Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Dog owners everywhere are looking to create tailored treats and enrichment options for their furry friends, but starting out can feel overwhelming. Here are some helpful tips to take the guess work out of stuffing your dog's enrichment toys.
Step 1: Don't Rush it!
A common mistake people make when giving their dog a new stuffable toy is not introducing it properly. In certain cases, a dog will dive into a frozen treat with no issues. In other cases, a dog needs to learn that they're able to obtain what's inside, and that what's inside is worth their time. Stuffed toys can be confusing and frustrating for a dog that's never encountered one, so taking it slow helps ensure that your dog has a good transition.
Starting Out: Start introductions with loose, rollable treats inside an empty Kong. Kongs are bouncy and rollable, so this is a fun way for your dog to realize that this new bouncy beehive has obtainable rewards inside.
Size Matters: Ensure you look carefully at the sizing guides provided on enrichment toys prior to introductions. While something may "look" the correct size, it's important that you don't rush this process either. When accidents with enrichment toys happen, the cause is normally size related. Here's an example of the Kong Size Chart.
Step 2: Level Up, and Tailor Accordingly
If your dog gets the hang of the loose treats with no sweat, you can begin to gradually level up your Kong game. From loose rolling treats, to wet stuffable goodies, and graduating to frozen stuffed toys.
Note: You don't want to create frustration with enrichment toys and/or enrichment feeding. While a frozen treat may last longer for some, it can also cause more frustration than enrichment for certain dogs. Keep an eye on your dogs' body language and keep tabs if something is too difficult for them. Remember: More time doesn't always mean more enjoyment.
Step 3: Broaden your Ingredient Range
One way to keep your pup engaged in enrichment is to provide a range of different foods that keep it interesting. To compare, think about your first baloney sandwich as a kid. That sandwich was SO exciting and great the first few times you experienced it. But, what if you had that same baloney sandwich every. single. day? That sandwich would likely lose it's magic and become anything but exciting. Adding and rotating dog safe ingredients is a sure fire way to keep things exciting and new for your dog. No more baloney sandwiches!
Tips for food introductions:
- Incorporate new foods one at a time.
- If you plan on using a new ingredient in your stuffing routine, give that ingredient to your dog in your presence 24-48 hours prior to stuffing in an enrichment toy. This allows you to monitor for any allergic reactions/ unknown intolerances.
- Always touch base with your vet if you're unsure of a certain food or add in.
- Never stuff your toy with an abundance of totally new foods This is asking for upset bellies!
When in doubt, always be sure to utilize the two M's: MODIFICATION & MODERATION.
Always modify the amount of food you're using in your enrichment toys to avoid overfeeding.
Moderate ingredients; less is more!
Modify the way you serve your enrichment toys (i.e. use them for meals as opposed to treats).
Moderate the amount of new foods you give to your dog per week to avoid GI upset.
Step 4: Creating the Perfect Treat
Once you've graduated from the basics, it's time to get technical. While there's no right or wrong when it comes to enrichment stuffing, I find that the layering method below works great. After all, how you stuff your enrichment toys can help keep your dog engaged enough to work through an entire treat. Try building in layers with Taste Teasers at the top, Filler throughout the center, and High Value at the bottom.
*TIP*: To find out what's considered "High Value" for your dog, try giving them a Preference Assessment.
Step 5: Ensure You're Not Overfeeding
While enrichment toys are an amazing way to add value to your dogs treats and meals, it's of the utmost importance that we don't go crazy with them to the point of overfeeding.
I suggest touching base with your vet if you're unsure of how many calories per day your dog requires. There are also some calorie calculators available for those looking for a super rough idea* on caloric intake per day based on your dog's weight and activity levels.
Knowing your dog's caloric intake per day will help you build treats into your dog's routine on a more accurate level, as well as help give you an idea of ingredients to avoid based on calorie count.
A great way to incorporate enrichment toys in your dog's feeding routine is by serving a portion of your dogs meals inside enrichment toys. It takes the guess work out of calorie counting and adds more excitement at meal time.
* I say "super rough idea" from the calorie calculator function because that's what this is - a rough estimation. Getting in touch with your vet is the best way to figure out your individual dog's needs based on breed, age, activity level, health history, and more.
Step 6: Build Your Collection
Having different options in terms of shape, texture, and size provides variety in your canine enrichment routine. Certain toys are best for dry treats, others can be beneficial for the super chewer in your life - there are so many enrichment toy options out there for you to discover.
Check out a list of our favorites for food enrichment as well as play based enrichment types here.
Now that you've read through the Beginners Guide to Stuffing Dog Toys, you're ready for lift off!
Have more questions? Check out our Stuffing FAQ for more answers on Kong Stuffing, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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