It’s Kong O’clock Somewhere

At best, it looks like a beehive toddler toy. At worst, it appears to be some bizarre contraption best kept hidden in the bedroom.

Introduced in the late 1970’s, the Kong is a toy (or as we professionals call it, “enrichment device”) that has nearly become a staple in dog-owning homes. The founder, Joe Markham, designed it after his canine companion finally found gnawing satisfaction with a rubber suspension part from a VW Bus.

The patented one-of-a-kind plastic is safe on teeth, yet strong enough to withstand determined chewers. Its hollow “snowman” design allows for treats to be stuffed inside, prolonging the challenge and fun for users. Is the cost worth it? Yes! Even rat fanciers and zookeepers appreciate its value. (See video links at bottom.) To find the perfect Kong “fit,” more on its history, and recipes, visit the official Kong website.

My Josie Junebug is an energetic young dog who spends her workdays in the kennel. In addition to her walks and indoor play sessions, her dinnertime Kong serves as great mental exercise. I fill it in the morning, when I’m packing lunches, and stow it in the freezer (for extra challenge). When the family congregates for dinner, her Kong keeps her too occupied to even consider begging at the table.

I invested in a second Kong so one can be rotated through the dishwasher each night while the other remains available for her enjoyment. (That is assuming she doesn’t hide it from me.) Even after it’s emptied of edible surprises, it still provides hours of squeaky chewing enjoyment.

How difficult is it to fill? My husband was clueless when I texted him a request to prep Josie Junebug’s Kong after I had forgotten one morning. How easy is it? He asked my seven year old for directions!

Step One: Plug the smaller bottom hole with peanut butter (non-chunky), or cream cheese. I invest in a separate doggie PB jar, so I don’t have to worry about double-dipping.

Step Two: Set Kong upright in a cup for filling convenience.

Step Three: Fill with something yummy and exciting. My basic “recipe” is kibble soaked in a bit of meat broth or dinner drippings, but feel free to allow your doggie chef creativity to run wild. The hippie in me abhors food waste, so I often use food scraps (yogurt, pizza crust, rice, etc). The daily Kong is an especially good use for “ugly produce,” those slightly wrinkly blueberries, bruised tomatoes, and old carrots that human family members scorn.

Step Four: Fill to top with water.

Step Five: Freeze until dinnertime

That’s it! That two minute investment in the morning buys dinnertime peace for us all.

Family, friends, co-workers, pets: I think it’s worth a little extra time to set each other up for success and harmonious living. Don’t you?

Obligatory notes about safety and other resources for Kong recipes:

Like diets for all species, do what works for you. If you feel it’s best for your dog to only eat store bought food (or perhaps he medically needs to do so), use a Kong stuffed with dog food and water.

If your dog is getting fat, cut back on calorie intake. You can feed dinner in the Kong as a way of slowing down eating and providing some amount of exercise.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, of course, don’t go pouring bacon grease or some other craziness into a Kong.

Some human foods are toxic to pets. Chocolate is the most infamous; however, you should also not feed grapes/raisins or onion. Also, check labels. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener, is toxic to pets and now also used in some peanut butters and yogurts! The ASPCA has a good starting list, or check the Pet Poison Helpline for a more exhaustive list.

Still, there is some solid evidence that veggies are good for dogs too: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/want-your-dog-to-live-to-30-add-this-to-their-bowl.html 

Here are other videos links where you can watch other species enjoying Kongs:

More Kong Recipes: http://www.k9instinct.com/blog/frozen-kong-dog-treat-recipes

Go to Fern Dog Training to download a nice Kong recipe book, and while you’re there, check out his informative and entertaining dogcasts.

Product Review: Outward Hound Fun Feeder

Anyone know of any pet speed-eating contests? One of my fourteen year old cats would be a shoe-in. Josie Junebug has learned from the best. In an open bowl, she can finish her meal in under thirty seconds.

Being a big-chested broad, I’m mindful to watch for bloat. Some dogs regurgitate after eating too fast. I’m hoping that slowing her feeding might decrease her silent-but-wicked gas. When she settles down for the night, she looks like someone sold us a basket of deer legs for a pet; yet her adorableness is interrupted by her un-lady-like flatulence.

