A Complete Guide to KONGS for Dogs: Sizes, Types, Fillings - Canine Compilation
Kong for dogs - a complete guide

A Complete Guide to KONGS for Dogs: Sizes, Types, Fillings

Stuck With What to Stuff or Fill Your Dog’s KONG With? Check Out These Great Ideas and See Why a KONG Is a Fantastic Toy for Your Pup!

Does your dog get frustrated and rip stuff up? Or perhaps your dog is tired of the same old food all the time? Or do you maybe already have a KONG but you get bored of filling it with the same food and you need some new ideas?

KONGs are fantastic boredom-busters!

Read on for an overview of the different KONGs available (yes, there are more than just the classic red KONG), which KONGs are best for different kinds of dogs, and what to stuff them with.

If your dog doesn’t already have a KONG, I’m going to give you scores of reasons why it’s worth adding it to your dog’s toy basket.

There are just a couple of warnings for us pet parents: don’t give your pup their KONG on your favourite rug or sofa. KONGs are fantastic fun for dogs but can make a mess, depending on what you fill them with.

And as with any toy, there are a couple of safety issues to be aware of – read on for more details.

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WHAT IS A KONG?

A KONG is a hollow toy that is made of dog-safe, toxic-free rubber – all made in the USA. The KONG shape resembles a ridged cone and it bounces and rolls unpredictably. Some dogs like to play with it as if it was a ball, but the real benefit comes from stuffing a KONG with food.

They are often filled with peanut butter, giving your pup hours of fun and entertainment in licking it clean. Although peanut butter might be the most common stuffing for Kongs, it’s certainly not the healthiest and there are lots of other more interesting and exciting Kong fillings for your fur baby.

best kong for heavy chewers - kong extreme

A KONG toy is incredibly versatile. So what are the benefits of KONGs?

KONG FOR ENRICHMENT

KONGS are a great way to add to your dog’s enrichment and keep your pup entertained.

By combining meal times with gentle play, you’re essentially making your pup work for their food – something dogs love to do.

Eating from a bowl isn’t an enriching experience and does nothing to engage a dog’s brain. Stuffing food into a KONG is a practical way to encourage physical play as well as mental stimulation for dogs. This combination really helps satisfy a dog’s natural instincts.

Combine a stuffed KONG with other enrichment elements in Free Work for your dog and get maximum benefits from it.

KONG TO BEAT BOREDOM

When dogs are bored, they get up to no good. If your dog tends to pull apart things they shouldn’t, giving them a kong might save your slippers, table legs, or cushions from being destroyed!

KONG AS A FETCH TOY

Because of its irregular, unpredictable bouncing pattern, the KONG makes a challenging and fun toy for your pup to fetch.

KONG AS A SLOW FEEDER

You can smear food on the outside of a KONG (messy for you, fantastic for your pup), or, you can stuff it. Putting food on the inside of a KONG means your dog’s eating is slowed down – no more wolfing down their food!

Stuffing a KONG with your dog’s normal dinner effectively replaces using a bowl.

If you freeze the KONG and its contents, it will make mealtime even slower.

KONG AS A CHEW TOY

Made of dog-safe rubber, a KONG is a durable chew toy.

Unlike bones or some other chew toys, the rubber KONG is hard enough to be durable but soft enough so it won’t break your dog’s teeth.

KONG FOR DENTAL HEALTH

Dog toothpaste, dog oral gel or spray, or a small amount of coconut oil can be smeared on the outside or inside of the KONG. This, in addition to the soft scraping of your dog’s teeth on the rubber when they chew, helps to keep their teeth clean.

KONG FOR CRATE TRAINING

Use a filled KONG as a high-value treat when training your dog to enjoy spending time in their crate.

Fill the KONG and let your dog check it out before you pop it in the back of the crate. Encourage your dog to investigate the crate in their own time. Don’t shut the door on them once they’re inside.

Instead, let your dog enjoy their KONG in the crate so they associate the crate with positive experiences.

KONG FILLINGS CAN ADD VARIETY TO YOUR DOG’S LIFE

Can you imagine having to eat the same thing for every meal? That’s exactly what life is like for lots of dogs.

Dogs love variety and get bored just like us though. By stuffing the KONG with different food, you can give your dog the variety they crave from their dinner.

KONG FOR WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

One of the main differences between feeding in a KONG and feeding in a bowl is that your dog has to move much more when they eat from a KONG. The erratic movement of the KONG can provide a dog with a good 15-20 minutes play and chase time.

