With this post, I hope to get some comments. I would truly love more ideas for keeping my dogs occupied when I'm gone for several hours. Here are the ideas I currently use, but I know you have more to offer. I'm challenging you to share your thoughts at LetsAdoptaDogPark@gmail.com or simply click the comment link at the bottom of this post and write your thoughts there. Commenting right here on the blog will allow my readers to read your thoughts, as well.
With two large retrievers I have learned that even the red Kong is no match for Tanner's jaws. After being told by a trainer that the Kong would be a safe toy to leave with him in his crate, I found otherwise. He ate half of the Kong in less than an hour. Now there is the super strong Black King KongUltra, which supposedly is tougher, but I'm still a bit apprehensive. How is your experience with the new Black King Kong?
My safest bet, after years of seeking, is still the filled or fillable beef bones that are "cooked" to feel like ceramic. I call them Busy Bones. The best Tanner has been able to damage one of these was a mere sliver, so they are my best bet with him. Fortunately, I can give Oliver, my Papillon, a puppy Kong, with no safety concerns. He's too small to pick up a Busy Bone! I have one that is smaller in diameter, but it is still rather heavy for him to handle. He has to leave it on the floor while he works it. I'm sure you know that most dogs prefer to hold these types of toys upright between their paws while they lick and gnaw at them.
I have experimented with various fillings to see which will make him work the longest to retrieve. The whole idea, after all, is to keep him busy with a mental task while I'm out. Peanut Butter is a beloved filling, but messy on the bedding, bad for the breath and teeth, and therefore only an occasional choice. Stuffing the bone with cheese has about the same effect--messy and not so good for his teeth or breath. He does love it, though, so I occasionally pamper him.
Since I eat almost exclusively organic foods, my dogs do too. I know, you probably think I'm really a nut. Decisions like this don't come overnight. I have MS and am a cancer survivor. With all this challenge in my life, I have to do whatever I can to keep the health troubles at bay. I've chosen to do the same for my best friends and my family. No preaching, I promise. I buy organic canned dog food and stuff the Busy Bones (what are those things called, anyway?) with the food. Then I bag and freeze them. Freezing them has a unique effect of making the filling that much more challenging to remove, which of course, means it keeps the dog busy longer. All the better!
Of course, I do use all these favorite fillings in Kongs, I just don't leave Tanner alone with one for a long period of time. It simply is not worth the risk. I was really nervous when he ate half of the first one, until it appeared in the yard. What a sight!
Friends have told me their dogs like frozen yogurt (plain) in the busy bones. After Thanksgiving, I stuffed a couple with all the little tidbits that fell off the turkey carcass when I boiled it for broth. This was a big hit, but they cleaned the bones out much faster. I also stuffed one with an organic hot dog and Tanner thought that was the bomb. I guess I should have called this post Tanner's Treat Review, huh?!!
I'll wrap this up with the vegetarian version of my info. My friends who have former Canine Companion pets tell me that carrots are a regular afternoon snack at the training facility nearby. I buy big bags of juicing carrots to make fresh carrot juice and when I drag it out, the dogs become my shadow. At first, I thought it would be really messy, but even when Tanner eats one on his family room dog bed, which is light tan, he cleans up every morsel and leaves no trace behind. Oliver does the same thing, but I have to give him a much smaller carrot. He's only 8 pounds to Tanner's 57. Xena is 47, and can generally eat anything Tanner can; it just takes her a little longer.
Another seemingly safe toy is a hard rubber treat ball, seen in the photo above. This hollow ball has a small opening through which you fill it with treats. The treats have to line up with a tubular shaped opening to flow out of the ball, which only happens when a treat lines up perfectly with the tube. It's a cool toy that will keep Tanner playing soccer for a long time. He pushes the ball around the whole house, waiting for treats to fall out. This toy has its own natural motivation system built right in.
Apples are welcomed enthusiastically by my dogs, as well, but I have to peel and core them to know they are safe while unsupervised, so they eat them very quickly--not much of a time filling solution.
I hope some of these ideas work for your dogs on long days away. Send me your ideas for safe snacking and I'll post them. Have a great weekend.