Adventures in Frozen Enrichment

Adventures in Frozen Enrichment

Have you ever cooked a new, complicated recipe with a lot of ingredients? Or watched a movie looking for symbolism? Or played the last level of a video game? I bet you felt mentally tired afterward. I know I do! These kinds of activities count as enrichment for us humans. And, it’s up to us to provide dog versions of these activities to our canine friends.

I often recommend enrichment activities for dogs as part of their daily routines. Enrichment refers to activities that provide dogs with mental benefits. Work-to-eat puzzles are one example of an enrichment activity for dogs. My favorite work-to-eat puzzle for dogs is a frozen classic Kong. I recommend filling classic Kongs and freezing them.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for filling and freezing enrichment toys, along with my dog Mulligan’s favorite filling recipe:

Supplies:

Kongs or other freezable food puzzles

Muffin pan

Frosting bag or large plastic storage bag

Hard dog cookies or biscuits

Stand mixer or hand mixer

Ingredients:

2 cups peanut butter

8oz. cream cheese

1/4 cup water

Directions:

Mix peanut butter, cream cheese, and water in stand mixer or with a hand mixer until whipped.

Whipped filling

Whipped filling

Next, place Kongs top down in the muffin pan. Drop a hard dog cookie into the top to prevent suction problems and give your dog a special treat for finishing the Kong. I’ve also pictured a Hero natural rubber toy that’s shaped like a knobby doughnut. This toy has a large opening which eliminates concerns about suction.

Drop a hard cookie inside first.

Drop a hard cookie inside first.

Use a spatula or spoon to fill the frosting bag. If you don’t have a frosting bag, you can use a plastic food storage bag and cut off a corner.

I’ve always got an audience for Kong prep.

I’ve always got an audience for Kong prep.

Squeeze a generous amount of filling into each toy, depending on your dog’s activity level and caloric needs. While the filling usually adheres well to the sides on its own, you can add texture by sticking your finger or a small spoon inside and pressing the filling against the sides.

Squeeze the filling into the toys.

Squeeze the filling into the toys.

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Place muffin pans in the freezer. The muffin pans prevent filling from causing a mess in your freezer. Once frozen, you can transfer the toys to a dedicated ice bin.

Nestled inside the freezer.

Nestled inside the freezer.

From start to finish, it took me twelve minutes to make this batch. By prepping a bunch in advance, you can grab one out of the freezer as needed.

Mulligan is excited for his snack!

Mulligan is excited for his snack!

If your dog doesn’t have a lot of experience with frozen enrichment toys, start easy. Fill the Kong with some kibble or other cookies and/or a small smear of a room temperature spread. If it’s too difficult, your dog might lose interest and give up. The recipe I’ve provided here is just one option among many, so be creative and let your dog’s tastes and preferences guide you.

Happy enrichment!

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