The Kong toy is an amazing invention! Not only can it be used as a toy during play time with your dog, but it is a great way to add mental stimulation to your dog’s daily life, and a tool that many people have used to soothe separation anxiety.
Canines are designed for, and have a need to, work for their food. In the wild dogs stalk and hunt their prey-physical exercise, they will then work for long periods of time (I know this is sickening to some) dismembering their prey-mental exercise. It’s important for their physical and mental well-being, that your dog’s day reflect their natural design. I rarely feed my dogs before a trip to the dog park, or a 20-30 minute walk. When I do feed them, I eat first, and they are given a kong (or some other type of food/treat dispensing toy) filled with kibble, yogurt, garlic, honey, and sometimes a little bit of avocado or salmon. You will be surprised at how calm and happy your dog is when you follow this specific order of events. They will also be less prone to behavioral issues, and will retain more during daily training sessions.
Isis is a dog who struggles with separation anxiety, so I will give her a frozen kong filled with a mixture of goodies just minutes before I leave the house. This keeps her occupied long enough for me to sneak out while she is busy. By the time she is finished I will have already been gone several minutes, and the ordeal is already over.
Separation anxiety in dogs is caused by anticipation of something that excites them (usually your return). If your dog has been conditioned to expect high pitched voices, and excited playtime the minute you walk through the door and let them out of the crate, they will be anxiously awaiting your return. A way to temper this is pretending your dog is not even there when you get home. Continue on doing whatever you would if you were on your own-ignoring the whining and barking (you don’t want to reward that bad behavior by releasing your dog from her crate, and you also want your dog to learn that the kennel is a place for being calm and relaxed) until it has stopped for several minutes and your dog is laying or sitting calmly. If you don’t crate your dog while you’re away (which I highly recommend-it may save your couch, shoes, hairbrush, trash can, clothes, sanity, etc…) the same basic principal applies. Ignore your dog-no talk, no touch, no eye contact-until she is calm. You want your dog to be respectful of people who walk through your door, and this starts with respecting you.
Dogs are very intuitive, and will behave exactly the way you tell them to behave. They can read body language, and emotion incredibly well (in some cases better than you or myself). If you are excited, they will read that and follow suit. You should display the behavior you expect from your dog.
Kongs are wonderful if you have a dog who gets over excited about having visitors at your home. Some people prep their guests with basic dog rules. I don’t think this is a bad idea-your friends are visiting your home, and should be respectful of your house-rules. If you don’t think it will go over well with your friends, then there’s no harm in crating your dog with a kong a few minutes before their expected arrival. This method can also be used elsewhere.
I have made it a habit to take a tie-town and kong with me when I visit other peoples’ homes with Delilah.
When she was younger, I regularly used a tie-down and some sort of treat that would keep her occupied for a good while. By the time she was done, she would have already scoped out the new environment from a distance, and gotten out all of her anxious energy on the toy.
Here are some of the toys I use in my house:
–The Kong-extreme (for dogs who chew a lot)
–Un-stuffed hollow beef femur bones
–Bully sticks (not recommended if your dog’s stomach is sensitive)
Here are some toys that I do not recommend giving to your dog without supervision:
-Any kind of fabric toy: ingested fabric, stuffing, and squeaker materials are extremely hazardous to dogs, duh.
-cheaply made rubber toys: anything that looks or feels like those rubber chickens
-rope toys: these are probably the least hazardous, but if your dog is a chewer, they will have no problem destroying and then consuming these.
-rawhide, pigs feet, wood, anything that could splinter or become sharp in any way: I honestly have a problem with these kinds of chew toys already because they are loaded with sugar and processed food that tends to make dogs hyperactive.
-hard plastic toys: many people like to use water bottles or similar non-dog things as toys. My dogs LOVE empty water bottles, but they need to be monitored with extreme care. Broken plastic can be much worse for your dog than a rawhide or wood splinter.
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