The first slow feeder I bought was OK, but there were two main problems. First of all, despite the rubber no-skid feet, it slid all over the room during the eating process. Secondly, the dimensions given apparently described the footprint of the bowl and not the interior feeding capacity. It barely held two cups, though the product description stated that it held five. 

The Outward Hound Fun Feeder is working much better. Presumably because of the flatter design, it stays put during use. Also, it easily contains her three cup meal portions. The puzzle walls deflect food back out of the bowl if you haphazardly dump kibble in as you would a traditional bowl; more careful and slower pouring is required to avoid spillage. An obvious side benefit is the colorful cute design. At $10, I consider it a solid investment in her health and a successful enrichment device.

Thankfully, she has not yet learned to dump it like the dog in this review. I attribute it to her youthful naivety since she’s generally a pretty bright girl.

This feeder has slowed feeding time from around thirty seconds to closer to seven minutes.  video here

When you eat, know that you are eating.
When you eat, know that you are eating.

Maybe I should buy something similar for myself to encourage slower and more mindful eating.

Leave a comment: do you eat like a ravenous wild dog, or have you mastered the trick of civilized self-feeding?

 

Dear Santa, From Josie

When we said the new dog bounds through the backyard like a deer, Grandma couldn't resist buying Josie her own festive antlers.
When we said the new dog bounds through the backyard like a deer, Grandma couldn’t resist buying Josie her own festive antlers.

This article was originally written as a professional article for my LinkedIn profile:

As part of our family, many of us include our pets in our Holiday Gift-Giving. I had to run to Pet Smart on Black Friday to exchange a collar for our new dog, and the long lines at every checkout seem to confirm that getting Rover a giant rawhide is as important as Grandma’s new crockpot. Depending on what poll you cite, up to 95% of pet owners say they buy presents for their dog or cat.

Getting a gift for your pet may mean a special trip to the pet store, or a toss-in item to your cart at Target or Amazon. If you’re looking for something that’s just right, here are some suggestions from the Environmental Enrichment Coordinator:

K9 Ballistics Crate & Kennel Bed: Saying anything is “chew proof” is just begging to be disproved. However, these beds have excellent customer ratings. For those with dogs determined to be epic chewers, the company seems to stand strong behind its 90 day guarantee. They’re a bit pricey, but surely worth it if you’ve finally found the bed your dog won’t chew through; also, shipping is free.

http://k9ballistics.com/index.php/crate-kennel-beds.html

Freedom Tails Handmade Collars and Leashes: For those seeking to give gifts with a higher purpose, this may be the solution for you. Inmates at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Washington State create leather collars and leashes that can be custom-embossed with a pet’s name.

Thanks to The Bark for sniffing out this terrific opportunity in their article found at http://thebark.com/content/gifts-give-back : “Proceeds support Freedom Tails, a program where offenders train shelter dogs to make them more viable for adoption. The dogs get a second chance at a life in a loving home, and the offenders receive a renewed sense of purpose. Contact dennis.cherry@doc.wa.gov or baushaus@coastaccess.com for pricing and information. Collars start at $15, leashes start at $20.”

Bark Box: If you’re searching to spoil your dog with a gift that gives year-round, go no further than the Bark Box. This delivered-to-your-door subscription service will surprise you and your canine companion with “4-5 healthy treats and pawsome playthings, plus one extra bow-wow worthy premium toy.” Savvy Google searchers may be able to score a promo code to save a little dough.

https://barkbox.com/

My personal favorites: In my role at the University, I’ve discovered Otto Environmental as a great source for every species, from mice to elephants. (No, I don’t shop for elephants; I’m just saying—they got it.) I send in an order through work, and when I find things I like, I order for my own pets. I can personally attest to the fun and durability of the Crackle Ball and Fire Hose Squeak N Fetch. The Tunnel-O-Fun was both adorable and loved by our pet mice. Finally Kookamunga Catnip Bubbles are an awesome way to bond with your cat.

https://www.ottoenvironmental.com/wishlist/70eb2950-943c-4f74-a999-00967fd4ad60