It is important to provide a dog with the opportunity to use its oral sense. There are several ways to incorporate this into your enrichment plan. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.
Filled KONG ®  dog icon

shelter dog licking kong

Providing a treat-filled KONG® gives the dog an opportunity to work for a reward. This can serve as either a stress reducing or enrichment strategy depending on the dog’s emotional state at the time. For example, a dog experiencing frustration or anxiety may enjoy a KONG® as a stress reducer. A dog that is experiencing boredom may enjoy a KONG® as an enrichment activity.

A KONG® can also replace your food bowls during meal feedings by simply placing the dog’s recommended amount of kibble into the KONG®. A tasty enticing treat can be placed on the end of the KONG®as a cap (ie. wet food, peanut butter). This will keep the dog stimulated and busy for a longer period of time, in comparison to bowl feeding.

There are several recipes available for contents to stuff into a KONG®. Find more information a Kong Company Recipes.

For not-for-profit organizations, to purchase KONG® seconds, please visit Kong Company Cares.

Food Dispensing Toys  dog icon

dog treat dispensing toyThe following has been adapted from material on the ASPCA pro website.

A favourite choice for dogs is a device that was derived from use in zoo animals– these devices can stand up to lions and bears. PVC pipe food dispensers are very economical and easy to make.

Use food-grade PVC pipe or ABS waterpipe, buy two end caps (make one side a screw top so you can easily clean), drill 1 or 2 small holes just a bit bigger than your dog kibble, and fill the device with kibble. Not only will the dogs be enriched through the puzzle feature, they can put the device in their mouths and briefly satisfy the need to chew. Remove the toy when emptied.

In most organizations, dogs and cats are fed twice a day. This is a great opportunity to ensure that enrichment is provided, no matter how busy everyone is. Tube feeders are cheap, easy to fill and clean (just be sure to have one or both ends with screw caps) and do not require any soft food as a plug – simply fill with kibble and serve. Mealtime quickly switches from a 30-second activity to a task that can take upwards of a half hour, depending on the individual.

By eliminating food bowls for healthy food-motivated animals and replacing them with tube feeders, we take a time that is already in place for staff (feeding time) and turn it into a twice-daily enrichment opportunity. Volunteers can be easily tasked with making these feeders, and the supplies are quite inexpensive.

Find instructions on how to make a Tube Feeder or tennis ball food dispenser.

Chew Toys  dog icon

animal food toyThe following has been adapted from material on the ASPCA pro website.

The most important items to provide are those the dog can safely chew and if swallowed, will safely pass through their digestive tracts.


  • Newspaper or paper towel/toilet paper tubes for ripping and shredding
  • Boomer Balls®, which are large, tough, plastic balls that are difficult to destroy
    • Many bully-breed dogs use these balls to play and chew roughly in their kennels
    • Herding dogs often enjoy rolling and chasing the balls in the animal centre’s outdoor enclosure
    • Holes can be drilled into the Boomer Ball®, transforming it into a kibble-dispensing device that keeps food-motivated dogs occupied
  • Heavy-duty rubber toys such as a KONG®. For an added challenge, suspend a KONG® by a rope from the top of the dog’s kennel
  • Nylabones®
  • Tug-a-Jug™
  • Large, rolled-up rawhides
  • Fresh, crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples, large carrots, and cucumbers
  • Empty cereal boxes: these can act as kibble-dispensing devices and also provide the ripping and tearing that some dogs enjoy. Nest three to four boxes, pouring kibble inside the boxes, closing the tops and placing kibble in between each layer of boxes. Remember to remove the plastic pouch from the cereal box first!

Find out how to make a Cereal-Box Kibble Dispenser.

To see it in action, watch a video of Cereal-Box Kibble Dispenser.

Without enrichment, frustration can lead heavy chewers to chew and sometimes swallow parts of objects in their kennels, including bedding, food and water bowls, the kennel door, and toys.

When providing enrichment materials, for dogs that tend to consume inedible items, be sure that the materials are inert and can safely pass through the dog’s digestive tract. In addition, be sure that the dog cannot physically harm himself on sharp edges or damage his teeth on objects that are too hard.

Section Feature