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The Singapore Dog Lifestyle Blog

Food tactics we tried to prevent separation anxiety

It was one day some months before, I told Mr P that we have to get a Kong.

“A what?”

“A Kong.”

“And what is that?”

“It is a rubber food dispensing toy.”

“Then say so.”

That evening, he returned from work and said he spoke with all his friends who had dogs. And nobody, nobody knew what a Kong was.

Wow.

I’ve been reading all those blogs and webpages about how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs, and how to keep dogs busy and mentally active, yada, yada. And basically everybody praised the Kong to the skies when it comes to a good tool to use when dealing with separation anxiety or just for leaving the dog at home alone . It almost seemed to me that every dog should be born with one. :P Yes, a little overly dramatic there.

But anyway, if you are visiting even a dog blog as new and unknown as ours, then you must be very knowledgeable about dogs and stuff people talk online about dogs already. So please be patient while I splatter my blog with some pictures of the regular Kong. :P

Basically, food goes in and comes out through this end:


Yup, Donna knows how to work it. Sniff, sniff and then a huge disgusted snort. Because it’s empty. :P She only bothers with it when there’s food.

The Kong only appears when we are going out of the house. We fill it with her regular canned food and kibble mix and freeze it over night.

You can see the scratches from her teeth. We got the black Extreme Kong for power chewers in the first weeks of Donna joining our little family. But she is less destructive than when she first came, so I do think a regular red one will work fine for her as well.

We started using it as a means to lift her mood when she sees us stepping out of the house. The logic, as I have learnt from others, is thus: If she were to equate us leaving the house with food in the Kong, that would make us leaving the house a good thing, rather than something to be scared or worried about. We mainly wanted to deter and prevent her developing separation anxiety, especially since we do see a future where both of us will be out of the house for long hours at work.

At first, it worked pretty well.

However, after a couple of months we observed that she had started to ignore the frozen Kong. And she only paid attention to it when we came back again and after she has given us her welcome home dance at that. And then pretty soon, we noticed that her tail would be tucked between her legs when she noticed that we were going out without her.  (Note: We always try to leave and come back with minimal fuss so that Donna does not get overly excited.)

So nowadays, when we leave the house we serve her food in her food bowl following her mealtime ritual instead. We make her sit on her bed, maybe do some high-fives, shake-a-paw, and then wait so that she anticipates the food. And then we let her go get it just before we step out of the house. Usually she is so busy with her food, she doesn’t even come to the door with her “where are you going without me” stare. Dentastix worked fine for this too as it takes her quite a bit of time to chew through half a stick, just in case I need to return to pick up something I forgot! :P

I did try serving high value food like canned tuna and hard boiled egg in her food bowl before but those food gets her overly-excited and I still am not sure if that is a good state to leave her alone at home in. Although I may have to resort to these again since recently Donna has become less distracted by her food bowl and stops to stare as I depart the house anyway.

Perhaps I just need to rotate and ensure a good variety so that she keeps interested?

Anyway that’s our experience with leaving Donna at home by herself for now. The longest we have left her I think was for 8-9 hours with food, a lot of toys and no mishap. However, there are cases where we have left her for less and she managed to poison herself or she has “considerately” dragged out my running shoes onto the floor, rearranged some furniture.

Besides food, there are other tactics like crate-training, etc that help to keep a dog calm. But this post focuses specifically on food.

The Kong and Kong Genius Leo remain toys I use when I want to distract her, or just get her to spend some effort getting her food and exhaust some of that mental energy, while freeing me up to do other things.

If you have not tried the Kong before, but are keen to do so, there are lots of Kong recipes floating around online. The only thing I thought would be useful to touch on will be on the topic of peanut butter.

I recently tried peanut butter with some kibble in the Kong. All you need to do is spread a thin layer of it on the inside of the Kong to make it sticky then throw in some kibble or treats (whatever rocks your dog’s socks) so that it is slightly more difficult and takes more time for the dog to lick it out again. This is a good way to get the dog to learn to use the Kong before you move him on to tougher stuff like frozen Kong ;D That keeps Donna occupied even longer.

Peanut butter seems to be a popular filling for the Kong, but our supermarket shelves are laden with all sorts of peanut butter brands with added sugar and salt. Since Donna is overweight, I am not eager to use peanut butter on her either. But I did happen on a forum of *ahem* body builders (I am not a body builder :P) who recommended Adam’s Peanut Butter (Unsalted) because it does not contain added salt or sugar.

Skippy on the left; Adam’s on the right – check out the ingredients list.

I do like peanut butter so I bought these for myself and sometimes I share it with the dog muahahahahahaha!

If you are in Singapore, Adam’s Peanut Butter is very rare and are sold out really fast (omg those kiasu* body builders!!) but you can find it in selected NTUC supermarket(s). I only manage to get this jar after months of skulking around the peanut butter shelf myself. LOL.

But yes, this is probably the better choice to use if you want to feed your dog peanut butter, short of being organic or making your own. And if you do want to make your own, youdidwhatwithyourweiner has a low calorie recipe she would recommend.

