How the KONG brand emerged from a type 2 bus
Most of us dog owners are very familiar with KONG toys.
Dogs love these hollow rubber cones that can be filled with treats. Little did I know there was a connection between VW and my dog, Mr. Jakes, KONG.
And I bet you didn’t either. But in fact, KONG was born out of a part of a Volkswagen minibus! Who would have ever thought?
So the story is simple and logical … but wow!
Volkswagen dog toys: Joe and Fritz Markham’s inspiration
In 1970 Joe Markham was working as a mechanic in a sketchy part of Denver, Colorado.
Thieves regularly targeted the auto repair shop where he kept his work projects along with an old VW bus. Tired of the constant theft, Markham turned to the local police for help.
And they instructed him to get a guard dog. So he brought Fritz home with him, a friend of the German Shepherd Dog whom the police gave him free of charge. He had been banned from dog school because he loved to chew anything in sight!
Markham was thrilled to bring Fritz to the store. However, he quickly realized that the officers were not kidding when they said Fritz liked to chew.
In fact, Fritz would chew anything. Stones, bones, and radiator hoses were his favorite toys. Besides, Fritz chewed things into pieces, so he destroyed everything that came in his way.
After making many visits to vets to see if Fritz could be helped, he got stuck with a bulbous rubber axle stop on a VW Type 2 bus from the 1960s. Remarkably, the rubber part withstood Fritz’s constant chewing.
Volkswagen dog toys: inspiration strikes
Markham realized that this Volkswagen part would make the perfect dog toy.
Next, he spent six years testing different shapes, materials and concepts to develop the ideal toy. He even turned to VW to order the axle stoppers in bulk.
Of all the objects Fritz chewed, the axle stop was hard enough not to fall apart. But it was also soft enough to prevent tooth damage.
Unfortunately, Markham could not find the right contact person at VW for his parts inquiry. He next turned to a rubber manufacturer in Germany to perfect the size, style and composition of his design.
The birth of the KONG dog toy
Finally, in 1976, Markham was ready to introduce its product to the world.
After years of testing, planning, and designing, he was convinced of his non-destructive chew toy. And it turned out that all of his efforts were paying off: customers were buying the KONG toy in droves.
Many years later, it is one of the most popular dog accessories. Who would have thought that a Volkswagen dog toy would become so popular?
Professional tip for KONG dog toys
My dog Mr. Jake loves his KONG. Don’t chew on it so much, but get treats from it. Especially beef jerky.
Of course, peanut butter is a great choice, but it gets messy around the house. We think jerky, made specifically for dogs, works great.
But go two steps further:
- Turn the jerky KONG into what my wife calls a puzzle. And you can do this by simply wrapping the KONG in layers of socks or old T-shirts. Mr. Jake loves this because then he has to work to get access to the KONG.
- Hide the puzzle somewhere in the house so your dog has to go through several steps to get the treat in the KONG.
Professional tip for everything to do with Volkswagen
Visit our friends at Ontario Volkswagen in the California suburb of Los Angeles. The entire team has a passion for the brand and drives it forward.