Do you have a plan to power up the value of your pup’s pen or containment area? Whether you are just getting your new pup started or have an older puppy, making the pen a great place for them is crucial. If you need help with this, check out Power Up Your Pen for specific ideas.

As a growing pup’s need for rest changes, their attitude toward the pen can change too. It is essential to continue building value in the pen as they mature. In addition, you will need to get creative to increase the length of time you can keep your now-waking pup entertained in the containment area.

Make It Great

Kong dog food toy

Giving your pup a special food toy is a great way to build value. Fill a cavity feeder such as a Kong or Toppl with a combination of appropriate food items. Dogs love stuffed food toys as you can fill them with their favourite foods and provide them with an exciting variety.

Tip: Remember to introduce only one new food item at a time and provide only a small amount. This will prevent GI upset and allow you to ensure they are OK with that food. I like to do a test run by providing a small amount at a separate feeding to make sure it’s a hit.

Make It Last

As your pup learns how to empty a particular puzzle or feeder, you can gradually make it more difficult. This will help to extend the time they are occupied. Since it is best to let the pup out of the pen as soon as they finish the food, finding ways to extend the time it takes for them to finish is helpful.

Do you find that your pup races through their puppy-pen prize too quickly? Finding ways to slow them down and provide a longer experience will allow you to increase the time they can comfortably remain in the containment area.

Using a combination of food types and shapes will allow you to create a more interesting experience that is also more challenging. Here are some specific examples to create variety and increased difficulty using a Kong.

Six Ways To Up Your Kong Game

Choose a variety of shapes and sizes of food


Mix some kibble and a few larger treats to make it harder for the food to fall out.


Fill a Kong with kibble and larger treats, leaving a small space at the top. Press down on the top end to make the opening oval. This will allow you to put a larger item, such as a piece of dehydrated sweet potato or meat. The oversized item will be locked in when the Kong returns to its normal shape.

Rather than pre-mixing the contents, use a variety of textures and sizes of food to create layers in the Kong.


Smwar some yogurt or peanut butter on the inside of the Kong. Add the food. The stickiness of the walls will slow the food coming out.


Create individual layers within the Kong. Each layer can vary in difficulty.

An example of layering food to create various levels of difficulty.

You can freeze some or all of the contents of the cavity toy. Freezing is an easy way to increase difficulty. But you need to plan ahead to be sure you have them ready when needed.


Fill the cavity feeder halfway with moistened kibble. Freeze. Top it up with dry kibble and a cap of fresh yogurt.


Mix a combination of kibble, fruit (blueberries or banana) and yogurt. Place in cavity toy. Freeze. 

So the sky is the limit when it comes to making food puzzles. Using just a Kong, it’s possible to create an almost endless variety of experiences for your dog. And with a little creativity, you can keep your dog content and interested for increasing lengths of time. They will be asking to go into the pen in no time!

If you are looking for ideas on how to get started using a pen or containment area or are having some challenges using one, check out A Day With Dogs for more on this topic.

For information on training and getting help with your pup, go to