What we needed was a distraction. Something that would occupy the mind and the tastebuds… Kong to the Rescue!
After listening to the (very polite!) complaints from the neighbours about Phoebe’s incessant howling while I’m at work I now accepted the fact that Phoebe was experiencing some serious Separation Anxiety.
But what to do about it?
I had seen it mentioned on blogs and sites before, and when I saw the pictures I recognised that odd-shaped wobbly red thing from the petshops, but had no idea what it was. The internet was telling me it was an essential life-saving and dog-saving tool that was indispensible. I rushed out to get one.
In looking for the best ways to use it I discovered that there’s a devoted following of people who sing the praises of this incredible rubber thing.
Phoebe’s very first Kong was just filled with a bit of kibble and plugged with some peanut butter. I gave it to her by her bowl and she excitedly licked all the peanut butter off, tried to get her tongue in to get the kibble, and then promptly gave up. She looked at me with a mixture of puzzlement and frustration that clearly said “Why would you give me this thing that smells so delicious, but I can’t have the treats? That’s just mean!”
I then picked it up, made a show of letting a piece fall onto the floor and she gobbled it up. She tapped it with her nose, but nothing happened. She focussed that despairing look on me once more. I then pulled a piece half out of it, and let it roll towards her. As it rolled she nudged it again and then a magical thing happened! Another piece of kibble fell out! “What wonderful trickery is this?!”
Suddenly her interest and excitement was piqued! She picked the Kong up and rushed to her bed with it firmly between her paws, after a few unsuccessful attempts to get the kibble out she realised that her moving it around resulted in those prized treats falling forth, and just waiting for her to snatch them up!
What joy! What fun!
I’ve been slow to experiment with too many new fillings, but she’s loved them all and doesn’t seem to get bored of having the same combination of treats often. The problem is that everything still has to be mostly dry food with the small plug as everytime I’ve tried to fill it and freeze it she seems to lose interest. I’ve tested this by leaving the frozen Kong for her when I leave, but when I get home it’s lying in a messy puddle untouched. I’m still trying to figure out if she’s just lazy, or if the feeling of the cold freaks her out. She’s definitely a food driven dog, so I would normally expect her to gobble it all up after defrosting, but it still just lays there fermenting in the sun. It’s a puzzle, but I’ll figure out the strange hiccup soon.
So now you have the back story. Onto the specifics:
So what is a Kong?
It’s a tough, hollow, rubber cone-shaped toy designed to be filled with tasty treats of your choice. They come in different sizes, are freezer proof, and are extremely resilient to being chewed. I have yet to hear of a dog that has destroyed one (though I’m sure there are a few Pitties or GSD’s out there who must have!).
What dogs will benefit from this?
From what I can tell, every dog can benefit from one. I can especially see why it would be such a good treat for teething puppies determined to chew and be destructive.
The reason I got it is because it’s so highly recommended for dogs with separation anxiety as the benefits are twofold: 1) The dog is distracted while the owner leaves, and for the first few minutes when gone and consequently 2) your dog associates you leaving with something interesting, tasty and positive.
The Kong is also great to distract your dog if needed – maybe you have company, you need to distract your pup from a storm, or just need to get his four paws out of the way for whatever reason.
There are also Kongs of varying degrees of difficulty to help stimulate and entertain the dog who needs some extra mental stimulation in their day.
What do you fill it with?
Anything and everything! (Except of course anything on this list. They’re all doggy no-no’s!)
Here are a few simple recipe’s I’ve either tried, or plan to soon. You can find more interesting recipes on the official Kong Website, and feel free to share your own recipes in the comments section as well!
A word of caution though, just because it can be filled with anything, doesn’t mean that it should be filled with everything – there are a few recipes out there that may be delicious to the dogs, but seem like a surefire way to guarantee an upset stomach, especially if your dog doesn’t get a lot of variety in their diet already. Remember, as with any new foods, introduce them slowly and in gradually increasing quantities.
The Most Basic: To combat dehydration, and keep your pup cool on a hot day
1. Plug the small end of the Kong with Cottage Cheese
1. Place Kong in a mug that it fits snugly into
2. Pour Hot Water into a second mug and allow stock / marmite to dissolve in it
3. Once cooled, pour into the Kong
4. Freeze overnight
5. Give to Fido as a refreshing treat in hot weather
The above is the general method to fill and prepare most Kongs. Here are a few filler ideas I’ve used and/or plan to use:
– Kibble layered with fat-free cottage cheese and dry pellets/kibble
– Kibble layered with low salt peanut butter
– Canned dog food with some homemade dog biscuits
– Kibble mixed with minced beef
– Boiled rice and chicken pieces
– The Breakfast Kong: light mix of kibble, scrambled eggs, fat-free cheese and a touch of bacon – A firm favourite!
I’m still working on getting Phoebe to enjoy her fruits and veg, but so far she isn’t interested. If your dog isn’t as fussy as Phoebe some other ingredients I’ve heard are great and nutritious to stuff Kongs with are: apples, banana, yoghurt, green beans, sweet potato and carrots.
Phoebe’s Effectiveness Summary:
Issue Addressed: Separation Anxiety, Mental Stimulation, Play
Tool(s) Used: The Kong; various food ingredients
Cost: Low. Though the Kong isn’t exactly dirt cheap, the use you get out of it and the fact that it lasts so long makes it more than worth the investment
Ease of Implementation: Low. You can premake it and pop it in the fridge or freezer then whip out as needed
Phoebe’s Effectiveness Rating: 5/5 for Mental Stimulation and Play. For Separation Anxiety I only give it a 3/5 for now because she’s still howling, but only starts about 30 minutes after I leave now, as opposed to straight away. Baby steps.