You are getting ready to bring your new puppy home; you have its leash, water dish, crate, bed, a supply of raw meaty bones and organs, and a perhaps one or two (or more) puppy training/dog training books geared toward raising and training a dog through positive methods like clicker training or lure/reward training, or positive reinforcement using praise and treats. Or you have an older dog that you wish to train using positive methods. Or perhaps you are simply looking for ideas on stuffing chew toys for your raw-fed pet. Either way, you now have a problem: most of the books and/or trainers advocate feeding commercial kibbled foods. In fact, most of their positive training methods (like using a stuffed Kong to redirect the dog) rely on using kibble throughout the course of training. How does one adapt this for raw-fed pets? Don't worry; you do not need to switch to kibble for this period of time. You can still feed raw and use these positive training methods with some careful thought and possibly with a few of the tips below.
Confining Puppies to Prevent Mischief
One of the first things many puppy books recommend is to periodically confine your puppy to a crate or to a long-term confinement area like an exercise pen or a bathroom to aid with potty training and with anticipating the puppy's need 'to go'. Many chew toys and treats (typically kibble or biscuits or commercial "bones") are recommended to keep puppies occupied. But what about a raw-fed puppy?
Chew toys are an excellent way of entertaining a bored or confined puppy. Whichever toys you select, you want to make sure that they are safe, non-toxic, durable, and appropriately sized for your puppy. Rubber chew toys that match your puppy's jaw strength and that cannot be eaten or chewed into small pieces are typically the chew toy of choice. Here is a list of some possible suggestions:
Some toys to consider avoiding are squeaky toys (these are not chew toys and often are not durable enough to stand up to intense puppy chewing; these are more acceptable for short-term, interactive, supervised play.), plush toys, rawhides, Greenies (both rawhides and Greenies can be toxic and cause intestinal blockages!), and other synthetic "edible chew bones". Synthetic edible chew bones contain a plethora of inappropriate things for your puppy: grains and grain products, nearly indigestible starch compounds, various additives, colorings, flavorings, etc. Also consider avoiding sterilized bones (very hard!!) and the hard Nylabone Durables; these are MUCH harder than regular bones, and also flake off very sharp, slicing nylon pieces as the animal chews them. These nylon slices have been implicated in small mouth lacerations as well as lacerations in the rectum and anus of the dog as they pass through. The use of Nylabone Flexibles might be a better choice as long as your puppy is a light chewer, or as long as you are able to select a bone that will stand up to your puppy's jaw strength. However, one must still consider the chemical load entering a pup's body simply by chewing any of these artificial bones, and make their decision accordingly after this reflection.
Leaving consumable raw meaty bones (such as those you might feed puppy for dinner) out for a puppy during unsupervised confinement is not the wisest of ideas; you want to be able to monitor your puppy as he eats his meals to make sure he does not get himself into any trouble. Any time you give your dog something consumable, you should be monitoring your pet as it chews and eats. The choice to leave a large, non-consumable raw bone for the puppy to chew on is best left to personal preference, but I personally would recommend against offering puppies such "recreational bones" once they have finished teething. No sense in cracking or chipping those brand new teeth!!
Stuffing Kong Toys
For the sake of simplicity, I will be selecting a Kong as my example rubber chew toy. However, the tips and methods outlined here should work for any similar stuffable rubber toy. Instead of stuffing a Kong with commercial kibbled foods or dog biscuits, raw-feeders have the option of stuffing Kongs with fresh foods or freeze-dried foods.
Here is a partial list of what you can use for Kong stuffing:
Kong stuffing seems to work best with moist items (like the eggs, tripe, raw organ meats, ground meats, chicken broth, etc.), whereas the freeze-dried treats seem to work best during training times.
Here are some extra Kong stuffing tips:
1.) Do not fill the Kong all the way up! This will help prevent you from overfeeding your puppy. Simply fill the Kong about one-quarter or one-half full of food. Alternatively, mix the food into some natural chicken broth (which you can make yourself by simmering chicken frames in water for several hours) and freeze in the Kong, or fill up the rest of the Kong with broth before freezing.
2.) To make the stuffed portion last longer, consider freezing it in the Kong. Stuff a piece of freeze-dried liver in the small opening of the Kong, partially fill the Kong with raw meat or green tripe or raw egg or organ meats, and then place the whole Kong in the freezer with the big hole facing up (place it in a weighted cup, or between some packages of meat, etc.).
3.) Using the method above, you can easily prepare several Kongs ahead of time; when the time comes for puppy confinement, you can simply pull a prepared Kong out of the freezer.
4.) Do not forget to watch your pup's waistline! You do not want these extras to make your pup fat, so make sure to figure these treats into your pup's daily or weekly food amount.
5.) Do not let these extras take away from a proper raw diet of meaty bones, meat, and organs. Your puppy still needs to get a nice jaw workout at mealtimes; giving the puppy a chance to burn off energy during its meal should also help with behavior and activity during confinement. A properly exercised and stimulated pup (which chewing raw meaty bones provides to a much greater degree than processed food) will also be a better-behaved, more 'mellow' puppy. So don't neglect those raw meaty bones!
Treats for Training and Socialization
Most positive training and socialization methods involve the use of many treats, so often trainers and books advise you to use a portion of the puppy's daily kibble as treats. One could use the pup's raw food in this manner as well, should one desire to cut some of the puppy's daily portion of raw meat into tiny pieces. However, most people you meet would probably prefer to not touch chunks of raw meat that you offer them for treating your puppy; thus, other alternatives are needed. While some feel the kinds of treats do not matter, I would still advise sticking to wholesome treats so as to minimize the amount of grains, sugars, chemicals, and junk food entering your pup's body.
Here are some good training treat suggestions (see the Treats section for more detail):
Here are a few brief tips to help with treat selection and administration:
1.) You can dehydrate your own beef liver, heart, or muscle meat to make your own treats! You can either use a dehydrator or use your oven. To learn more, visit the Treats section.
2.) Since you want to be careful of not overfeeding your puppy, use very SMALL treats to reward good behavior: treats the size of a pea or smaller. If you have a large-breed puppy, treats sized for little dogs or cats are often just about the right size.
3.) When using commercial treats, avoid using those that include sugar, corn, soy, wheat, BHA, BHT, other colorings or preservatives or additives, and high amounts of grain.
4.) Use a variety of treats! This will not only keep your pup more interested, but will prevent you from inadvertently overfeeding one kind of treat.