How many times have we felt guilty leaving our dogs home alone all day while we're at work? Conversely, how often have you come home to a house that's been "re-arranged," chewed or destroyed by your frustrated, energetic dog?
While rigorous exercise should always be the first thing you try to keep your dog out of trouble – the old adage "a tired dog is a good dog" is absolutely true! – there are other things you can try to keep your dog busy.
The Kong is a great toy for this. Its tough rubber make-up makes it virtually indestructible (even for extreme chewers), and depending on the model, it can keep your dog busy for hours. There are also other durable, rubber toys – such as the Squirrel Dude Rubber Chew Toy, Chompion Dumbbell, Atomic Treat Ball and Premier Chuckle from Busy Buddy – which are great for stuffing with treats.
You can stuff the Kong with treats to give your dog something to do, or you can take it one step further and freeze treats inside of it for hours of play. The Kong Company does sell freeze-able treats, but you can use 'human' foods to freeze for your pet, as well. Of course, before giving anything to your dog outside of his natural diet, you should consult your veterinarian.
Some foods that work well for freezing inside the Kong are:
- Peanut butter
- Cheese (either softened or cottage cheese)
- Broth (chicken, beef, etc.)
- Canned dog food
- There are many, many more – get creative! But remember, check with your vet first.
To freeze a Kong, fill the Kong to the top using a butter knife for the "solid" foods (to reach down into the Kong). Put the Kong in a baggie and place in the freezer. You'll want to allow a couple hours for the cheese, peanut butter, or other semi-solid food to fully freeze.
For the liquid-type foods, you can plug the bottom, smaller hole in the Kong with a soft treat (or something else that's tasty, easily squashed yet solid), place the Kong with large hole facing up in a glass or bowl, and fill to the top with broth, honey or any other liquid.
Carefully place in the freezer, and again leave it in there for a couple hours to ensure it's all frozen through.
You can also get a Kong large enough to furnish your dog's kibble meal, and freeze the entire amount of dry dog food inside the Kong with broth, peanut butter or whichever substance you choose. Keep in mind, the added calories from the frozen substance will add to your dog's meal, so you can probably decrease the amount of dog food. This will ensure your dog not only gets fed; she'll keep busy while eating.
Another idea for making your dog work for food – if you don't have time or don't need to use a frozen Kong – is to use a Molecuball (also known as the Atomic Treat Ball). This isn't recommended for freezing liquids, as the hole is much too small to allow a dog's tongue, but it's great for dispensing dog food or small treats slowly. It also forces the dog to work for his food, as the only way the dog treats or food dispenses is if the dog moves the molecule with his nose or paws.
The bottom line is: anything that helps in making your dog a tired dog also makes her a good dog!