KONG AS A STRESS RELIEVER

Many dogs experience separation anxiety when left alone. If you need to leave your dog at home when you go out, a KONG can help to relieve your dog’s stress at being left alone.

However, although many pet parents do this with a KONG that has been fully stuffed or even frozen, I personally would not. I’m a paranoid dog-mom who doesn’t like to leave her pup alone with toys that might potentially have safety risks. Read on to see what those are concerning KONGs and some potential solutions.

TYPES OF KONGS

the 4 different types of Kongs for dogs

The KONG company produces lots of different toys, not just the hollow, rubber bouncing shape we all know and love. We’re not concerned with the other KONG toys here though – instead, we’ll focus on the 4 types of original KONG.

Each of the 4 types comes in a variety of sizes. Each of the 4 types has its own signature colour.

CLASSIC KONG

The classic, red KONG is probably the most well-known dog enrichment toy on the market. It’s suitable for a ‘normal’ adult dog.

What do I mean by normal? One that doesn’t destroy everything in their sight in 2 seconds flat, and isn’t a puppy or an older dog.

If your dog’s aim in life is to destroy everything he can get his teeth on, the KONG Extreme is more suitable. Made of super-tough rubber, it’s much harder to chew up.

EXTREME KONG

Of course, any dog parent knows there is no such thing as indestructible when it comes to dogs, but the black, Extreme KONG was created with power chewers in mind. It’s made of tougher rubber than the other KONGs. If you’re looking for the best KONG for heavy chewers, this is the boy for you.

KONG CLASSIC

Suitable for average chewers

KONG EXTREME

Suitable for aggressive, power chewers

SENIOR KONG

Since many older dogs tend to suffer from oral health issues, the Senior KONG is made from softer, purple rubber. It encourages chewing but is kinder on your dog’s teeth and gums.

PUPPY KONG

The Puppy KONG is the only variation that comes in 2 colours – pink or blue. Both are made of soft, chewy rubber that won’t be too challenging for your puppy’s teeth.

As your puppy’s 28 baby teeth come through, it can make their gums sore. Chewing on a Puppy KONG can help relieve some of the teething pain that puppies go through.

Their adult teeth are set at around 9 months old – they can then move on to either a KONG Classic or KONG Extreme.

KONG PUPPY

Suitable for teething puppies

KONG SENIOR

Suitable for older teeth and gums

CHOOSING THE RIGHT KONG FOR YOUR DOG

It’s essential that you get the correct type of KONG, and the right size of KONG, for your dog.

One-size-fits-all does not work when it comes to KONGs.

WHAT SIZES DO KONGS COME IN?

KONGs come in 6 sizes, though you can’t get all 6 sizes in every type of KONG.

This table shows you a summary of KONG type and the sizes of KONG that are available.

table showing different kong sizes

WHAT SIZE KONG DOES MY DOG NEED?

To choose the right type and size KONG for your dog, answer these questions:

  1. What age is your dog? – choose from Puppy, Adult (Classic/Extreme), or Senior.
  2. If your dog is an adult, are they a normal chewer or an aggressive chewer? Choose a Classic KONG for normal, an Extreme KONG for aggressive chewers.
  3. What does your dog weigh? Use the table below to identify the right size based on your dog’s weight.

If your dog’s weight is on the cusp between 2 different sizes, KONG recommends that you size up and go for the larger model.

When giving any toy to dogs, bigger is better to prevent them from swallowing small pieces of the toy.

The manufacturer recommends sizing up if you’re unsure which size to buy. Here are recommended Kong sizes for common breeds of dogs.

summary of types of kongs and sizes

WHAT SIZE KONG WORKS BEST FOR DIFFERENT BREEDS?

KONG produced a chart with suggested sizes for different breeds. Use this along with the table above listing the weight of your dog to find the right size for your dog’s breed.

doberman with classic kong toy

My girl is a small dobermann (27kg) and she’s enjoying a large KONG Classic in this picture.

HOW TO CLEAN AND SANITISE KONGS

Once your pup has licked the KONG clean, it will be delightfully slobbery! I find it easier to clean it straight away, otherwise, food gets dry and crusty inside and it’s harder to clean it properly.

KONGs are dishwasher safe, so if you have a dishwasher, pop the KONG in on the top rack. If you don’t, here’s how to clean a KONG by hand.

