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Introducing KONG® enrichment toys to your dog

Dog enrichment toys can be one of the most useful tools for a Pet Parent. Also known as puzzle or treat dispensing toys, they can provide hours of productive fun for your dog. KONG® has a variety of toys that fit this category, including Classic KONG® and Goodie Bone. If introduced correctly, they will occupy your dog with a progressively challenging and intellectually stimulating activity.

Dog enrichment toys are also very effective when used as redirection tools to distract your dog from engaging in unwanted behaviors or as special rewards during or after training sessions. Many Pet Parents utilize enrichment toys daily to busy their dogs, freeing them to focus on other activities.

Treat-dispensing enrichment toys are different from most other toys because they typically require a short introduction or training period. Most enrichment toys are very easy to introduce and the experience can help you bond with your dog. Just follow the basic steps below:

Enrichment Dog Toy Introduction

  1. Introduce the new toy before a meal, this way your dog will be hungry to learn. It‘s also best to choose a quiet time and place with no distractions so your dog can focus on the task at hand.
  2. Fill the toy with treats that easily dispense. Most treat-dispensing enrichment toys have at least one opening that randomly dispenses or grips the treat. Be sure the treats dispense or release easily. Other toys have adjustable openings. For those toys, make sure the opening is at its widest or easiest dispense setting.
  3. Have your dog watch you fill and test the toy. Be sure your dog sees the treats going in the toy and falling out as you test the rate or ease of dispensing.
  4. Place the treat-filled toy on the floor in front of your dog and roll or shake it until one or more of the treats falls out. Let your dog eat those treats and praise him for his attention.
  5. Now let your dog try the toy. Most dogs, after watching the filling and release demonstration, will understand how to manipulate the toy to get the treat rewards. If yours does not, repeat steps 2 and 3 several times and leave the toy out for a few hours. Important: Always supervise the use of any new toy until you are confident it is safe for your dog.
  6. Always let your dog win. During the introductory stage use the easiest challenge level to ensure your dog is able to solve the treat puzzle. Following this simple rule will allow your dog to “win” and greatly increase the desire to repeat the puzzle.

Increasing the Challenge

Once your dog successfully solves the treat-dispensing puzzle multiple times at the easiest level, it‘s time to slowly increase the difficulty. Do not immediately move to the highest level of difficulty, take your time and gradually increase the challenge. Remember to let your dog win at each increasing level of difficulty.

If your dog has repeated difficulty solving the puzzle at more challenging levels, go back to the last level solved. Continue at the previous level for a longer period of time before increasing the difficulty.

After some experimentation with the toy at various levels of challenge, you may find a certain sized treat or previous level of difficulty is perfect for entertaining or occupying your dog.

At this point, instead of continually trying to force a higher level of difficulty, try adding variety with additional enrichment toys. Introduce the new toys following the same introductory steps. Offering a variety of puzzle toys will keep your dog interested in the challenge and provide a greater degree of intellectual stimulation and growth.

You can also try offering multiple enrichment toys per session for longer playtimes.