Here’s what to do if your puppy won’t chew a KONG toy:
- Fill it with high-value treats
- Increase or decrease the challenge level
- Show your puppy the openings
- Ensure it’s the right size
- Show your puppy that you’re excited about the toy
- Be okay with them only licking the toy
- If this is a change in behavior, consider speaking with a veterinarian
If none of the above work or apply to your situation, it is possible your puppy just doesn’t like KONG toys! Try purchasing other toys for them of different shapes, textures, and materials to find one that they do enjoy.
KONG themselves even have a wide selection—my pup loves their plush toys!
In this article, I’ll go into more depth on why your puppy isn’t chewing their KONG toy, and how to get them interested.
Use High-Value Treats
While training your dog to do anything, including to chew a KONG toy, you must use high-value treats to entice them! These are treats they absolutely love.
When I adopted my dog Charlie from the shelter, they said that his favorite treat was peanut butter. Funnily enough, though, he’s never eaten it from me and will actively spit out most treats that contain peanut butter.
For this reason, I would never use it as a treat when trying to train him. He wouldn’t be very motivated to do anything just to receive a “reward” he doesn’t like.
High-value treats are things your puppy loves to eat. For Charlie? Cheese will get him to do anything!
Other common favorites are scraps of cooked, unseasoned meats and frozen fruits (which are especially great in the summer!).
Just be careful with things like fruit to ensure you aren’t feeding your puppy anything that’s toxic to them. If you aren’t absolutely sure, do some research first. The answers are only a Google search away!
Here is a list of common foods that are toxic to dogs.
Make the Treats More Challenging to Get Out
Your puppy may not be chewing their KONG toy because it’s not challenging enough. You can tell this is the problem if they’re spilling out the treats inside, then leaving the toy alone.
Try freezing treats inside of the KONG to engage your puppy for longer. You can also try using peanut butter or other sticky foods.
Of course, these options mean you’ll have to clean the KONG more often and more thoroughly than you might if you just put some dry food inside. However, it’ll likely keep your puppy entertained longer this way.
Make It Easier If They Won’t or Can’t Do It
It’s also possible that you’ve started with a treat that’s too challenging to get out of the KONG. If your puppy can’t get the reward, they’ll eventually stop trying.
Try starting your puppy off with pieces of dry food or small treats inside the toy that they can simply dump out. This will be super easy for them, and they should get it quickly!
Once they have the hang of that, you can switch to something more difficult such as peanut butter or frozen treats.
To Teach Your Puppy, Show them the Openings
KONG themselves recommend showing your pup the openings to the toys first. This simple solution may be just the trick if your puppy isn’t understanding how to get treats from the toy.
Allow your puppy to see you fill the toy and let them sniff the openings so that they know what’s inside.
You can also try spilling a couple of treats out of the KONG to show your puppy how it works. Set it on the floor and bat at it with your hand to tip it over, just like your puppy should do with their paws!
Purchase the Right Size
It’s important that you purchase the right size toy for your pup. If the KONG toy you choose is too small, your puppy can choke on it. If it’s too large, they might not be able to fit it in their mouth, or it could be too heavy to carry.
Sometimes people with large breeds choose items that are the size their puppy will need as grown dogs. It makes sense—dogs grow so fast, and this way you won’t have to buy larger sizes later on.
However, this might also mean that your puppy can’t yet use the KONG toy you bought! It might be worthwhile to buy a size that works for them now and put the larger one away for later.
If you’re worried about being wasteful, consider cleaning up the toys your pup grows out of and donating them to people with smaller dogs!
Get Excited About It, So They Do Too
The best way to get your puppy excited about something is to show them that you’re excited too!
Your puppy will follow your cues. If you set the KONG across the room and ignore it, you’ve shown your pup that it’s nothing to be interested in. They might ignore it too.
If you show excitement about the KONG by talking about it, waving it around, and letting your puppy see you fill it with tasty treats, they’ll get more and more curious!
You can even give them a little nibble of the treat you’re using so that they know how good it tastes. Then, they’ll want to know how to get more.
Lastly, you can try making your puppy wait for a few seconds to build their anticipation. Try playing a short game of tug of war before letting your puppy win, and now it’s a treasured prize!
It’s Okay if they Only Lick it
Some pups will only lick food out of the KONG, not chew the toy itself. This is completely fine and normal. Every puppy interacts with these toys differently depending on their preferences and personality.
Although you might want your puppy to spend time chewing the KONG, that decision unfortunately isn’t up to you. There’s no way to force your puppy to chew something or to spend more time using the KONG than they want to!
Some Pups Won’t Eat or Play Alone
My dog Charlie has never liked to eat or play while he’s alone. Sometimes, he won’t even do so while just one or two members of the family are gone. He prefers to wait by the door or in the yard, watching the driveway for us to return!
The moment we do, he’ll immediately run to his food dish or pick up a toy.
If you’ve bought the KONG to keep your puppy entertained while you were away, but found they don’t touch it until you get home, this is a sign that they have separation anxiety.
Your pup is likely too stressed to touch the KONG while you’re gone, but feels comfortable enough to do so while you’re home.
Separation anxiety can be treated by teaching your puppy to be alone. Begin by leaving them for small amounts of time and gradually build up to longer periods.
Pups with more severe separation anxiety may need more intense training such as desensitization and counterconditioning, or to be on medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
Puppies have Different Preferences
If you’ve tried everything above and your puppy still won’t chew their KONG toy, or seem less interested in it than other toys, that’s okay! Different puppies like different things, and maybe the KONG isn’t for them.
Provide your puppy with a variety of toys. This way, if they don’t like one, they can play with others. You never want your puppy to not have things they like to chew, as chewing is essential for dogs.
If you’ve purchased the KONG toy to keep your puppy busy for extended periods or to engage their minds, try other puzzle toys instead.
If Your Pup is Suddenly Disinterested, See a Veterinarian
If your puppy has never liked their KONG toy, it’s likely for the reasons listed above. However, a puppy who previously liked the KONG and now seems completely disinterested may be dealing with a medical condition.
This is even more likely if they are uninterested in other activities or toys they used to enjoy, or are displaying other symptoms or changes in behavior.
Any time you see a shift in behavior from your puppy, you should contact your veterinarian. Our furry friends can be good at hiding their illnesses, so it’s important to observe their behavior for clues that something is wrong.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus