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Holiday Tip for a Happy Dog: Stuffed Kongs

Stuffed Kongs for dogs

Everyone loves the holidays, but changes in routine and the comings and goings of visitors can create stress for many pets. At times like these, interactive treat toys such as Kongs can be particularly useful. Karen Pryor Academy and ClickerExpo faculty member Laurie Luck explains how to pre-stuff Kongs so that you always have a terrific, but easy, way to keep the holiday peace!

I use Kongs to buy time if I'm working on a project. Busy dogs are good dogs! Offering Kongs is also a preventive measure to avoid separation anxiety. Every dog in my house gets a stuffed, frozen Kong as I'm walking out the door. They don't stress about my departure or my absence. In fact, the dogs love to see me leave!

When you're stuffing Kongs for four dogs, as I do, it's helpful to pre-stuff a bunch at a time and freeze them—the treats will be ready whenever you need them! Start with a basket of empty (and clean) Kongs. I run the Kongs through the dishwasher about once a month (top rack, no heat) just to clean all the goop off. I do this for myself only—the dogs do not mind the goop at all!

I'll use peanut butter as the stuffing example, but you can put almost anything your dog likes in the Kong. Some ideas include cream cheese, canned pumpkin, leftover mashed potatoes, plain yogurt, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese—pretty much anything that's gooey. If you really want to keep your dog busy, toss in a few kibbles and shake the Kong so that the kibbles stick to the sides. Or, add apple or banana pieces to the Kong (do not add grapes or raisins, as they are toxic to dogs).

With the filling and the Kongs ready, slide a knife into your filling and spread the filling all over the inside of the Kong. With the peanut butter on the knife, just run the knife along the inside of the Kong. I try to distribute the peanut butter evenly, but only because I'm a control freak and like to have everything just so. The dogs don't care how the peanut butter is distributed, as long as there is peanut butter in the Kong!

After the Kong is stuffed, I drop it into a big plastic bag. Why? I put stuffed Kongs in the freezer. Frozen peanut butter takes longer for the dogs to extract, so it keeps the dogs occupied for longer periods of time. The plastic bag also keeps all the Kongs together so I can find them easily. Finally, placing Kongs safely in a bag keeps my freezer a little cleaner.

Pop the entire bag of peanut-butter-filled Kongs into the freezer and allow them to freeze. Now you are ready for the week (or the holidays) ahead!