  1. Rinse it under the hot water tap to remove any lumps of food
  2. In case of stubborn treats, soak the KONG in warm water until dried up food has softened
  3. Scrub the inside of the KONG using an old toothbrush or bottle brush
  4. Rinse thoroughly with tap water after washing to remove any soap suds.

HOW LONG DOES A KONG LAST?

Provided your dog is not an expert destroyer (in which case, get the Kong Extreme) a Kong will last for years. Check the KONG regularly for cracks, separations or missing pieces and dispose of the KONG if you find any (or use the KONG pieces in nose work!).

Some pet parents report that after 7 or 8 years of regular use, the KONG starts to break down, with the rubber becoming a little sticky and oil leaching from it. Clearly, you should replace any KONG as soon as this happens.

Still, 7 or 8 years regular use before it degrades makes this incredibly good value for money!

KONG STUFFING TIPS

Some dogs understand how to use a filled KONG immediately. Others need a little help though.

TOTAL BEGINNER For a dog that’s never had a filled KONG before, start simple. You want it to be an enriching challenge, but not frustrating.

If your dog seems really confused about what to do with it, start with a filling that’s super easy for your dog to get to. The simplest way to use a KONG is as a treat dispenser. Pop some treats in there and let your dog paw at it, rolling it around to get the treats to fall out.

Once they are happy nudging the KONG around to get to the food, raise the challenge level a bit – time to mix in some sticky stuff and/or plug the holes up.

INTERMEDIATE If necessary, plug the small bottom hole with something sticky or paste-like (such as cream cheese or nut butter). This is if you’re using really small treats or kibble pieces that would fall out otherwise. Add treats to kibble, then plug up the large hole with more sticky stuff. This stops all the food immediately spilling out of the KONG as soon as you put it down.

Increase the difficulty over time by packing it a little more each time. Mix the food with a binding base such as some yogurt, pureed / canned pumpkin, cream cheese, or wet dog food such as raw ground meat or canned dog food, healthy nut butter, or pate and just let your dog lick at it.

If your dog seems confused by what to do with it, don’t stuff the KONG so it’s jam-packed. Leave some loose food such as bits of meat (or kibble, if you feed it) in the top of it so they fall out easily.

ADVANCED Fill the KONG fully. Maybe add in and layer elements that are harder to get out, such as chunks of ice-cubes.

If you haven’t already, try your hand at making frozen KONGs by filling them with food and liquid.

HOW TO STUFF A KONG

KONG stuffing can get a little messy, depending on what you fill it with.

Some fillings can simply be spooned in – this is what I do with my dog’s raw mince.

For some fillings though, the easiest method is to prop the KONG straight up in a jug or glass, with the small hole to the bottom.

If necessary, plug up the small hole with something sticky: common options for this are peanut butter, cream cheese, a piece of cheese, a slice of carrot, mashed banana, wet dog food or a chewy treat. It can be any dog-safe food that will plug the hole so that the rest of the food doesn’t come out.

Begin pushing or spooning in the rest of the filling. The large hole can be made oblong shape by squeezing the top of the KONG which will let you push larger items into the KONG. This works well when you want to include ice cubes, for instance.

Once you’ve filled the KONG, plug up the large hole with some more sticky food if necessary.

MIX IT UP

Mix wet and dry ingredients to make it more interesting and challenging for your dog to get to the food.

Vary the ingredients so there’s always a surprise for your pup as they progress through the contents of their KONG.

HOW TO STUFF A KONG FOR PUPPIES

We need to be careful when we introduce new food types to any dog, but especially so with a puppy because of the risk of them vomiting or having diarrhea.

To begin, stuff the KONG mainly with your puppy’s regular food, and add a small amount of new food that has been chopped up tiny so there’s no choking risk. Options include small bits of fruit and veg like banana, apple, carrot or broccoli.

Use small amounts of low-fat cream cheese or cottage cheese as glue to bind the food together, and to ‘plug’ the opening once you’ve filled the KONG.

Alternatively, try KONG’s own range of fillers for puppies.

KONG READY-MADE FILLINGS

Just in case you don’t want to prepare food to fill your dog’s KONG, KONG makes a full range of their own squeezy fillings and treats too.

Choose from squirty fillings for puppies, or for adults in various flavours including: liver, sweet potato, peanut butter, or bacon and cheese.

