The Best Food-Dispensing Toys

Why are food-dispensing toys so great for dogs? The Dog Trainer explains. Plus – 4 awesome toys that will keep your dog happy and busy.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #131

The Kong

You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog trainer who doesn’t love the Kong, a hollow rubber toy shaped like a three-snowball snowman. Kongs come in several sizes and hardnesses, including versions for puppies and old dogs and a Kong Extreme for super-tough chewers. I occasionally meet a Kong-destroying dog, but in general these babies stand up to long, hard wear.

Here’s what not to do with a Kong: throw it out there empty (boring!) or with some dry kibble in the hole (mildly interesting while it lasts, but it doesn’t last). The Kong’s entire purpose is to tire out your dog’s jaw. Make a cement of ½ canned and ½ dry food, stuff that Kong, and freeze overnight. Much better. If your dog gives up easily, let her get used to excavating un-frozen Kongs and then work your way up to Kongs frozen solid.

Kongs can go in the dishwasher, or you can soak them in a big bowl for a while and then scrub with a bottle brush. The excavation process gets messy, so you might want to have your dog lie on an old towel for her fun.

The Wobbler

The Wobbler is shaped like a Kong, but instead of an open bottom, it has a single keyhole-shaped opening in the side. Top and bottom screw apart. Unscrew, add dry dog food, screw back together, and turn Dogalini loose. She bangs the Wobbler around with her paws and sends it spinning to knock out pieces of food. The toy is weighted, so it rights itself. It really travels, which makes it a great way to get a sedentary dog moving.

I started out as a Wobbler skeptic – the toy is made of hard plastic (“FDA approved,” according to the Kong website) and I thought for sure any dog with moderately strong jaws would shatter it. Nope. I have seen a Rottweiler and my own Pit mix go to town on Wobblers with good results. They could pick their Wobblers up, but the smooth surface kept them from getting a good chewing hold. Do make sure the same is true of your dog before you leave her and her Wobbler alone together.

The Wobbler is as easy to fill and clean as a dog bowl. Its big disadvantage is that the plastic is noisy on hard floors. It’s well suited for a “footy” dog, but “chewy” dogs easily learn how it works.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).