Dogster Reviews: We Check out the Marathon Food Puzzle Toy by KONG

Ace sinks his teeth into the Marathon, a food puzzle ball that includes snap-in dog treats.


Food puzzle toys are a great hands-free way to keep a dog entertained for a few minutes. Kibble-dispensing toys were a big part of Ace’s routine when she was an energetic puppy and I was trying to steal a few minutes to myself. These days, Ace enjoys a KONG Classic with a smudge of peanut butter every day when her dog walker brings her back home.

KONG recently released a new edition to its line of interactive toys for dogs, which include several types of treat-dispensing toys. The KONG Marathon is unique amongst food-puzzle toys because it is designed to hold a special hard treat that locks firmly into the toy.

The Marathon (about $13 to $18) comes in two shapes (ball and bone), two sizes (small for dogs up to 35 pounds, and large for dogs 30 to 65 pounds), and three colors (blue, green, and pink). You can purchase treat refills for the Marathon, which come in packs of two treats (about $5).

Ace and I sampled the small pink-ball Marathon. Before I even opened the package, I flipped it over to examine the contents of the treat. Like many Dogster readers, I’m concerned about what goes into my dog, including treats. While the Marathon treats are certainly not the most nutritious food product I’ve ever fed Ace, I was pretty surprised by how not terrible the treats seem to be. Gluten, wheat, and corn free, and the treats are made in the USA. Based upon my own personal standards, I would consider feeding Ace these treats on an occasional basis.

The small KONG Marathon measures three inches in diameter (the large is four inches in diameter), so it is too large for Ace, a 15-pound Boston Terrier, to fit into her mouth. This means Ace can’t really chew on the Marathon like she does with many of her other toys. I’d like to try the bone-shaped Marathon to see if that toy is easier for her to chew. Ace never was able to pop the treat out of the Marathon, though I wonder whether it would have come out if she had been able to get more of the ball in her mouth.

In researching the Marathon online, I came across a few product reviews in which the dog owners wrote that their large dogs destroyed the Marathon within minutes. The Marathon is made from a rubbery material, but it is not the same heavy-duty rubber as the KONG Classic. I would caution dog owners to use common sense when considering the Marathon. If your dog is over 65 pounds (the maximum suggested size for the large Marathon) or is a particularly prolific chewer, you might consider a different toy. For my small dog with a small mouth, I was not concerned that the Marathon would become a choking hazard. Also, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your dog while she is playing with any kind of toy, including food puzzles.

Ace didn’t seem to notice that she couldn’t get the Marathon in her mouth –- she loved the Marathon treat. Ace gave the Marathon her full attention, licking the treat until it was flush with the surface of the ball. Since the toy is a sphere, it moved around as she licked, so she was constantly on alert, chasing the ball and trying to hold it between her paws. When I pried the Marathon away from her, Ace was panting a little with exertion.

If you decide to try out the Marathon, I recommend using it on a hard, easy-to-clean surface like a linoleum floor. This is because the wet treat gets rolled around on the ground and leaves some smelly residue (don’t worry, it’s not at as gross as a bully stick).

Compared to other food puzzle toys, the Marathon has one obvious drawback –- you have to keep purchasing KONG’s Marathon treat refills to use with the toy. You can’t just stick some kibble or a bit of peanut butter in there. For me, this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it means I wouldn’t be using the Marathon as frequently as I use our do-it-yourself frozen peanut butter KONG Classic. Ace would probably appreciate the variety anyway.

Dogster Scorecard for the Marathon food puzzle toy by KONG

  • Quality: The Marathon does not appear to be as durable as other rubber KONG products, and may be more appropriate for gentle chewers.
  • Style: The Marathon comes in multiple size, shape, and color options.
  • Function: The Marathon’s treat stayed locked into place as Ace licked, wrestled, and chased the ball.
  • Creativity: The lock-in treat is a creative reimagining on the food puzzle toy.
  • Value: Unfortunately, KONG Marathon requires continued purchase of special treats, which might be a worthwhile expense if your dog really enjoys her Marathon.

Bottom line

The KONG Marathon is a unique food puzzle toy for gentle chewers, and will keep a small- or medium-sized dog busy with a delicious snap-in treat.

Dogster readers, have you tried the KONG Marathon yet? Which food puzzle toys keep your dogs busy and engaged? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Read more reviews from Ace’s Mama here!

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About the Author: This East Coast transplant enjoys the bounty of San Francisco, including its microclimates, farmers’ markets, and secret stairway walks. When she’s not walking with, talking about, or kissing the face of her Boston Terrier, Ace, she blogs about Ace’s adventures. Product reviews writer and guinea pig at Dogster.

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