You may have purchased one of those great interactive food stuffing toys for your dog, right? Maybe one of those red cone-shaped ones from the Kong Company? And you put some of your dog’s kibble with a little peanut butter in it, gave it to him or her, and left it at that. But what now? What else can you serve to your dog? OMG, there are many options. All you need to do is “think outside the bowl.”
I’ve always enjoyed feeding my own dogs’ using interactive food toys; scavenger hunts too. They enjoy eating their meals out of them as well – I can tell because their behaviors indicate excitement and joy.
The Kong Company is nice enough to supply you with lots of tips and advice on great ways to use their products. For me, I like coming up with my own “recipes” (okay, I think of them more of concoctions) with anything and everything that is safe and nutritious for dogs.
Because the Kong’s are relatively small on the inside, you aren’t able to put an entire meal in just one. So, like we humans have sets of dishes, I have purchased a few Kong’s of the same size and consider them “dishes” for our dogs’. I might just give one, along with other favorite food toys or scavenger games – or training sessions. Extra veggies might go in a bowl, if really messy, or included in his Kong, another food toy, or divided into pieces for training.
Okay, so what all do I put in it? And how do I do it? Simple…for the easiest “recipe” I combine the following ingredients*:
- Dry food
- Canned wet food
- Veggies: canned pumpkin, zucchini, asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash etc…and anything else that might be around that he likes.
- Fruits: apples, pears, berries (or whatever is around that he likes)
- Grains: leftover brown rice, whole wheat pasta, couscous, quinoa, sweet and regular potatoes…and anything else leftover that he likes – plain, just a small amount to make it more interesting, and only if and when I need to use something higher value, as when training in a new location
- Lean meats: a small piece or two to make the meal more high value
For food stuffing toys that are round shape, I mix it all together, making sure there is enough kibble and wet stuff to make it the consistency of a human type chicken salad. I add a little no-salt chicken broth or water to thin it out a bit. Then, I cover and refrigerate it overnight. This way, the kibble soaks up the water from the veggies etc…makes it a little stiffer, for easier stuffing.
Now I’m ready to prepare the meals. For Poncho, I would take one of his round-shaped Biscuit Ball Kong toys and using a small fork or spoon, I’d fill it tightly with his “casserole.” I’d then wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. This way, I can make a whole bunch of them, and keep them for when I need them. When they’re frozen, it takes him longer to go through one…instead of gulping down a meal in 10 seconds!
For Ringo, using the cone-shaped toy, I like to layer his meal. I’ll fill it halfway with dry food, the other half with wet food, and top it off by inserting a veggie stick into it – usually zucchini, carrot, cucumber or bell pepper. Because the Kong for his size mouth is pretty small, he gets not one but two Kong servings for dinner.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to have your dog go through all the “stages” – beginners level (pre-school) to “University.” If you start off with a more difficult level, your dog might get frustrated and not want anything to do with it. Making it easy gets him or her conditioned to loving their Kong – they begin to associate the toy with more excitement than just the food itself. It’s a fun game for them – plus again, this action taps into their predatory drive, and gives them something to do!
Here are some “level of difficulty” suggestions, which are based upon how quickly your dog can get the food out:
- Beginner: dry kibble (can add in some dry treats to make it extra tasty and enticing), top off the hole with wet food.
- Intermediate I: mix kibble with a little wet food, add any appropriate leftovers you want, loosely pack it – you still want to make it easy for food to come out.
- Intermediate II: kibble, wet food, any vet-approved leftovers you want to add (such as veggies), pack it tight.
- Advanced: Freeze it! Initially, you can thaw it partially before giving it to your dog, so as not to make it too difficult.
*Remember: there are some foods that are not healthy or safe for your dog – check with your vet if you are unsure. If your dog has never had a Kong, it’s best to supervise until you know he or she knows how to use it.
Updated September 9, 2018