Jump to section
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Fill it up
Fill it with tasty treats, or even better, a spoonful of peanut butter to entice your dog.
Fill it with kibble, treats, and a tad of peanut butter to make it more difficult to get the treats out.
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.
The more excited you are when it’s time to play with the Kong, the more excited he will be.
The High Value Treat Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some dogs love their Kong toys so much once they are used to using them, they eat entire meals through the Kong.
The Show Off Method
Fill the Kong
Put some fun treats inside the Kong, such as dried liver or nuts.
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.
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.
Let your dog play
Back up a bit and let your dog try to roll the Kong around the get the treats out.
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.
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.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 10/17/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
More articles by Stephanie Plummer