How to Train Your Dog to Play With a Kong

Easy
7-10 Days
Fun

Introduction

Kong toys have been around for a long time. They were created by a dog owner whose dog would not stop chewing on things around the house. The story goes, while working on a car one day, the dog was eating rocks and sticks and things that could cause him harm. As his owner was tossing out car parts in frustration, the dog ran over to a part made of rubber and started chewing on it. This particular car part was the inspiration for their first Kong dog toy. The founder of Kong created a durable rubber toy for dogs to play with to ease that need for chewing. A bonus that wasn't often found in other toys was the ability to hide food inside a toy so the dog could work, play, and be rewarded while the owners were busy doing other things. Kong toys bounce, hide treats, and are made of a durable rubber that will last for a long time.

Defining Tasks

Some dogs look at Kongs and wonder what they are supposed to do with them. Other dogs have their owners shake the treats out of the Kong toys, making the Kong a toy for the owner and not for the dog. Training your dog to love and play with his Kong is really a matter of teaching him what it is and how valuable it will be for his day-to-day life. Making the commitment by hiding lots of goodies in it, especially at first, is one way to introduce the Kong into your dog's world. Puppies will especially enjoy the rubbery texture as they go through their baby teeth. Keeping your dog from chewing on everything you own can be helped by teaching your dog how to use a Kong. Kongs are toys, chores, entertainment, and rewards built into one, so make it fun for your dog, and he will want to play with his Kong all the time.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need a Kong toy that is an appropriate size for your dog. Keep in mind if you have a larger breed dog who is growing, you may need to start with a small one when your dog is a puppy and grow into a larger size as your dog grows. You will also need some treats to put inside the Kong. If your dog is not eager to play with the Kong right off the bat with regular treats, you may want to have high-value treats such as yogurt, nut butter, and peanut butter on hand to scoop inside the Kong.  Have some time set aside to help train your dog to play with his Kong so he understands what it is and how it can benefit him. Have patience and don't leave the Kong out all the time while he is learning to play with it, or it could become another lost toy with no interest.

The Know Your Kong Method

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Step
1
Size
Kong makes several toys. If you are trying to get your dog to play with a Kong, it’s important to know the right size for your dog.
Step
2
Brag
Talk to your dog about his new Kong and how much he’s going to love it. Talk it up so he knows by your voice how interested you are in his new toy.
Step
3
Fill it up
Fill it with tasty treats, or even better, a spoonful of peanut butter to entice your dog.
Step
4
Challenge
Fill it with kibble, treats, and a tad of peanut butter to make it more difficult to get the treats out.
Step
5
Freeze
Fill the Kong with water and treats and then place it in the freezer. You can also use chicken broth to entice your dog even more than with water.
Step
6
Encourage play
The more excited you are when it’s time to play with the Kong, the more excited he will be.
Recommend training method?

The High Value Treat Method

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Step
1
Stuff it
Kongs are fun toys that can be filled with delicious foods and treats. To keep your dog’s interest, start by filling it with something different. Yogurt, peanut butter, or nut butter can easily go into a Kong. If you want something with less mess, try a few nuts.
Step
2
Play
Roll it around with your dog, let him sniff it, and talk with him about the treat inside. To keep the mess out of your home, this can be done outside.
Step
3
Mix foods
Once your dog is used to licking the higher value, soft and sticky foods out, put less in and replace with harder treats or kibble. You can mix these foods while your dog gets used to getting the kibble out with the soft foods like yogurt.
Step
4
Length of time
Time your dog the first few times he’s interested in the Kong and begin to take it from him if he shows boredom with it. Over time, this could become a coveted toy if your dog plays with it void of food inside. If he does this, you can stop taking it away from him or choose to only give it to him with special foods.
Step
5
Encourage
If you are taking it away during training while he’s still interested in it, when you offer it again, be sure to hype the Kong play time up with lots of verbal excitement. Let your dog watch you fill it with tasty treats before giving it to him.
Step
6
Meals
Some dogs love their Kong toys so much once they are used to using them, they eat entire meals through the Kong.
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The Show Off Method

Effective
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Step
1
Fill the Kong
Put some fun treats inside the Kong, such as dried liver or nuts.
Step
2
Interact
Sit with your dog and play with the Kong. Try not to let him have it at first, but rather roll it around and let him watch the treats fall out as it rolls.
Step
3
Treat
Let your dog eat each treat as they fall out of the Kong. Be sure to get excited so he knows he’s doing something good and earning treats just by playing with you.
Step
4
Let your dog play
Back up a bit and let your dog try to roll the Kong around the get the treats out.
Step
5
Encourage
If he’s not successful at first, encourage him by assisting with the rolling of the Kong until a treat falls out. When you see a treat, encourage your dog to eat it and celebrate verbally so he knows he can eat it and he’s done well.
Step
6
Practice
Practice with your Kong a few times a day with small treats until your dog is excited to receive his Kong each time you give it to him. With lots of practice and play time, the Kong can entertain your dog during times you need him to be busy like when you are cooking dinner, for instance.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Jamba
Mutt
3 Years
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Question
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Jamba
Mutt
3 Years

After using the Kong is supposed to remove the toy from the dog?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello, If he is staying interested in the toy, you can leave it with him because him being interested in it and choosing to chew on it on his own is the goal. If pup is ignoring the toy and it's just lying around untouched, remove it between the times when you stuff it with food and play with it with him to make it more special when you do give it - until he begins staying interested in it more often, then you can leave it with him more. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rose
Kelpie cross German Shepherd
11 Months
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Question
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Rose
Kelpie cross German Shepherd
11 Months

Rose is a rescue & shows major signs of Separation Anxiety when we leave her alone in our backyard, even for very short periods of time. She barks like she’s crying out. I’ve tried A Kong, she shows no interest. I’ve tried a shuffle mat, only worked the first couple of times for a very short time. We’ve tried leaving her for very short & varying intervals, still the same reaction. She has become particularly attached to my husband & looks for him the moment he leaves the room. Any other ideas for us please? We love her to pieces and exercise her twice a day. She very social with both other dogs and people. Help! Please

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
703 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gabriella, The first step is to work on building her independence and her confidence by adding a lot of structure and predictability into her routine. Things such as making her work for rewards like meals, walks, and pets. Working on "Stay" and "Place," commands while you move away or leave the room, and teaching her to remain inside a crate when the door is open - similar to a Place command. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Distance Down-Stay using a long leash: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Second, work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark While she is outside during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 2 minutes outside, open the door and sprinkle some treats on the ground, then leave again. As she improves, only give the treats every 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hours. Work up to her being outside when the weather is nice and it's safe to do so 1-2 hours each day that you can. Whenever she cries, open the door and tell her "Quiet" one time. If she gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats outside after five minutes if she stays quiet. If she continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at her side when you open the door while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Another option is to high a trainer who specializes in behavior issues and is very knowledgeable about e-collars and use a low level, "Working level" stimulation based e-collar when she barks (in combination with rewards when she is quiet) so that you don't have to give her additional attention by opening to door to correct. This should be done on her working level - which is the lowest level that your particular dog indicates they feel the collar on while calm - and is determined ahead of time while you are in the room and things are calm. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever she cries. Make sure you are also working on adding structure and building her independence through the commands and structure mentioned at the beginning of my comment as well though for the training to be effective. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Henny
American Pit Bull Terrier
4 Months
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Question
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Henny
American Pit Bull Terrier
4 Months

Chewing everything and play biting

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
124 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. I am going to give you a command to teach your dog, as well as information on puppy nipping. The command is "leave it". And leave it is great for anything you want your dog to stop getting into. That will help with the chewing. Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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