Preparing Kongs without the need to freeze

All manner of enrichment items have evolved in recent years but, for me, the humble Kong is still a firm favourite.  It was certainly one of the forerunners and has stood the test of time.  People realised that freezing the Kong made it last considerably longer and this was often suggested for heavy chewers or dogs who emptied the Kong in seconds.  It now seems commonplace that Kongs get frozen.  I’m not at all against freezing them, I did it for years (and sometimes still do) but it’s by no means essential.  So this is how I now prepare the majority of Kongs.

 

Chuck some of your dog’s daily allowance in a tub (this is about 90 grams). I feed kibble but you could do similar with whatever you feed.

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Add some water. The water, in this case, doesn’t quite cover the kibble. This is because the kibble is Millies Wolfheart and doesn’t contain grains.  If your kibble contains grains it will soak up much more water and expand to about 3 times its original size.  Warm water is often used to soften kibble but, with no grain, I don’t find warm water to be beneficial so I use cold.

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Soak for 30 minutes

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Chuck in some unsoaked kibble. It adds texture and crunch

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Chuck in some meat scraps.  These are chicken off-cuts which are cooked and kept refrigerated until needed for doggy enrichment. They are not essential but I think it’s nice for the dog to find a few treats in there.

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Add some chopped carrot. This is a great way of adding volume, crunch, and interest without significantly increasing the calorie count.

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Mix it all up. I just use my hands, it’s easier and I have to get it all in the Kong so I don’t worry about getting a little messy.

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Fill the Kongs, compacting the food in there with your thumb.  If a dog was new to Kongs, I wouldn’t compact them, I’d leave it to fall out more easily.

You can give them to the dog now or do as I do and place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat your own meal. This way, I eat my meal, and my canine companion eats at the same time, which I think is nice.  Two compacted Kongs usually last Mr B. longer than it takes me to eat my meal.  No stress, no scrounging and it is such a routine that even if he does finish first he just relaxes contently.

I prefer to use the dog’s main diet for enrichment so that I’m not adding too many extra calories. Even the meat scraps that I use are accounted for in Mr B’s weekly food allowance. You can fill Kongs with all manner of interesting things, as is evident by the many ideas posted in the Canine Enrichment Kong Filling post, but if you are adding extras please allow for this in their daily food allowance to avoid overfeeding.

 

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Mr B. enjoying his Kong

 

They say that dogs are loyal!

They say that dogs are loyal
I tend to disagree
They have no other option
They can’t leave or run free
 ~
We bring them into our lives
They don’t have a choice
The dog does not complain
Because they do not have a voice
  ~
They can’t pack a bag
Or slip away by night
they must stay, whatever
And simply face their plight
  ~
Life is based on chance
A roll of the dice
Live with someone horrid
Or live with someone nice
  ~
Dogs depend on us
And what we choose to give
How we meet their needs
Decides how happily they live
 ~
Don’t we owe it to them
To do the best we can
To give them all they need
So that dog can live with man
  ~
We can give so much more
Than water, warmth and food
There are many more activities
Which we could and should include
  ~
Give the dog an interest
Give them something to enjoy
Like playing with a doggy friend
Or a box they can destroy
  ~
Take them to the river
To the fields and through the mud
Let them be a dog
And do the things dogs should
  ~
Let them play and run
And sniff and then to seek
Give them all the things they’d ask for
If they could only speak
  ~
~Shay Kelly~2018~

Canine Enrichment: Cruel or Crucial?

It was recently suggested to me (not for the first time) that using a dog’s food for enrichment activities is cruel because it’s forcing them to do things against their will in order to eat.

The definition of enrichment is to make something better, more rewarding or more meaningful.  The purpose of canine enrichment, therefore,  is to make a dog’s life better, more rewarding and meaningful.

The vast majority of dogs are kept as pets. They don’t have a job working alongside us as their ancestors once did.  They can’t usually go to the office with us. They can’t wander the neighbourhood as they once did (more about that here).  Dogs are not free to do as they please; like it or not, they are captive animals.  Over the years we’ve manipulated them through selective breeding into all sorts of shapes and sizes and for all kinds of purposes. No greater variant is found in any species within the entire animal kingdom.  But today, the majority are kept as pets, companions, and friends.  Sounds lovely, and it is, but they no longer have any real job.  The lives of many dogs are comparable with little more than a rug; day after day after day after day of lying around the house and occasionally tripping people over.

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Photo by Itay Kabalo on Unsplash

Visit the website of any zoo and you will find information on their animal enrichment activities.  It’s become normal practice, and not before time.  It’s perfectly clear that animals need stimulation. They need something interesting to do with their day.  Without stimulation, they often develop behaviour problems, depression, stress and general poor welfare. Doesn’t a pet dog also deserve enrichment? Shouldn’t a dog’s life be interesting, stimulating and worthwhile?  Should they not be given the opportunity to use that amazing brain?

There are many forms of enrichment, including, Sensory (scent games, sniffing, pet bubbles, nature sounds); Toys (balls, squeaky toys, tugs, chew toys); Social interaction (meeting other dogs, spending time with people, stroking, grooming); Environmental (Streams, fields, woods, beach) and Feeding (kongs, slow feeders, pick-pockets, snuffle mats).  They are not mutually exclusive and are often used together.   We don’t live in a perfect world and most dogs don’t get the stimulation or exercise they need.  Approximately 45% of all dogs are thought to be overweight.

Some very simple things can make a real difference. Weigh out the daily food (so you are not under or over-feeding), hide it around the house, roll it in a tea-towel, place some in your old cereal box, roll it across the floor for them to chase, do little training sessions with food rewards, place your cushions on the floor with a piece of food under each one, make a scent/food trail, use a stack of plastic cups with food between each cup, save the empty toilet rolls and hide food inside. Allow them to stop and sniff and be interested in things; it doesn’t have to be difficult or immensely time-consuming, let them chill-out when they want to but make life interesting and make it worthwhile.

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Mr B with his K9Connectables
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Mr B enjoying a cardboard box

The vast majority of animals spend a huge proportion of their time trying to acquire enough food; you could say, it’s what they live for (well, that and reproduction).  No species in the history of the world has ever needed food placed in front of them in a bowl. Dogs are no different.  Let them enjoy life; let them live.

So, is canine enrichment cruel?  or is it crucial?