I can't remember how long ago we discovered Kong dog toys in the grocer's pet aisle or at Petsmart or wherever, but they are possibly the best dog toys I've ever come across. In that bowl, the red rubber toys that look like bee skeps are the original Kongs; the big red football-shaped toy and the small purple football-shaped one are not original Kongs. I foresee a visit to Petsmart tomorrow to track down that manufacturer, as a Google search has proved to be unsatisfactory -- I know! I was surprised, too! I guess I don't know what terms to search for! -- and it will drive me mad until I find out.
The whole purpose of these toys is to keep your dog happily busy, and boy, do they ever. Those two Kong toys? See how they're hollow? Well, what you do is stuff that toy with either a meal or just a treat of some sort. You can close up the hole with a little peanut butter, or you can put the Kong in the freezer for about twenty minutes or so. When you give it to the dog, he/she will be happily engaged for a good while in figuring out how to get the treats out of the toy and into the tummy.
When you first give your dog a Kong, you can pack it very loosely until they figure out what they're supposed to be doing with it. As they become more adept at "unpacking," you can put the food in there even tighter so that it's a little more challenging. Hershey is pretty darn clever at getting all the food out, but Wimzie -- that girl was a WHIZ. Zuzu is still learning, but she's a very smart little thing, so it won't be too long before she can receive a tightly-packed Kong and spend many a happy half hour puzzling out how to make it work.
The challenge of the un-packing is one of the joys of the Kong. First of all, the Kongs can roll around on the floor, so the dog has to figure out how to immobilize it. Hershey generally puts one foot on his, but Zuzu cornered hers up against the base of the china cabinet today. Second of all, the holes in the bottom of the Kongs are big enough to stuff food into, but not really big enough to get a nose into. Third, if you buy a Kong properly sized for your dog (Zuzu and Wimzie used the smallest adult version and Hershey's is the middle-sized version), you'll have just the right size to provide them with absorbing entertainment and just enough food so that to toy is stuffed, but not the dog.
Here are some of the things we stuff Hershey and Zuzu's Kong toys with:
~~dry dog food (they eat the small-bite type)
~~high-value treats like Snaussages or Beggin' Strips (only purchased when on sale and doled out with a stingy hand)
~~bits of chipped beef, chicken or turkey, which are also high value
~~peanut butter (in small amounts, because you want the peanut butter in the dog, not on the carpet)
~~bits of shredded cheese
~~little pieces of cantaloupe (Hershey's passionate fondness)
~~yogurt to mix different ingredients together (see peanut butter, above)
Kong also retails all kinds of toy-stuffing yummies at grocery and pet stores nationwide.
The football-shaped toys aren't quite the same. You can't stuff them with food items, but you can stuff them with treats. They aren't quite as involved as the Kongs, if you see what I mean. Hershey's big red football will hold about four puppy-sized treats; there's a small half-circle above the bigger opening that you can see in the picture above, and that half-circle is the challenging hole and holds one treat. The bigger opening holds two or three treats, depending on how hard you jam them in there. Obviously, the more stuffed the treat-holes are, the harder the dog will have to work to get them out.
We love both of these styles of toy because, first and foremost, they make the Hershey and Zuzu very happy. They bounce around in delighted anticipation when they see me getting out the bee skeps or the footballs. Secondly, these toys are marvelous for getting yourself a little peace and quiet. Hershey and Zuzu spend a lot of time playing with each other, tugging on their rope, getting underfoot, barking at the mail carrier and when I have just HAD IT, I put together the big Kongs (if I want to keep them busy for around an hour) or the football toys (if I just want them happily occupied for half an hour) and let them enjoy. Everybody's pleased.
Both styles of toy are dishwasher safe and last and last and last. I think all four of those toys in the basket are about four or five years old. They also have the added benefit of calming down an overly-stimulated dog (nice for when you have company and your dog just can't decide which guest to love-bomb next) and helping keep his/her teeth clean.
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