Start with your dog's kibble and some high value mixer like canned dog food. Call your dog into the kitchen and stuff the kong right in front of them. Tantalize them with a lick or two as you stuff and act really excited about the food you're stuffing in it. Like you are holding yourself back from devouring it yourself. (Pro tip: Put the kong upside down in a coffee mug for easy stuffing) Don't mix the kibble with the tantalizer but rather layer it so it is easy to un-stuff.
Once you've finished stuffing it excitedly move over to your dog's bed and give it to them. Here is the trick, only let them chew for thirty seconds. Then get their attention with a super yummy treat and toss it away so your dog has to move away from the kong. Scoop up the kong and put it in the fridge for ten or so minutes, then give it again and repeat the process. The reason for this is to build excitement, anticipation, and enjoyment your dog relates to the kong. Think about when you're doing an activity you enjoy and you are called away. All you want to do is get back and continue that fun activity. We can create the same feeling in your dog
You are doing several things here:
- Preventing Resource Guarding by reinforcing a trade
- Preventing/treating separation anxiety by creating good feelings when you leave and slight disappointment when you come back
- Building your dog's value for the kong
- Building your dog's value for laying in their bed (if your dog takes the kong of their bed try tethering them to a heavy piece of furniature so they can only be on their bed)
- Encouraging calm quiet behavior
Continue this and lengthen the time your dog gets to sit and chew. Try by increasing the time in thirty second increments. If at anytime your dog becomes disinterested in the kong (and it isn't empty) you have given it too long. Take it away and try again in another half hour. Also be sure to change up what you are mixing in so your dog doesn't get bored. The more food motivated your dog the easier this process is and the less time you'll have to spend to hook them. The less interested your dog is in food the longer this can take. Very food motivated dogs will love this so much you can simply get the dog kibble wet and freeze it for a cheap and easy version.
It is a good idea to replace just one meal a day (usually dinner) with a stuffed kong. The hungrier your dog is the quicker the process will work. It has been shown over and over that animals prefer to work for their food. This is one of the most natural and benefitial ways for your dog to eat.
In my next and last post on this topic I will talk about different ways to stuff kongs. From the very easy for a beginner dog, to advanced kong stuffing for super clever and experienced dogs.
What do you think? Will you give it a try? Any questions or comments? Leave them below!