KONG Snacks and Bites are also available for puppies or adults – these are solid treats designed to go inside a KONG.

SIMPLE KONG FILLINGS

If you’re a beginner, or maybe even just short of time, go for a couple of simple KONG fillings.The best KONG fillers are usually whatever your pup goes nuts for.

Two things to bear in mind: All food types should be chopped up small enough so they don’t pose a choking hazard, and don’t add too many high-calorie foods or your poor pup will end up looking like a KONG.

Mashed banana or yogurt make a good binding base for the filling. Binding the filling together will stop it from falling out of the KONG too easily. What else you put in there is up to you; it could be pieces of fruit, chopped vegetables, pieces of meat or even your dog’s kibble if he’s kibble fed.

Here are some other ideas of things to stuff a KONG with.

Fruit, chopped up small

  • apples
  • applesauce (unsweetened)
  • bananas
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • cranberries
  • strawberries

Veg: frozen or fresh, chopped up small

  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • carrots
  • green beans
  • kale
  • pumpkin: puree or wedges, canned or home cooked
  • spinach
  • squash
  • sweet potato

Meat, fish and dairy

  • ground meat
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • liver
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • canned / wet dog food
  • kibble
  • low fat cream cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • chunks of cheese
  • eggs: boiled/scrambled
  • yogurt

Other

  • KONG’s ready-made Easy Treat fillings – multiple flavours
  • nut butters
  • pate – get a dog pate recipe here
  • seeds: pumpkin, chia, flax seeds
  • baby food (unsweetened, dog-safe)
  • little ice cubes – pre freeze bone broth in ice cubes
  • Your leftover food (as long as it’s dog-safe – no spices, flavorings, or food dangerous to dogs)

The easiest option for filling a KONG? YOUR DOG’S DINNER! It might seem like a cop-out, but it really isn’t. Your dog needs to eat and you can make mealtime much more interesting for them by offering them their food in a more enriching format.

If you usually feed kibble, mix the kibble with some other dog-safe ingredients from the list above and pack them into the KONG. Plug the opening with something sticky and your dog’s dinner just got a lot more interesting for them.

how to stuff a frozen KONG

Tap twice to load then open Video...

FROZEN KONGS

A frozen KONG lasts longer than a standard KONG. It also makes an excellent refreshing treat for your dog in warmer weather.

Freezing the KONG opens up a whole host of new filling options. Because it will be frozen, you can use liquid fillings as well as solid food.

How long does a frozen KONG last? That depends on your dog, but my girl takes an hour to finish a loosely packed frozen KONG. Not bad for 5 minutes of my time!

For the best frozen KONG recipes for dogs and puppies, add liquid to a solid food filling to create a more challenging stuffed KONG.

Liquid base options:

  • Bone broth – homemade is best. If you use a bought one, check it’s not full of salt and doesn’t contain onions.
  • kefir
  • yogurt

Solid food options:

  • pieces of chopped up meat
  • pieces of chopped up fruit or veg
  • pieces of kibble if you feed kibble
  • canned dog food

Sticky food to plug the holes:

  • cream cheese
  • nut butter
a dog with a frozen KONG

FROZEN KONG RECIPE

This recipe combines liquid and solids, with a fish leaping out of the large hole!

Ingredients:

  • Cream cheese (low fat preferably)
  • ground meat (raw or cooked)
  • bone broth
  • dehydrated / fresh small fish (I used sprats)

Instructions:

Given that we’re going to put bone broth in the KONG, you might be wondering, how do you fill a KONG with liquid? Read the instructions, or watch the video.

  • Start by plugging up the smaller hole with cream cheese or nut butter. I use a knife and force cream cheese into the hole from the outside. I put around a teaspoon amount in there to plug the hole well.
  • Put the KONG, plugged hole to the bottom, in a jug or small bowl. Ideally, the KONG will not have room to fall over, so don’t use a jug/bowl that is much bigger than the KONG.
  • Spoon in the ground meat and a few fish.
  • Pour in some broth.
  • Plug the top hole with cream cheese and poke a fish or 2 into it.
  • Freeze.
  • It’s not necessary to completely pack and fill the KONG, especially if your dog isn’t used to eating from a KONG. Over time you can gradually fill it more and more until it is completely full of food.
  • Once it’s completely set, it’s ready for your dog!

USE THE KONG AS A BASE FOR A CAKE!

