The Kong: Your Dog Toy Gateway to Holiday Happiness

The mighty Kong is a dog toy that is nearly as ubiquitous as dog leashes- they seem to be in every pet store I've ever been into- and for good reason!  This red (usually), hollow, rubber dog toy is a dog-owner's best friend. I use Kongs frequently with my own dogs and recommend them to all my clients.  I'm not affiliated with them, nor have I been paid anything to write this, but I believe the Kong is something that every dog owner should own.  The Kong is a valuable distraction, brain-drain, and toy for your dog; but it is also the easiest way to reinforce your dog for quiet good behavior.  As they lie in their crates or on their dog beds lick-lick-licking away at this doggy-popsicle, they are learning that lying quietly on their bed gives them access to all the goodness that you stuffed inside their Kong.  Talk about the ultimate lazy dog trainer's tool!  Stuff a Kong, freeze it, crate your dog, and voilà- your dog is training themselves to be well-behaved! There are many other self-feeding toys (like this) on the market and I encourage you to find the one that works best for you and your dog, but this does tend to be a good bet and you can buy them anywhere. The Kong website has loads of information about what you can stuff in a Kong.  I don't really care for their branded Kong filling (neither do my dogs) and many of the recipes seem a bit complicated, but there are some really good ones on there.

In general, my favorite easy recipe is: dog kibble + plain non-fat yogurt + a few liver treats.  Mix it all together and dump in a Kong!  My dogs LOVE this one.  I'll also mix kibble in with a can of pureed pumpkin (zero calories!) or just mush it up with some water or wet dog food.  If I'm feeling lazy, they still sometimes get just canned dog food or some peanut butter; and occasionally to challenge them I'll stick a whole carrot through the hole before freezing.  I find that it's best not to overcomplicate things (because that way you have the materials on hand), and to use this in place of meals so that your dog doesn't get too many calories.  I typically freeze all of our Kongs to make them harder for the dogs to empty, but if your dog is new to Kongs be sure to start them out with something nice and easy- peanut butter, canned cat food, cream cheese- and don't freeze it.  Once they're Kong-addicts, you can start stuffing them full and freezing them.

I know that part of my preparations for the holiday is a freezer full of frozen Kongs and it definitely makes our time with lots of visitors that much merrier! How do you prepare?