Rodney Gooch, KONG Advisor Team Coordinator in Australia explains the different types of KONG toys for dogs, shares a story about Axel the barking Ridgeback and his top tips to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Pets4Life: So, what are KONG toys for dogs, what are they used for? 

Rodney: The KONG Company is best renowned for its original 3 tier shaped rubber chew toy aptly named KONG that started 41 years ago.  The iconic snowman shape is the foundation of the KONG toys for dogs, which comes in Puppy, Classic,  Extreme & Senior.  It is designed for:

1. Developing problem-solving skills,

2. Feeding with treats or the dog’s meal,

3. Mental stimulation,

4. Chewing (Based on dogs chewing temperament),

5 Throw toy.

As dogs do vary on how tough they are on their toys, the KONG Company has developed the KONG rubber range that boasts multiple grades of rubber strength for dogs who demonstrate a preference for chew style play.  The KONG rubber chew toys are made from 100% all natural rubber and can help teach correct chewing behaviours that both satisfy natural instincts and prevent destructive chewing in the home.

The rubber KONG can be frozen and it is top shelf (no dry cycle) dishwasher safe.

Pets4Life: Chewing is a popular topic in puppy school, how can KONG toys for dogs help with chewing?

KONG toys for dogs

Rodney Gooch and his dog Quest at Dog Lovers Show, Sydney 2017

Rodney: Starting puppies, adult dogs or rescue dogs on one of core rubber range gives the dog the opportunity to chew and dogs love to chew!  Their jaws are designed for chewing, in most cases, the dog finds inappropriate things to chew because pet owners leave things around that dogs will use to chew e.g. mobile phones, underwear, shoes, TV remotes just to name a few.  They don’t know what they can’t or shouldn’t be chewing.

A KONG stuffed with something yummy provides your dog something they are allowed to chew and get rewarded in the process for doing it!  I call it ‘positive chewing’ if a pup never has access to chew on something inappropriate and ALWAYS has a stuffed KONG then that is in the dog’s mind valuable, fun and exciting! Same goes for rescues.

Pets4Life: Barking is a natural behaviour of dogs but it can be a big problem is many suburbs Australia wide, how can KONG toys help dog owners with barking dogs?

Rodney: Barking is typically an outgrowth of boredom, frustration or fear.  Separation Anxiety can manifest into barking or vocalization.  A stuffed KONG can be helpful in directing their energy toward something positive, like working for the food inside the toy, time spent interacting with KONG is time spent not barking and in the case of separation anxiety, chewing and eating releases endorphins that produce a naturally calming effect.

KONG has developed the KONG Solutions package, which is based on seven key canine areas to help dog owners – 1. Chewing, 2. Teething, 3. Separation anxiety, 4. Boredom, 5. Digging & Barking, 6. Crate training and 7. Weight management.

KONG toys for dogs – Axel’s story

Axel, a female desexed Ridgeback was a participant in an experiment undertaken by a Queensland Council who tried a different approach to solved barking problems in their residential area.  The council sent a trainer known as a SHUSH Officer to help dog owners who had confirmed barking issues (notice issued).  The purpose of SHUSH Officer’s objective was to come up with strategies to suit the individual dog owner’s circumstances to deal with barking.  The strategies typically involved walking and training regimes as well as KONG toys for enrichment. A barking counter collar was fitted to the dog. After seven days the data from the collar is compared with data logged by the complainant before the new strategies were introduced.  80% of participants had a huge reduction in barking.

Axel’s owner had received 12 months of complaints about barking.  Axel barked all day long when the owner was at work and at night when they went out.  The owner tried everything including a bark collar. Axel was given walking and training objectives every morning as well as moving sleeping areas and introduced some sight screens to block the stimulus.  A KONG was provided and the owner was taught how to use them and to make it progressively harder. Treasure hunts replaced feeding in a bowl and the radio was left on as well as other ‘owner home’ noises were used.

Seven days after these strategies were implemented, what did the complainant say?

We thought you (council) had taken the dog off them it does not make a sound.

Pets4Life: What KONG toys for dogs would you recommend for dog owners who haven’t used a KONG before?  

Rodney: All KONG toys are tested extensively before being put on the market. However, we’ve learned that every dog has a unique chewing temperament, and it is not necessarily predictable by size, breed or age. We do encourage all toys to be used under supervision to make sure they are being used safely, especially with puppies and young dogs as their chewing temperament is still developing.

Kong toys for dogs

Quest the Koolie with her KONG Quest. Photo: Rodney Gooch

When considering toy selection for any dog, bear in mind that all dog toys are not created equal, many may have varied intended purposes in mind to service a variety of play needs. A toy’s purpose can range for example from an interactive treat dispensing (puzzle style) toy, to a chew toy, to a chew toy that can be filled with food, to play toys intended for throw and retrieve style play. It helps to consider the needs of the individual dog when selecting appropriate toys. A dog’s chewing and play needs are a vital component of the selection process.

There are three basic chewing styles when it comes to dogs and their toys:

1) Gentle Chewers – These dogs are easy on toys and prefer plush or fabric toys. They usually like to lick or suck on their toys, but rarely ever destroy their toys.

2) Average Chewers –These dogs love to play with all kinds of toys and will often carry toys around with them. They can be destructive with plush and fabric toys but rarely are destructive with rubber toys.

3) Power Chewers – These dogs are usually strong, determined chewers who require more discretion when it comes to selecting toys. Choose durable, interactive play toys along with firm rubber toys. Sizing up above the recommended weight and size range can also be helpful when picking toys for dogs known to be powerful chewers.

A dog can be as gentle or as rough as they like to derive enjoyment from the game, many toys even channel natural instincts to catch, chase, shake and crush prey which would explain why some dogs become particularly excitable by squeaky toys.

Therefore, to sum up, I need to ascertain from the dog owner some specifics of the dog before I make any recommendations about the right KONG toy – what is the dog’s chewing temperament?  How quickly does the dog empty its food bowl? Age and size of dog?

Pets4Life: What pets do you have at home and what tips do you have to help busy families keep their dog happy and healthy?

Rodney: We have one kelpie, two Koolies and a Jack Russell.  All our dogs are rescues and they’ve all been chew toy (rubber KONG) trained. Something they highly likely never had before they joined our family.

A happy and healthy pet in a busy family is one where the owners make the time to engage and interact with their dog.  I tend to use a game of tug as a reward rather than treats with my dogs when doing some training exercises. You only need a few minutes every day. This might include:

  • Training a new behaviour or trick like ‘high five’ and use a game of tug as a reward
  • Working on existing behaviours such as ‘sit’ and ‘lie-down on the mat’
  • Interactively playing with your dog (with a suitable KONG toy designed for inside) or outside by throwing the toy a few times once the dog has released it
  • Crate training using a KONG toys for dogs.  If your dog is already crate trained, keep your dog occupied (in the crate) with a stuffed KONG.
  • Stuffing a KONG can be a family event with the children who’ll learn good routines that will follow through when they are old enough to get their own dog.
  • Stuff KONG’s with the dog’s complete meal or there are a range of stuffing ideas/recipes and only feed using the KONG.
  • Freeze for a greater challenge – To increase the challenge put together a mixture of wet and dry ingredients, stuff the KONG and freeze it in a bowl of water. 
  • Using a Wobbler or Gyro for dry food or kibble dispensing.

If you have a cat, check out how to keep your indoor cat entertained with KONG toys.