The Kong, that is. What did dog lovers do before the invention of the Kong? It’s a staple in most canine homes. And, when it is not; the instant I etch the bubbly-shaped chew toy, clients’ eyes light up and they nod, despite my horrific drawing skills. A question that folks often ask is, should I freeze it? So, here’s a few tips to help you sort out whether popping your stuffed Kong in the freezer is the right choice for a specific situation.
When to freeze:
- Voracious puppy chewing. If your darling fur-baby would happily spend 23 hours and 59 minutes of each and every day with SOMETHING in his or her mouth, freeze the Kong!
- During human meal times; but, a half-frozen filled toy can get your pooch started and better compete with the aroma of your food. If you fill the Kong halfway with a goopy or pastey substance, freeze that. THEN you top the frozen portion with some veggies and kibble and finish it off with fresh cream cheese, yogurt or pumpkin. Your pooch is WAY more likely to dig in because the smell is stronger with non-frozen filling at top of the toy. Once he starts digging in, the rest of his dessert will begin to defrost. But, will take longer to get out.
- In the house, when the temps outside are extreme. Just had visions of the scene from a Christmas Story; but, seriously, dogs are family and belong inside, especially when it is uber hot or cold outside. Gavin loves what I call the “pupscicle”. I simply mix some of his kibble with cream cheese and peanut butter; then fill his Kongs with the lumpy mixture and toss them in the freezer. I use this method a lot in hot weather because it’s something for him to work on when we come home from a toasty walk. In the winter, it’s great mental stimulation to dig out his riches. I hide the toys in different corners of the house for more fun. Using part of his meals helps prevent unwanted weight gain. And, keeps the mixture from becoming a giant frozen klump; which easily frustrated dogs find cumbersome and stop chewing.
When not to freeze:
- If your dog suffers from anxiety or is overly excitable in a particular scenario. Frozen filling loses some of it’s smell and anxious or super aroused dogs often are so worked up; they are unable to eat. For dogs who hate being alone; you have to test different fillings. If you walk to the door and your pup stops eating, the filling is not powerful enough.
- When walking. If I am teaching children to walk their pup on a leash or with a particularly bitey pup; I love to use the Kong as way to reinforce good leash walking. And, I often lean towards thicker fillings so we are not dribbling goop onto Chicago sidewalks. It can be easier for some folks to hold a Kong than trying to grab tiny treats as they move along. One BIG caveat, food items must ALWAYS go away when another dog is present so neighborhoods like Lakeview, Lincoln Park or Ravenswood where you pass 50 dogs on each walk, this might not be the best solution unless you have supreme handling skills. However, in West Rogers Park, Wildwood or Albany Park where you encounter just a few dogs on a stroll, this can be a wonderful solution.
- Your dog is a fussy eater. Again, freezing makes your fillings smell less pungent; and the less smelly, the less appealing. Gavin was a VERY picky eater at first. But, as he’s grown more comfortable in the house, his appetite has also grown. Some pups are finicky when trying to figure out their surroundings. As I played with fillings that did not upset my delicate flower’s tummy, I also stuck to non-frozen ingredients in the beginning so I was not stuck cleaning out the Kong myself.
Tips and tweaks to our routines with our dogs do not need to be complicated to be effective. Hopefully, these simple adjustments can help you and your pup get the most out of your dog toys!