Stuffable puzzle toys for dogs are a saving grace around the holidays! I consider the equivalent of setting a young child up with a coloring book and crayons as busy work when guests are over. One of the most classic dog puzzle toys around is the Kong, a durable rubber toy with a hollow center which comes in a variety of sizes and strengths, to suit nearly any dog on the planet. How I often wish that I had been the inventor of this brilliantly simple, yet ingenious design!
As much as I consider the Kong the foundation piece of a new dog’s puzzle collection, some owners complain to me that their pet sadly showed no interest in this iconic dog toy. My reply? You must not have introduced it in quite the right way yet.
I always think back to the first time I was gifted a Rubik’s Cube. Ugh! It seemed to be just a bunch of ugly colors on an utterly boring cube-shaped hunk of plastic. However, when I was finally given enough hints about how to solve the puzzle, I became an addict. I didn’t even want to set the gadget down long enough to eat dinner!
Thus, when you introduce a dog to the Kong toy in the right way, your dog will become addicted to playing with it—and that will be immensely useful to you. Need your dog to keep out of your hair while you serve dinner to your guests? Kong to the rescue! Let me share with you some of my favorite tips for getting a dog hooked on this toy.
To begin with, choose Kong fillings that your dog simply can’t resist. With Thanksgiving approaching, try these recipes out:
Turkey Day Breakfast:
First, put a small amount of scrambled eggs into the bottom of the Kong, towards the end with the smaller opening. Layer in banana slices, apple chunks, cinnamon, plain yogurt, a small nibble of buttered toast and oatmeal as desired. (Tip: save dog-safe breakfast and dinner leftovers in a “doggy bag” in your fridge so you’ll have them on hand for Kong stuffing.)
Grandma’s Thanksgiving Feast:
Wedge a chunk of turkey into the narrow end of the toy, then layer in dollops of other holiday favorites. Dressing (avoid the onions), gravy (take it easy—a little taste goes a long way), your dog’s regular kibble (there’s gotta be a bit of nutritional balance, even during a celebration), mashed potatoes, green beans, yams, even cranberries. If you normally cook turkey gizzards up for the family pets, consider layering in bits of those, too.
Just Desserts for the Good Dog:
Who doesn’t love the flavor of pumpkin during this season? Many dogs also flip for this fabulous fall favorite. Crumble your dog’s favorite dog biscuit into the tip of the Kong as “crust.” Then layer tiny tidbits of unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream and canned pumpkin with sprinkles of cinnamon.
But My Dog Still Doesn’t Love the Kong
Getting your dog hooked on this puzzle toy may be easier than you think. Here’s my secret:
- Start with a hungry dog.
- Have your a dish of healthy dog food to use at treats at the ready. (See my Weekly Yip, Top 10 Training Treats, for inspiration.)
- Reward your dog for experimentation revolving around the Kong. Dog looks at Kong, treat. Dog sniffs Kong, treat. Dog licks Kong, treat. Dog picks up Kong—jackpot—treat, treat, treat!)
- When one type of interest your dog shows becomes routine, raise your criteria for an extra treat. If your dog now easily picks the Kong up, for example, you might wait for your dog to drop it on the ground and chase the bouncing toy, or hold it down with one paw while gnawing at it.
If you’ve stuffed your dog’s Kong with a delicious parfait of surprises and have played this game long enough, I’d be truly surprised if your dog didn’t start showing the initiative to seek this toy out. In fact, I recently worked with a small, shy, rescued dog who really hadn’t shown much interest in his Kong toy during his first months home.
I spent no more than forty-five minutes playing this game with him, and later that night, I received email from his “mom” saying he’d left the bedroom to retrieve his Kong toy and bring it back to his bed after I had left.
If you can get your dog hooked on the classic Kong toy before Thanksgiving Day, you’ll have a powerful tool up your sleeve if your goal is to keep your dog entertained and out of trouble as you tend to your human guests.