I started off my training career with not a lot of experience with dogs as I was not allowed to have one as a child. My first dog was bought as soon as I moved to a place where it was allowed and I really, really had not a single clue what I was doing. No idea about enrichment. It really wasn't a thing. Other than fetch and tug....what else do you do with a dog?
Enter my first dog who was a Beagle. Anyone who has had one knows that you keep these guys employed or they will get themselves up to no good in no time. There is a reason so many of the mischievous videos of dogs on YouTube or tick tock are beagles. They are independent thinkers with an insane penchant for problem solving. Proficient trainers channel that into some really amazing things. As a first time dog owner, it was a bit of a disaster. I always say he turned out well despite me.
Some very experienced beagle owners turned me onto a trick. Beagles need to hunt. All dogs are hardwired to hunt. It is how they survived. Hunting and foraging. Providing them with opportunities for hunting and foraging daily provides a well needed tired mind. So I did some digging to find the toughest out there. Again, anyone who has a beagle knows that they are sharks in adorable beagle costumes and are extremely hard on toys. I landed on the Kong to start, and have never looked back. There are some amazing things I learned along the way however.
It's not just for putting kibble into. Honestly, the majority of pet owners I meet do very little else with these toys. But opening both them and their dogs up to a whole universe of novelty is always fun. Usually they start off with some suggestions (I have a stuffed toy recipe book in my online learning handouts), and then move to improvising to adapt to what their dogs love best. Recipes like the Breakfast of Champs (Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, & Cheese shreds) or the The King ( Banana, Natural Almond Butter, Honey & Steel Cut Oats). I typically let puppies start off with them as is and when they develop the drive to finish them quickly start to freeze them solid for longer enjoyment. You can also add treat supplements and even healthy options like a chicken foot, rabbit ear or bull tail at the top before freezing to add a chew before the main event. Get really creative!
There are many colours to choose from and having talked to a Kong rep about that I have learned some interesting details. The black classic Kong is obviously the strongest. The reason for this is that it is the natural colour of the rubber they use. Once you start adding colour to it them it weakens the natural integrity of the rubber. So the red would be next strongest and finally the purple, powder blue and pink ones. The Purple is supposed to be for senior dogs and the blue and pink are for puppy teeth. I would suggest getting the black from the get go. In fact, I would suggest having a couple so that when you need one, there is one stuffed and ready in the freezer.
You will also want to choose an appropriately sized one for your pup. From xs to xl you want to think about how big your puppy is now and how long he will be that way. While a medium Kong might be good for a Mastiff puppy to start, soon that will become a choking hazard. You might even want to buy smaller ones for now and move up as they reach their full size. The durability of these means great resale on second hand sites.
These are my go to for invasive vet or groomer visits to give puppies something else to concentrate on. Bring a frozen Kong and feed to puppy as they are getting the once over by the vet or up on the grooming table for the first time. Make sure they are filled with some top notch stuffing like cream cheese or canned dog food. Bring a positive spin to those procedures they are leery of and you may find your pup loves the vet and groomer. (note to go at the puppy's pace for both kinds of visits so you don't overwhelm them).
One last, nice thing about these is that they bounce erratically. So playing fetch with them is also an enticing enrichment activity. Kong does also make a ball for fetch, but I like the random way the classic Kong bounces. No matter how you play these toys, they are a winner and a must have in every dog owners toolkit.
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