All dogs have different quirks and habits, but there’s one behavior you can almost always expect from canines: They’re going to chew things. The reasons for chewing can vary, says dog trainer and author Victoria Schade, but the solution is often the same. Pups need their own toys to chew so they don’t leave their bite marks on your possessions. And for Schade, a seasoned expert with over a decade of experience training dogs for clients like Animal Planet, KONG toys are a favorite, whether for large dogs, small dogs or anything in between.
“I love that KONG was the absolute innovator in the world of dog toys. They changed the way our dogs have fun,” she says. Though she’s not affiliated with the brand, she jokes, “I think KONG should hire me to be a spokesperson because I am an unabashed fan and subject matter expert!”
Whether you’re a new dog mom or dad looking for toys for your puppy, or a longtime pet parent hoping to spice things up with a new KONG for your large dog or small dog, we’ve got the ultimate guide to the different types of KONG toys and how to use them, as well as KONG recipes and more.
The Benefits of KONG Toys
So, what sets KONG toys apart? For Schade, it comes down to two advantages.
First, she says, “I love that they have a variety of options that take different chewing styles and abilities into account.” The different types of KONG toys range from the classic snowman-shaped KONG (which itself comes in a variety of sizes and rubber strengths) to toys designed for playing fetch, tug-of-war, and even sweet, post-playtime snuggles.
KONG’s second advantage is more for the pet parent’s peace of mind.
The second perk? Schade also loves that KONG toys are made in the USA from globally sourced natural rubber materials.
Choosing the Right KONG for Your Dog
KONG’s wide assortment of products for dogs is a huge asset. But for pet parents, that selection can be overwhelming. So, how do you know which toy is right for your dog?
Finding the right toy for your pet often involves some trial-and-error to determine what your dog prefers.
“I think having a variety of dog toys and chews is super important, so investing in a bunch of different options will help you determine how your dog ranks the toys,” Schade advises.
It also depends on the situation. For example, plush toys are ideal for team-play, and more durable rubber treat-dispensing toys are better for alone-time enrichment, Schade says.
The first step is narrowing down your options according to your dog’s age, size and chewing habits, Schade says.
Selecting the Right KONG Size
When selecting KONG toys for dogs, you want to select the best size for their jaws.
Smaller adult breeds need a toy that’s sized appropriately for their smaller jaws. The KONG Classic, for example, comes in sizes X-small (for pets up to 5 pounds) and small (for pets up to 20 pounds). In addition to the smaller size KONG Classic, Schade recommends KONG SqueakAir toys, which also come in smaller sizes, including X-small and small.
“[They] are usually irresistible for smaller dogs,” Schade says. “They’re soft enough for them to grab, plus they have a fantastic sound.”
Larger adult breeds have big jaws to match. For them, Schade recommends the larger sizes of the KONG Classic.
When in doubt, KONG recommends sizing up.
Selecting the Right KONG Rubber Strength
You might think that all small dogs are light chewers and all big dogs are powerful chewers, but that’s not true. You’ll need to take your dog’s individual chewing style into account
The KONG Classic is a near-universal hit with chewers of all types—both large and small, Schade says.
If your dog has extra powerful chompers—whether they’re a small dog breed or a large dog breed—opt for KONG’s ultra-durable toys. For these destructive chewers, Schade recommends the KONG Extreme, made out of the brand’s strongest rubber. They come in sizes small (for dogs up to 20 pounds) through XX-large (for dogs 85 pounds and up). Like the KONG Classic, this snowman-shaped toy can be stuffed with treats to add extra enticement.
“Dedicated chewers will also enjoy hard rubber toys like KONG Tires and the KONG Extreme Goodie Bone,” Schade adds. “Both are great options for dogs that enjoy playing fast-paced games of fetch or settling down to unpack treats from inside.”
“They’re suited for pups with gentle mouths,” Schade explains. “Plush toys are fantastic for team play between pet parent and dog, rather than unsupervised chomping.”
