The inspiration behind the classic rubber Kong toy was a rubber car part a desperate owner chucked to his barking dog one day to keep him quiet. The dog enjoyed chomping on his new DIY toy so much that the Kong dog toy was born soon after, based on a similar design and using the same, industrial strength rubber.
Kong toys are incredibly diverse in their uses. They can serve as chew toys, retrieval toys, dog treat dispensers or even as trickle feeders. The high value most dogs attach to their Kongs also make them perfect training rewards.
Behavioural problem or natural instinct?
Most of the day to day dog behaviour ‘problems’ exist simply because we have taken a wild animal out of their natural habitat and expected them to adapt to our homes and lifestyle without giving them alternative ways to express natural dog behaviour. The unique Kong toy can help you solve many of these problems!
Don’t chew that!
Dogs love to chew, particularly puppies as they explore the world with their mouths and later relieve the pain of teething by chewing on objects. Many adult dogs continue to have a strong drive to chew and big adult dog jaws can make short work of your valuable possessions. Your dog will make no distinction between smelly old slippers and your brand new designer shoes so you will need to give him clear alternatives, a stuffed Kong toy for instance, and praise him every time he goes for the toy and not a household item.
An excitable puppy biting or leaping up when over-stimulated can often be redirected from the problem behaviour by introducing play with a favourite toy. A game of tug or fetch is usually a better method of channelling excess energy rather than attempting to get your dog to sit or stay – a real challenge to a dog’s self-control.
If you have a nervous dog that reacts badly to strangers but has learnt to adore his Kong, you can use the toy to help break down the barriers. Encourage strangers to throw the Kong in a game of fetch. In this way you can re-condition your dog to accept the new person as a fun new human friend who understands how great Kongs are!
In the wild dogs and wolves hunt over wide ranging territories, often on the move for most of the day. Your dog barking non-stop is often a sign of boredom in high energy dogs not given enough outlets for their natural stores of energy. If you don’t have time to spend all day in the park with your dog there are toys which can keep your dog occupied during the day, stimulating him mentally and physically with the promise of edible rewards.
Try lining a Classic Kong with some peanut butter or get your dog a plastic Kong Wobbler dog treat dispenser toy (left) which is designed to dish out treats as your dog pushes and paws it around the house. It rolls around and wobbles unpredictably, creating an exciting ‘chase’ for your dog!
Dogs are pack animals and spend very little time alone in the wild. Because of this, many dogs have a great fear of isolation and abandonment which manifests itself as separation anxiety and behavioural problems such as barking, urinating in the home and destructive chewing. You can train your dog to be left alone by first leaving for very short periods of time. If you enter and leave the house by different doors this can help your dog settle. It also helps to act out the ‘leaving ritual’ several times a day without actually going anywhere (picking up your keys and putting a coat on etc.)
When you leave your dog provide him with a highly attractive treat dispenser toy. A stuffed Kong toy is one of the most popular items used for this by owners and trainers. The unique shape means that your dog will take some time to extract all the goodies inside, especially if you coat the sides with peanut butter or wet dog food and pop the Kong in a freezer for a few hours.
What do you put in your dog’s Kong? Let us know about your favourite Kong ‘recipes’ in the comments below.