I love interactive food toys for dogs. They can be great enrichment, good for boredom busting, and general fun for many dogs. I highly recommend them, and we have a basket in a kitchen cabinet filled with various interactive food toys for use. But, when was the last time you cleaned your dog’s KONG toy? Or whatever interactive food toy your dog loves? That toy you put yoghurt and peanut butter into? Or sweet potato, or canned dog food? The one your dog licks and chews intensely trying to get every little taste out while it rolls all over your home? Yea that toy. When was the last time it was cleaned?
I’ve learned if you’re like many dog owners, likely never. So I’m here reminding folks to hot soapy water their dog’s toys upon occasion. Because…
1. General sanitation. Think about what you put in your dog’s KONG. Likely perishable foods. What happens to perishable foods and their residue over time? Yup, bacteria, mold, stuff that makes humans ill. Wash the toys. Please.
2. Safety for your dog. Interactive toys generally you fill to make them challenging for your dog to get all the bits of food out. So you shove food all the way down in the bottom of the toy. Sometimes your dog may not be able to get it all out. If you don’t then clean the toy after, that food in the bottom may harden packed in there, blocking the hole at the bottom, creating a near impenetrable seal. This can pose a safety hazard.
I recently came in contact with an interactive food toy that had the bottom third of the toy filled with caked in packed in dried out going moldy so hardened I had to hack at it with a fork repeatedly after soaking it in hot water peanut butter that I’m guessing had built up over a prolonged period. And the owners had no idea the toy was in that state, they never thought to check if their dog was fully emptying it’s toy before filling it once more, they just assumed it was. An assumption I find many folks would make given the enthusiasm their dog’s have for their interactive food toys. I’m extremely glad the dog’s owners were clearly providing their dog toy enrichment routinely, but a third of the toy filled with a solid mass of going moldy food stuff wasn’t safe.
So a couple of tips on cleaning your dog’s toys that I’ve learned over the years
1. Hand wash Kong brand toys. They don’t really withstand repeated forays in the dishwasher. The rubber will degrade over time. But hot soapy water and a bottle brush or toothbrush to scrub the insides works well.
2. Busy Buddy brand rubber interactive food toys do hold up to repeat forays into the dishwasher. But you have to still be sure all food bits get out of them using a toothbrush or bottle brush since they have those rubber prongs at the larger opening which can trap food inside them. Which is great for increasing challenge for your dog, but makes cleaning them more challenging for you.
So keep using those toys, but remember to give them a good cleaning as well. Please.