KONG Toys for Puppies
With their high energy and short attention spans, puppies need a toy that’ll hold their attention long enough to wear them out, Schade says. The KONG Puppy dog toy is an ideal solution. Its rubber is uniquely designed to withstand sharp puppy teeth, soothing the discomfort of and rewarding your pup for chewing an appropriate object (rather than your new shoes).
"Not only will it provide them with hours of fun, catching and fetching the sporadically bouncing toy, the real benefits are in the unique shape and hollow design," says Dr. Roger Mugford, animal psychologist and founder of The Animal Behaviour Centre in Surrey, England. "This clever design allows for ‘food stuffing’ and therefore turns this great toy into a therapeutic ‘boredom-busting’ soother."
To really ease those aching gums, Dr. Mugford says, pet parents can stuff and freeze the toy, offering an edible treat as well as cooling relief. The KONG Puppy comes in sizes X-small through large so be sure to pick the correct size for your puppy.
Another fun toy for puppies, Schade says, is the KONG Puppy Teething Stick, “which is a great way to introduce treat-stuffable toys because it has an easy payout,” she says.
KONG Toys for Senior Dogs
The KONG Senior is a popular option. Like the KONG Classic toys, this is a snowman-shaped, stuffable toy—with the added benefit of being designed especially for senior dogs’ aging teeth and gums. It comes in sizes small, medium and large.
Senior dogs sometimes need extra stimulation to “encourage old bones to get off the couch for some fun,” Schade says. The KONG Stuff-a-Ball, a treat dispensing toy with plenty of space for goodies inside and average chew strength, is appropriate for a wide range of dogs—and it could be just the enticement to play that seniors need, she says.
Courtesy of KONG
How to Use a KONG Toy
KONG Classic toys make for exciting playtime all on their own, with a unique snowman shape that creates an erratic bounce, making every game of fetch different. Their unique natural rubber formula also provides an outlet for natural chewing instincts while rewarding appropriate behavior. Whether you’re tossing the toy for your pup to retrieve or letting your dog keep their KONG all to themselves, these toys can keep pups entertained for long stretches.
If you want to add even more variety to your dog’s KONG experience, Schade suggests several tactics:
KONG Recipes and Treats
Many pet parents know that the inside of a KONG Classic is a great place to stuff treats. Dogs, on the other hand, might need some guidance to understand how to use their KONG toy, Schade says.
Pet parents might have to help their pup figure out how to use their stuffed KONG by starting with an easy win.
“If they jam-pack it and make it too difficult, the dog might give up,” she says.
To avoid that fate, Schade suggests putting a few loose dog treats inside your KONG at first, so it’s easier for your dog to get them out and reap that delicious reward. Then, “over a series of sessions, slowly work up to filling it to the brim.”
For even more of a challenge, pet parents can freeze the KONG with treats inside. Stuff the toy and place it in the freezer for 4-6 hours, then give it to your dog for an extended mentally rewarding challenge.
KONG also makes a variety of dog treats perfect for stuffing into their toys, including KONG Snacks Peanut Butter Recipe, which comes in two sizes, small and large, to fit your dog’s KONG toy.
A tasty last step in this process is what Schade calls “locking” your KONG.
“Once the dog has figured out that perseverance pays, put a stopper biscuit in the bottom of the KONG where the hole is, fill the KONG with wet dog food, then place a flat ‘air lock’ biscuit across the top of the opening,” Schade says. “Then freeze it, and you’ll have a dog who won’t stop working!”
After your dog’s interest in KONG (and what they might find inside) is fully piqued, you can experiment with different KONG dog toy recipes to keep things interesting.
Courtesy of KONG
Games to Play With KONG
KONG toys are also useful in training scenarios, Schade says, including teaching your dog to “find the toy.” This game provides mental stimulation and encourages your pet to tap into their natural scenting abilities—plus it’s fun to watch.
“KONG plush toys are perfect for games of ‘find the toy,’” Schade says.
With a diverse product line and so many different ways to play, there’s a KONG toy to meet the chewing needs of nearly every dog. The only question is, which one will your dog love best?