There are a huge number of applications for Kong dog toys. I often recommend them for training as there are a variety of things your dog cannot do when chewing from a Kong. Your dog cannot bark, lunge, growl, stare at anything else or jump up when chewing a Kong.
I recently worked with a young, shy, under-socialised gundog who the owner wanted to take him to dog friendly cafes and pubs. I recommended feeding the dog from a Kong almost exclusively to get the dog addicted to chewing a Kong. Any behaviour which is reinforced will increase in frequency, duration or intensity and if your dog plays with or chews a Kong and gets food from it, this will reinforce the chewing or playing but we must start out with the dog being able to get the food from the Kong. If we make the Kong too challenging to start, the dog will get fed up as he the pay off isn’t enough and the training won’t work.
Here is the link for teaching your dog to chew from a Kong
We teach the dog to chew from the Kong when we are there. This means we are able to supervise the dog and make sure he can use it safely. I will explain the protocol I would use for using Kongs with a nervous dog so that the dog can enjoy being out in dog friendly premises.
First, teach the dog to chew the Kong using the steps followed in the YouTube clip when you are at home and the dogs is supervised. Gradually build the difficulty so that the dog is able to chew the Kong stuffed with moistened kibble, partially frozen moistened kibble and finally fully frozen moistened kibble. Once the dog is addicted to chewing a Kong, you can then increase the level of reward as you go out into scary places.
Next take the dog to a quiet pub or cafe, with only a few people in it. Give the dog a Kong stuffed with kibble and a few extra bits of something really tasty such as cheese or pieces of hotdog. Let the dog become accustomed to being in the new place with the better Kong.
Once the dog is used to being in that place, take him to another place which is slightly busier. Repeat the process but have a few more tasty treats in the Kong. Scarier place means better Kongs. Repeat this process for the next, busier pub/cafe, then start again.
On the next series of trials, you should hopefully get to another pub/cafe which is busier than the last. It is important to back off and start from the beginning and do your training in “waves”. This way you are not pushing the dog to improve each time, but gradually improving then backing off, improving a bit more, backing off again and so on.
So it would go like this-
Cafe 1, Cafe 2, Cafe3
Next, Cafe 1, Cafe 2, Cafe 3, Cafe 4
then Cafe 2, Cafe 3, Cafe 4, Cafe 5 and so on
When you get to really intense places for the dog, give the dog a Kong stuffed with moistened kibble, pieces of cheese, hot dog, deli meat and lined with peanut butter or cream cheese. The scariest places mean the best Kongs.
This process would be done over weeks or months. Go at the dog’s pace, pushing him just a little to improve but not so much that he’ll shut down or lapse.
Finally, as part of the treatment for separation distress/anxiety, teach the dog to chew the Kong when you are in the room, then gradually further and further away in the same room, then a little out the room, then gradually further away etc until he is in one room and you are in the other. Then give him a stuffed Kong and go out the house for a few seconds and gradually increase the time you are out the house, again using the “waves” approach.
Until next time. Yours in Good Dog training,