact, a natural stress buster for dogs. Chewing releases calming hormones. However, this often means dogs will chew on things you’d rather they didn’t!
On first introducing Floss to the Kong, I stuffed it with raw mince and grated carrot. 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 when it was offered to her. She went off to settle in the living room and barely gave any attention to us leaving the house.
Watching the camera, we saw that she spent all of her time, chewing and rolling the Kong. She didn’t pace, or whine once. The only disappointing element was that she managed to lose the toy underneath a chair. She was unable to reach it, which meant that she immediately went back to whining and sitting at the door.
I began to think about what to stuff the Kong with. A Kong and its contents can be frozen, meaning it will last much longer. You could even stuff more than one Kong if you intend to be out of the house a little longer.
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. Avoid products containing artificial sweeteners, such as Xylitol, as this is toxic to dogs.
Any wet, or dry dog food, that your dog usually eats.
Scrambled egg. On its own or mixed with a small amount of soaked whole meal bread to bind it together.
Cottage cheese. On its own, or mixed with tuna.
Raw mince. Good for freezing.
Freezing a Kong is a good way to make them last longer. A frozen Kong is great as a refreshing treat in hot weather too. Use onion and salt free stock and you have a fantastic tasting doggy lollipop that your dog will relish!
I was really impressed with the instant effectiveness of the Kong. For dogs with mild separation anxiety, Kongs can be really helpful. Kongs are also great for helping dogs to settle when visitors come round. They are brilliant to keep puppies occupied for a while too.
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!