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When to Use a Kong/Chew Toy?

We’re all familiar with Kongs and chewing toys and other dog products that allow our pups and dogs to have a designated item or two to chew on. But when is the best time to provide a chewing toy to a dog? Is there ever a bad time? When should a dog get to chew? Let’s see! Let’s start with how to best use dog toys in general!

Golden retriever puppy relaxing with a red Kong toy

Dog toys like Kongs, balls, tug and pulls toys and more should all have an ideal moment when they should each be used so that you and your dog or pup can get the most out of them. And when is that? It depends entirely on how your pup is feeling. At #DigNoFurther we focus on dog training methods that rely on learning how to best understand a dog’s needs so that they can more easily understand our wants. And what that means is that we want to make sure that we are using the right training tools, ideas, and items at the right moment. This makes all the difference because it’s during these moments that your puppy or dog will start forming an association between how he or she is feeling, then the item/activity that is taking place. Let’s start! Since we’re talking mainly about chew toys like Kongs, the very best moment to use these toys and different types of chewing products is when your dog is feeling calm and at ease. That’s right! There is a big misunderstanding among pet parents that providing a dog, especially a puppy, with a kong or chewing toy will help them find an outlet to focus their energy. And to be honest, this isn’t entirely wrong, however, your best bet is to think of the Kong or chew toy as a human baby pacifier. We use pacifiers with young babies when they’re just about ready to take a nap or just want a little something to help them soothe. A Kong works just like that! A deliciously stuffed Kong can be a great way to redirect your dog away from an unwanted behaviour or help distract them for a moment but if you’re finding that your dog is feeling like he has some physical or mental energy he needs to let out, your best bet instead is to provide him with a proper outlet to that activity. An example of a physically stimulating game would be a game of fetch with obstacles and an example of a mentally stimulating game would be a new and challenging food puzzle. After those fun and enriching activities, it’s only then that you will want to bring out your dog’s Kong from the freezer (perhaps stuffed and frozen with a healthy, vet-recommended dinner/treat). This is because the Kong will then reinforce the fact that your dog is feeling mellow due to the previous activities all while still meeting that need to chew, which will relax him further and likely lead to a nice nap. What you will ultimately achieve through this as well, is a dog that grows up seeing the Kong as an item that comes out only when he is feeling a particular way (that we like) and that it reinforces it while maintaining its high value in your dog’s eyes. This will make it so if you had to visit your vet and/or go for a car ride, for example, and you know that your dog perhaps has a tough time in those scenarios, well what you will find is that Kong will help you communicate and bring forth the feeling you have helped him associate with it previously. Unfortunately what happens with most dogs is the Kong or chewing toy becomes an item that loses meaning or becomes boring because it’s not provided at the right time and/or it’s always available to the dog. Instead, keep it away and only use it When your dog needs it and when your dog will value it the most, especially at a young age! Try this chew toy that is also a slow feeder. It’ll work just like a Kong but the little spikes it has and the way its gaps and holes are designed will make it an engaging little puzzle for your dog to figure out, at the right moment! Give these tips a try and let us know how it goes!


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