If you buy your dog items online on Amazon, you can click through the advertisements below to get directly to the relevant product pages. ;)

 

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References:
– Is unsalted peanut butter ok for dogs?
Skippy peanut butter vs Adam’s peanut butter
Adam’s peanut butter nutrition

*kiasu – afraid to lose out, and will over-react urgently to achieve the goal.

See also All other posts on Dog Food by weliveinaflat ;)


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37 Comments

  1. Kongs are amazing toys; I think they are universally loved by every dog!!!

  2. Good job on the healthier peanut butter.

    • Thank you, took some effort to stir it but its not bad. :) Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Have a great day today!

  3. Truly amazing! You surprise me just more and more every day Mrs. P! You and Mr. P are so thoughtful about leaving Donna for a few hours. Here, most people don’t even worry if they go away for weekends. The food gets thrown into the bowl and then they have the cheek to send me a facebook message telling me to just check now and then if the dogs have water! I was so disgusted and upset I blocked them from my FB account and went over and gave them a fortune telling for free! Ah, the beach strikes again in the neighbourhood…muwhahahaha. See, I can also be evil…hee hee.

    Loved the post and Donna is lucky and blessed to have you and Mr. P there. Yes, unfortunately they have to learn that we can’t be there always. I’ve never left Simba alone however, so I don’t think he will even know what to do with a Kong..hehehe. If I can’t take him with, I leave him with one of our boys but those sad, questioning eyes stay with you for a long as you’re gone, so I’ve always tried to take him with wherever we go.

    Thanks again for sharing. As always you made me smile. :D *big hugs*

    • I love your choice of words Sonel, “fortune telling” :P Would never thought to use it in that context :P Anyway, I have to credit all the anxious, desperate dogs we saw on Cesar Millan, it made us more sensitive to this thing called “separation anxiety” and how bad it can get for the dog and the humans. Nothing beats graphic TV I suppose in conveying the message to dog idiots like us. The shelter reinforced the possibility of separation anxiety in Donna again to us, so I did do some research since prevention is better than cure.

      Simba is lucky to have you. Donna must wish she is handbag size too! :P Bwahahahaha! Have a great day and glad the post made you smile :)

      Note: Just in case someone else besides Sonel reads this :P Though I mentioned Cesar Millan, we will never deliberately hurt Donna using methods or tools associated with dominance theory. In fact, given Donna is pretty sensitive and at times fearful, we have found positive reinforcement methods to be more effective in building her confidence. :)

      • hehe, glad you do. Yep, that is what I do around here if I see something I don’t like and I don’t care what they think, especially when it comes to animals.

        You and Mr. P are so sweet to be so conscious of that hon and I totally love you both for it. Some furry kids can even get sick from anxiety like that and Simba is one of them. He refuses to eat as well.

        LOL! I don’t think he feels that way when I carry him under my arm like a handbag..hahaha. But it’s mostly when I have to pick him up when we go up or down stairs as he tends to hurt himself.

        Just like you I don’t believe in the dominance theory. I feel every furry kid have their own personality and should be treated as such. I am very glad you and Mr P found positive methods that are effective. Donna knows she is loved and that you are coming back when you leave and she is one lucky gal! *big hugs* to you all. :D

        • It is always great to get such encouraging comments from you Sonel :) Can’t presume to know what Donna thinks, although she does have a talent for snorting her disagreement everyday :P Hah!

          • hee hee… yeah, I bet she does that quite well too! Simba has that “look” and he would growl and when I start laughing at him he would give me a cold shoulder by turning around and ignoring me for a few minutes. LOL!

          • He knows when he’s being laughed at! Smart dog! Donna just smiles back even when you are laughing at her, the silly thing :P

  4. Good for you Donna! The mommies kept telling us we need one to keep us busy while they are at work. But, we would rather have our peanut butter in a spoon or on a finger :)

    • Well, you already have one another to keep you busy! :D And you know what? I think you can load more of the stuff in the Kong than on a spoon or finger, though of course you have to convince the mommies to do that in the first place! :P

  5. Come to think of it, I have gotten quite a few inquisitive look when I mention a Kong. You also reminded me that if you are using it for separation anxiety, it should be a special treat only for when you leave the house. Gretel doesn’t always eat all of it while we are gone so she goes to work on it when we get home. It seems to be fine for her to do that but it makes me wonder if we should try picking them of off of the floor when we are home.

    Thanks for mentioning our recipe :)

    • You’re welcome ;)

      It seems feeders with automatic timers are more popularly used where we live, when leaving the dogs home alone, rather than the Kong. And also from Mr P’s conversations with his dog-owning friends, the breeders seemed to make it part of the process to get the dog used to being alone on their own for long periods of time before it is handed over to the owner. I’m not sure how true this is though, since Donna is a rescued stray from the shelter.

      You know what? Maybe I should try picking the Kong off when I get home regardless of whether she finished it or not too! Good idea :D

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to share how it is with Gretel :) It helps to know its not just Donna doing that! :D

  6. We had a kong, but it seems to have disappeared! I do not worry when Mama goes out because I have all my siblings! Maybe Donna should get a brother or sister? Even a kitty one so she doesn’t get lonely?

