Saturday, May 24, 2008

Toys for Smart Tots: Interactive toy review

For T-Bone and all the other smart pups out there, here's a review of some of my favorite toys. 

General toy note: Rotate 1-3 toys at a time to avoid overload. You generally want a variety of textures and types - a harder chew, a noisy/squeaky thing, and a stuffed chew toy. Stuffed chew toys can be interactive or just have holes or cavities where kibble or peanut butter or cream cheese can be smushed in to add flavor (like the Kong - I have the King Kong, hee hee - or a sterilized beef bone). I prefer the interactive ones. Unfortunately, my toys are always the large size, so they are expensive.

Hol-ee Roller Ball - $5-$10, depending on size - Uncle Boo, may he rest in little pieces, left me this, so I have the red medium size one. Mommy used to stick a medium-sized Greenie** in it and Boo would chase it down and pull the Greenie out and eat it. That was a little too easy for me. I figured out how to get the stuff out really quickly, which leads me to the pros and cons of the Hol-ee Roller:

Pros: Quiet when it rolls, durable (though Biggie has finally managed to rip it)
Cons: Holes are a little too big to fit too many interesting things inside. 

One-sentence review: If you have a ball dog, this is a quiet ball to play indoors and the holes mean you can fling it from a stick if you don't want too handle too much slobber. 

Plush Puzzle Toys (Plush Puppies Hide-a-Bird) - $10-$12- I really like plush stuff and squeakies, and this has the best of both. Plus they are very colorful. The basic premise is that there are 3 small plush squeak toys that fit inside a larger plush container, and I am supposed to pull them out. But I'm a smart pup - smart enough to know what "premise" means - so I pretty much knew what this game was about, and it's not that hard to pull stuff out of a hole. It's sort of like super-easy hide-and-seek. One thing I do like about it is that you're supposed to store the little squeaky birdies in some super-smelly human places so they smell like your people before you put them in the plush birdhouse, and that does make it a little more fun. I especially like it when the birdies have been living in the laundry basket or the ski boots for a while. Then they taste almost as good as socks!

Pros: 4 toys in 1; squeak + smell + hide/seek = a lot going on
Cons: Little squeakies can get lost easily; one-trick pony - once you've figured out the object of the game, it's not that exciting.

One-sentence review: This is a fun toy to bring out once a month or so.

Everlasting Fun Ball - balls $7-$10, chew treats $6-$10 -These jelly-like rubbery balls roll in slightly wobbly ways, and they have a whole game system (sort of like Nintendo for dogs!) so you can make the toys more fun. There are hard interlocking chew treats that you thread a central piece through the ball and screw ends onto; there are also smelly soft treats sized just right for putting in the ball so they roll out of the holes at random times. But the hard interlocking chews don't screw on very easily, and they break pretty easily if the ball bounces on a hard surface or if your Momma gets a little - ahem - frustrated trying to screw the treats on. The package says to practice screwing the treats together without the ball first, but this is a lot harder than it sounds. And these chew treats are no match for kuvasz jaws. I pretty much break them off and then crunch right through them, and then Mommy has to come take it away from me because I'm eating the treat too quickly in too-big pieces. (Once you break one end off, the whole thing comes apart pretty quickly.) The smelly little treats are pretty fun to roll around and the rubber bounciness is sort of fun too. 

Pros: Irregular bounce, tough ball part, several variations.
Cons: Chew treats are a pain in the butt to get on and break too easily.

One-sentence review: This was a good idea but the actual toy falls a little short: if the chew treats lasted longer, weren't so brittle and were easier to screw on, this could be an ideal toy.

Kong Roller (Kong Stuff-a-Ball)- $7-$10 - Sort of like the Everlasting Treat Ball, but with grooves on the outside for putting Kong Stuff'n (doggie cheez whiz), and a large and small hole at the ends. My Momma puts broken up dry biscuits of different sizes inside, and then threads a pizzle through the holes. The little hole is pretty tight, and that ends up plugging up the holes so I have to chew the pizzle, pull it out and THEN roll it around to make the treats fall out. Hours of doggy fun. 

Pros: Lots of stuff going on and lots of variety possible. Dishwasher safe. 
Cons: Rolling it around can bother the downstairs neighbors; Kong Stuff'n rolled around can get all over the floor and make a mess; not all pizzles fit. Highly susceptible to getting stuck under furniture. 

One-sentence review: This is one of my favorite toys, used for special occasions, like being left alone all day.

Busy Buddy Twist-n-Treats- $7-$13 - Recommended by Biggie's trainer, these flying-saucer-like toys operate on the same principle as the Kong Stuff-a-Ball. The biggest advantage is that the two halves screw together so you can adjust the size of the openings to fit different size treats or kibble, and you can make it easier or harder for treats to fall out. My Momma sometimes screws a pizzle into this one, too. The shape makes it roll around in very strange ways, but it also makes it a little noisier than the Stuff-a-Ball. I love it. 

Pros: Adjustable size openings; dishwasher safe; irregular shape moves in unexpected ways.
Cons: Noisy; also highly susceptible to getting stuck under furniture (attracts mice).

One-sentence review: This is my other favorite toy. 

**A note on Greenies: Most dogs adore them. They are like doggy crack. But in recent years there have been some instances of dog deaths and injuries from eating Greenies, either by choking or by dogs breaking off too-big chunks and then getting bowel obstructions. In response, Greenies has changed its formula to make it more soluble and easier to break into small pieces. Boo the Pesky Eskie ate the old-formula Greenies every day when he was an adult and was fine; I gave Biggie a Greenie and he broke off huge pieces and tried to wolf them down. Ultimately, every dog is different and any time your dog is chewing something that can be broken into pieces, he should be monitored carefully. Read more about the Greenies controversy (both pro and con), here, here and here.


Mango said...

Biggie - Thanks for the review. You have lots of cool toys. Most of my toys live in the garage because I get bored with them if they are out for too many days in a row.

Sadly, I have to share with the pee-wee so some of my favorites have been banned because I get mad when pee-wee attempts to play with them. Totally unfair.


P.S. I am still in the dog house from the jogging incident. Oh man!

Huck said...

A live PEZ DISPENSER? HA! Sounds awesome! You would like all the geese that waddle around here. They leave behind lots of yummy stuff too. Are you going to visit Buddy & Benji?

And a kiddie pool sounds like a great idea!

babyphat523 said...

That Hol-ee ball is so fun for our guys as well. The favorite here is the Hide-a-Squeek toy, the one with the squirrels. I think they like it because the tree part looks like a giant shu-mai.

xo :)

Markus said...

Good Job! :)