Why Stuff a Kong?
Dogs are animals that are genetically programmed to hunt for their food. Part of the reason there is such a prevalence of behavior problems in pet dogs is that they have so little mental challenge or work to do: their food is given to them for free. Zoos have had some success in decreasing behavior problems and improving the quality of life of many of their predator and primate species by giving them problems to solve in order to obtain their food. This same environmental enrichment concept can be applied to domestic dogs, who thoroughly enjoy finding hidden food and unpacking stuffed chew toys.
Many people’s Kong stuffing efforts consist of inserting a few dog cookies. This is scratching the surface of the creative food acquisition challenges you can cook up for your dog. Here are a few pointers and principles to bump your Kong stuffing prowess up to the next level:
- The level of difficulty should be appropriate to the dog’s level of experience and temperament – is he persevering or a “giver-upper.” Any increases in level of difficulty should be done gradually, so the dog succeeds while developing perseverance. In other words, start easy and then make it tougher.
- Easy stuffings are: loose and incorporate small, easy-to-fall-out pieces.
- More difficult stuffings are: tighter, with some big pieces that take concerted effort and hole-squishing to get in (and thus will be difficult to extract).
- You can employ a matrix (peanut butter, cream cheese, canned food, toddler food) to hold the smaller bits in and give the dog side-polishing challenges.
- Hide regular stuffed or nested Kongs around the house so the dog has to hunt around to find them before unpacking them.