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.
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.
Soak for 30 minutes
Chuck in some unsoaked kibble. It adds texture and crunch
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.
Add some chopped carrot. This is a great way of adding volume, crunch, and interest without significantly increasing the calorie count.
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.
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.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read