Obi Masters the Force!
by Emalie Hardcastle- Trainer, Service Dogs, Inc.
As trainers, we hear over and over again “My dog has a lot of energy” or “My dog would never be that calm” especially when we take our dogs in restaurants. What you don’t see is all of the interactions our dogs get. Every moment we are with the dog can be turned into a training opportunity.
We try to be engaging and give our dogs a variety of outlets for the “dog” things they love to do. They get exercise, learning, play, and sessions where we build our relationship with them. The mental stimulation throughout the day helps to exert their energy as well.
Often times our dogs are not healthy enough when they come in from a shelter to get all of the training sessions we would like. Obi, for instance, tested heartworm positive and is on restricted activity for several weeks. He still needs mental stimulation and has a lot of energy, so we planned some things to help him while he is going through his treatment. One new idea we are trying is a Kong on a bungee cord in the crate.
We often used Kongs stuffed with food or peanut butter, but adding the bungee and hanging it from the top of the crate provides an added challenge. The dog has to figure out how to work it to effectively get the food loose. They can lick it while it hangs, but it moves around a lot. If they are smart and clever, they figure out how to hold it down with their paws. The resistance helps exert energy, which is great exercise even within the confines of a crate. Check out this video to see Obi’s first chances to get in on the fun!
Think your dog would like this as a treat or fun activity? Here are instructions on how to make your own.
Gather your supplies.
You will need:
– a bungee cord
– a Kong Classic
– a pair of scissors
– a pair of pliers
– a lighter
For stuffing the Kong:
– a bowl
– a spoon
– kibble, treats, yogurt, peanut butter or anything else you would like to fill the Kong
Things to consider: You should choose a Kong that is the appropriate size for your dog. The thickness of the bungee will need to be small enough to slip through the small hole in the top of the Kong.
Cut the bungee to the length you want. We cut our 48” in half.
Slide the Kong onto the bungee through the smallest hole first
Tie a knot at the end of the bungee.
Use the pliers to hold onto the knotted end and pull tight to ensure the knot will not come undone.
Burn the end of the bungee to keep it from fraying. Slide the Kong down and you are done. You may repeat the steps with another Kong to make 2 identical food dispensers.
Note: The shorter the bungee the harder it will be for the dog to keep it pulled down while trying to eat out of it. We actually made varying lengths for different levels of difficulty. Take into account the size of your dog and how hard you want it to be. For safety we supervise this activity. We also found just hanging it resulted in it being able to become unhooked. To keep it in place, we closed it in the door so it hung inside the crate.
Now you can fill the Kong with any filling you would like. We will often use some kibble in a bowl with a few treats mixed in. Add a small amount of water to soften the kibble. Wait about 10 minutes until most of the water is soaked up. Spoon the mixture into the large opening of the Kong. Make sure the knot is pulled all the way inside the Kong. To seal it in, cover the opening with just enough peanut butter to cover the hole and keep the kibble inside. Freeze it to help it last longer and create less mess when your dog uses it in the crate. The frozen Kong also creates a cool treat in the heat of summer.
There are an endless number of things you can use to stuff the Kong. Just make sure all ingredients are safe for dogs like using Xylitol-free peanut butter. Try yogurt, green beans, canned sweet potato or pumpkin to add interest. Here are some recipes you can try for a gourmet treat https://www.kongcompany.com/recipes/. When your dog is finished, the empty Kong can be placed on the top rack of the dishwasher for easy cleaning. What’s your dog’s favorite Kong stuffing?