I’m glad you’ve stopped to read this post on how to use a Kong because the majority of dog owners are using them in the wrong way, so you can make sure you’re not one of them!
How to use a Kong, wrong!
The wrong way of using a Kong, involves filling it with food and giving it to a dog to spend time trying to get the food out in order to:
- Stop them from being destructive , or barking excessively while you are out.
- Stop them from being hyperactive around the house.
- Keep them quiet when you have visitors etc.
Why are these wrong? Because they are just a sticking plaster for a serious problem, and that sticking plaster is actually adding to the problem. For a dog, food is very significant. Being able to decide when they access food (which leaving them with a Kong allows them to do) is a clear sign to them that they are in charge and therefore have responsibility and with that responsibility comes stress. So if you are thinking of giving your dog a Kong to stop behaviour number 1, then your dog has separation anxiety, so leaving it in charge of food will not help it to relax. Please read this separation anxiety article to understand more.
If you are wondering how to use a Kong to stop number two, then have a read of this article about hyperactive dog behaviour. Your dog thinks it should be doing something, to look after you all, or keep you in your place. If you then give it a stuffed Kong toy you are rewarding it for the hyperactive behaviour, and while you might get 20 minutes peace and quiet, that is all you will get. And your dog is not being helped to relax, which is what it really wants and needs. A long term solution would be better. This is like us running around like headless chickens, then stopping for 30 minutes for lunch, before going back to headless chicken behaviour. Really, we need to learn strategies to help us be more organised and in control!
If your dog won’t leave your visitors alone, then it is either seeing them as a potential problem, or a potential new pack mate, and either way they are feeling stressed about this. So again, while a Kong might keep them quiet for a bit, it will not resolve the problem in the long term. We need to help them to understand that they are not responsible for the visitors behaviour, so they can feel relaxed about it. Find out how to stop your dog jumping up at visitors by reading this article.
How to use a Kong correctly.
Don’t worry, if you’ve already bought one, you don’t need to throw it away. There are a couple of positive way of using them.
How to use a Kong as a treat
- First of all, you need to prepare the Kong. Chances are your dog will start hanging around while you are doing so. Just ignore your dog during this time, and prepare it, either putting little kibbles in there, or a paste.
- Next you need to wait for your dog to go away and relax. You are going to be using your Kong as a reward, so you are only going to give it to them if they are relaxed, because this is the behaviour you want to encourage.
- When they are sitting or lying calmly, minding their own business, then call them over, praise, give a little gentle fuss and reward them with the Kong toy. You can ask them for a sit/down etc. if you wish.
- Once they have the toy, leave them to enjoy it, but keep a bit of an eye on them.
- Once they walk away from the toy, have finished with it, or discard it; calmly pick it up and put it back out of the way again. Do not under estimate how important this is.
- DO NOT attempt to take a Kong toy off a dog that is guarding it. Wait until they have left it. If your dog guards food, do not give them Kongs. Have a read about food aggression instead.
How to use a Kong as a toy
Another great use for a Kong is as a fetch toy. The classic shaped Kong has an unusual bounce to it, like a rugby ball, so it’s good fun for playing fetch and keeping your dog agile, as it bounces in unpredictable ways. If you are going to do this, either make sure your Kong is completely clean of any food residue; or only use it for this purpose. If you are going to play with your dog with a Kong, make sure that YOU start the game. If they bring over the Kong of their own accord to ask for play, just put it out of the way for a while. Later on you initiate the game, calling them over and playing on your terms. This is important to help them to understand that you are the boss, not them!
If you would like some one to one help with any of the problems I mentioned above, or any other dog behaviour problems, I am available for one to one appointments in Essex, London, Kent, Herts and Suffolk. Please get in touch to find out how I can help.