Snowman KONG dog treat

As well as stuffing the KONG with food, why not use it as a quick and convenient base for a celebration cake? In this project I covered the KONG to make a snowman. See how to do it in this article.

KONG WARNINGS AND ADVICE

Make sure that you’re not precious about the area where your pup will be playing with the KONG. Drooling dogs and sticky, wet KONGs are guaranteed to make a mess, so keep the KONG away from your sofa or carpets.

My girl enjoys her KONG on her bed or the floor in the kitchen. Her bed topper is machine washable so I just throw it in the wash if it gets covered in food. The rug in the kitchen is washable too so I leave her to enjoy her KONG freely, without worrying about any slobbering.

SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS WHEN USING KONG TOYS

Risk is rare, but it does happen. I know many pet parents that rely on a stuffed KONG to entertain their dog when they go out and leave the dog alone. It seems like a fantastic way to occupy them, especially in the case of separation anxiety, but I would never leave my dog with a filled KONG unsupervised. Let’s look at the potential risks of leaving your dog alone with a KONG – to be honest, most of these points are true of ANY dog toys.

DURABILITY

Is your dog a destructive chewer? If so, go for a KONG Extreme. It’s made of tougher rubber and will be harder for an aggressive chewer to shred it up. For dogs that destroy their toys, it’s better not to allow access to any toys, including KONG toys, while unattended. Otherwise, there is a risk your dog will end up eating fragments of rubber.

WRONG SIZE KONG

Consider the size and shape of your KONG toy. If a large dog is given a KONG toy designed for small dogs, risks go up significantly. An appropriately-sized KONG toy will be hard to swallow. A general rule of thumb is to get a KONG that is almost the size of your dog’s head.

However, bear in mind that your dog’s bottom jaw could get stuck in the larger hole if the hole is too big. It’s not usually difficult to get it off, but I recommend that you supervise KONG playtime in case that happens.

OLD KONGS

Look for cracks in the rubber or signs of aging. Any toy that is beginning to break down increases the risk of your dog swallowing it.

DIETARY ISSUES

Calories count, even when delivered in a KONG toy!

VACUUM/SUCTION RISK

There have been a handful of cases reported where the action of the dog licking inside the KONG creates a vacuum and the dog’s tongue gets stuck in the KONG. In theory, the second, smaller hole in the KONG is designed to stop that happening but if the KONG is packed full of food or frozen, there won’t be any air getting into the KONG through that smaller hole.

One solution to this that lots of pet parents do is to push a straw through the KONG – in one hole and out the other – before they freeze it. They remove the straw before giving the KONG to their dog.

I think it’s a little pointless though, as the hole is likely to close up while your dog is licking away at the contents of the KONG. The food/liquid can potentially defrost and block the hole anyway.

Instead, I prefer to be around when my girl is enjoying her KONG. I would also avoid packing it too densely for dogs that go nuts and try to devour their KONGs.

Does your dog have separation anxiety? Many pet parents leave their pups with a stuffed or frozen KONG to keep them occupied when they’re alone. I personally would not do this. I’m a paranoid dog-mom who doesn’t like to leave her pup alone with toys that might potentially have safety risks.

One solution, instead of leaving your dog with a stuffed or frozen KONG when you go out, is to just smear food on the inner walls of the KONG, leaving a hole through the middle so air can still get in. Yes, your dog will finish it much sooner, but you won’t be worrying about them all the time you’re out.

ALTERNATIVE TO A KONG

Other manufacturers’ versions of KONGS are cheaper, but they’re not as durable so they’re not really cost-efficient in the long run. They’re more likely to break apart and cause a choking hazard or lead to your dog inadvertently eating bits of rubber.

CONCLUSION

KONGs make excellent enrichment toys. They also give us a simple way to make mealtimes more fun and stimulating for our dogs. They’re so versatile and can be used as a fetch toy, a replacement for a food bowl, a refreshing treat in the summer, and as a simple play toy.

KONGs can be filled with any kind of dog-safe food.

It’s important to get the right KONG for your dog though, based on different criteria such as size, durability, and the age of your dog.

So what type of KONG does your dog need, if you don’t already have one? What’s your favourite stuffing for a KONG? Let us know what drives your dog crazy!

I am not a veterinarian: this information is not intended to replace medical advice, but rather, to help you make informed decisions to improve your dog’s health and wellbeing. Please, always seek your vet’s opinion, especially in the case of your dog being ill. 

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