    • Perhaps somewhere down the road when we feel we can truly call ourselves experienced dog owners and will be good at having more than one, we can consider a brother or sister. But right now, I still feel like a dog idiot, although less of a dog idiot compared to 6 months ago! :P So Donna will have to make do with two dog idiot humans for now :P That and we need to move to a private property in order to legal home a cat or more than one dog. Maybe one day we will be rich enough, one can hope :P

  7. Glad it works for Donna. We tried with our dog, but he had no interest in the Kong. :( Dogs are inquisitive by nature and definitely will get into anything and everything they can, so yeah, leaving them home alone is a big challenge.

    • It is a big challenge! The Kong worked well at first, but after a while perhaps she got bored of it so sometimes it didn’t work and I’ll be thinking, why did you do that when the kong is there and you ignore it!?. So I just experimenting and rotating through different things and hope it works better along the way :D

      If I may ask, what is working with your dog so far?

      • Shibas are very intelligent, so we trained him to stay within his “boundaries” – he knows he has his space in the house, and certain parts of the house are off limits. With that being said, someone has to be home for him to *completely* respect those boundaries, or he *will* get into stuff if no one is home. (he’s chewed up a few things in the house) So we crate him when we go out – he actually spends a lot of time sleeping in his kennel when we’re all home. We’re homebodies anyway, so he’s very rarely home alone.

        As far as separation anxiety, Shibas are very independent and more like cats, so he never gets too excited about *anything*. When we return home, he barely bats an eye. And although he’s an indoor dog and likes having us all around in his general vicinity, he’s not the type to cuddle or follow us around like a lot of “companion” dogs. He *likes* doing his own thing by himself a lot of times.

        Definitely not a dog expert, but the only thing I would suggest is to keep trying different things, and eventually you’ll find something Donna really likes. I think dogs like variety in their lives and have unique personalities, just like humans, so it will be fun and a nice learning experience if nothing else. :) It took a long time to find out Hanzo likes plastic water bottles and soccer balls. (we don’t let him chew on those often, otherwise he would probably ingest a lot of plastic)

        • Thank you for taking the time to write so much! Donna is like your dog in that she knows the boundaries and has also learnt that boundaries stop to exist when nobody is around! So we just keep all the doors closed when we are out. :P Unauthorised plastic chewing is definitely a concern for us too! She’s not that independent in that she just lies around and sleep when nobody interacts with her, much of the time. She doesn’t really have her own thing to do. :/

          I guess it’s good to talk to people who have similar issues and just get some affirmation/motivation that I need to keep variety in her life. (None of my friends have dogs.) Sometimes I get lazy too! :P

          Thanks for sharing more about shibas also, I’ve not really seen them in real life. Only in the movies and your beautifully quiet pictures! :D

  8. Jo

    I have a kong for Jack and it does work well, he is like yours in that he really does not like being left. However, I am going to have to do a lot of work with that in the summer as like you there are times now when I am going to be out for longperiods of time. eeek. Anoher thing on the list.

    • Good luck! I keep thinking that I probably need to get multiple Kongs to produce and freeze in bulk over weekends once I get a job. I don’t want to do this every night with our one kong! D: But the cost! *shudders* Mr P thinks we just need to get a dry food dispenser that comes with a timer to automatically dispense at fixed time slots to keep the dog occupied. So I’m thinking that may be a good alternative too.

      Happy ticking things off the list! And may it grow shorter by the minute!

  9. Besides the kong we often use old milk bottles (plastic kind) or make puppy iceblocks… Put food (fav is leftover bbq chicken or sausage) and water into a plastic container and freeze. Run under some water when ready to use it so it slides out… Although not sure how it would work in a flat but a big hit here.

    • I can imagine! Donna will love it because she does have a thing for chewing plastic!

      To date, she has chewed the following things made of plastic when she was alone at home – pens, tea cup lid, antibiotic eardrops bottle, fish food bottle, mini brush and dustpan and swallowed a whole load of beanie pallets from my stuffed toy (not hers!). So for us the rubber Kong is the way to go, simply because we don’t want to reinforce her to continue to perceive bottles as chewable food dispensers, for her own safety.

      Perhaps Donna just has less desirable chewing habits than other dogs? So I’m glad it worked for you and first world dog. *envious*

      Imagine trying to keep the living room free of plastic objects, in a world so very filled with plastic. D: Bwahahahahahaha!

      Puppy iceblocks, that’s a great idea! Sounds wonderfully low calorie :P Have you tried frozen yoghurt cubes with bits of fruit inside? Donna loves those. I should mix the two cubes together, twice the fun! :D But I’ve run out of yoghurt so flavoured ice cubes will just have to do for now!! :D

      Thank you so much for popping by and letting me know what works for you! I appreciate it ;)

  10. Love that look!

    • Haha, I find her funny too :D Thanks for popping by and dropping me a line, I appreciate it! :D Have a great day!!

  11. Thanks for sharing. I remember before I had a dog and I said the same thing! haha. I had no idea what a kong was… but boy does my dog love it. :)

    • Haha we are walking the path that many have walked before us!! :P Thanks for taking the time to write :) Have a great day Lisa!

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