Whole Dog Journal's Blog December 21, 2015

When Small Things MAKE Your Day!

Posted at 02:56PM - Comments: (11)

This may not look like a big deal, but for me, it’s HUGE!

Tricky Treat Ball

This is the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball. It’s made of a soft, rubbery material. You pour kibble and/or treats into the hole at the top, and it takes a dog a good long time to get the treats and/or kibble out. They have to knock it around and toss it; chewing it doesn’t really do any good – unless they are the destructive kind of chewer, in which case, this treat-dispensing toy is not appropriate for them! But for dogs who have the persistence needed to work this sort of toy, and who don’t chew toys up, this is a really great time-consuming, fun thing.

There are other products made by other companies that offer a similar toy, only made of hard plastic. These usually are made with a trap door, or two halves that unscrew so that you can remove any treats that failed to come out, or rinse out the toy. The hard plastic ones are all easier to clean, but sound AWFUL when a dog is batting them around the house, whacking them across hard floors and into walls and furniture.

In contrast, the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Balls are much quieter, and because I don’t have carpet in my house or office, I like them much better. Also, if Otto or a large foster dog gets one stuck in a corner, because it is made of a soft plastic, he or she can always pick it up and start again in a better location. Dogs often need help retrieving the hard plastic balls when they get stuck somewhere.

But there is one thing that has driven me crazy about the Tricky Treat ball for literally YEARS: the last few treats in a ball can be almost impossible to remove.  And I don’t want my dogs eating old, or dog forbid, moldy kibble.  So if I find one of the balls around the house, and I don’t know how old the kibble inside it is, I feel compelled to take it to the sink and run it under water, filling it again and again in an attempt to get the old kibble or treats to float out of the ball. Given how the hole in the ball is a sort of tube that sticks down into the ball a couple of inches, getting these last bits of food out is really difficult.

Only, as I JUST discovered today, it’s not. How have I been so dense??

Tricky Treat Ball with Extended Tube

I am fostering a dog with a low threshold of boredom, and I’m busy, and it’s raining, so I have been employing all three of the Tricky Treat balls I have in my possession (as well as one of our 2014 Gear of the Year top picks, Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tough Snoop, but that’s another story). This morning, I was cleaning out one of the Tricky Treat Balls, and complaining as usual, when I happened to push my finger down into the tube, trying to rinse some of the dog saliva out of the toy, and I realized that the tube is flexible enough to pull out. I pulled, and the tube inverted, so you can GET ALL THE TREATS OUT OF THE BALL! Why have I never tried this before??

It’s ridiculous that I never knew this before. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent, filling one of these toys with water and shaking it and squeezing it in an effort to get the last kibble out. And the solution was so easy.

Now I want to know two things: If you had or have a Tricky Treat ball, did you know you could do this?

And is there another little life-changing tip or trick you’ve learned that has made caring for your dog’s needs this much easier? If so, please share!

Comments (11)

Regarding life-changing tip/tricks, here are a couple things took me WAY too long (years!!) to realize:

- Cushioned landing, for frequent jump spots. Bottom line: Observe where your dog has "hard landings," and try to soften those landings, safely (NON-SKID). More detail: My dogs love to jump onto/off of the two beds in the house. Both beds are located on hardwood floors. I FINALLY put a cheap, rubber-backed bathmat rug, at a diagonal, in the location they tend to approach/depart the bed. (Note: NOT a "loop" type of rug, that dogs' nails can catch on.) The bathmat prevented sliding. A couple years later, as my dogs aged, I had another epiphany: why not soften the landing even more? I got a small, rectangular, orthopedic bed, and put that on top of the bathmat. Very cheap, on sale, online. The cover of the orthopedic bed has a non-skid backing, which is now sitting on the bathmat. Works great! This provides a very cushioned, non-skid landing place when jumping off the bed. [Note: The NON-SKID aspects are really crucial. Putting a rug, and/or bed, that slides on the floor would be extremely dangerous and probably cause injury.]

- Fleece covers/blankets: avoid big, loopy threads. Bottom line: Avoid fleece "throws" with big loopy stitches around the outside. Those can split a dog's nail, get stuck into the nail, and cause your dog a LOT of pain and confusion.
More detail: Like many, I tend to use those cheap, fleece pieces (sometimes called "covers," "throws," or small "blankets") as a topping for my dogs' bedding. They're typically square, single-layer fleece. They're great because they're easy to wash. Some have stitching "loops" around the outside edge of the throw. Essentially, if you look at the throw, you'll see stitches around the outside. I learned the hard way: such throws are quite dangerous for dogs. Not once, but twice, my dog got her nail caught/split by the thread in that outer looping. It was pretty awful. When realizing what happened, I just cut the threads from the throw (so that she wasn't dragging an entire blanket from her foot), and then - with scissors, nail-clippers, tweezers, and a lot of hotdogs - I proceeded to remove an embedded, very durable thread from her nailbed. Very stressful and painful for all involved, and I'm just glad I was there!! I wrote that first incident off to a total fluke. THEN, almost a year later, it happened again, with a different "throw" (also with outside stitching)!! Arg!!! Believe me, I was kicking myself.

These fleece throws are awesome, but please avoid those with loop-stitching. I think the loop stitching around the outside is largely decorative. There are equivalent throws with tighter stitching -- often at the same price, or even cheaper. Or, if you have fleece throws with loop stitching, it's simple to remove: just cut the outside thread in several places, and pull the various pieces out. The fleece will last just as long, and won't be a danger to your dog's nails and well-being!

Posted by: Jency | January 2, 2016 8:07 PM    Report this comment

For those who have this toy, is creating a small hole possible (to avoid the problematic and potentially quite dangerous suction)? This ball sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm thinking of getting it, but only if it's feasible to create the second hole. I recently ordered a couple treat-dispensing petsafe toys for gifts for the holidays, and I was really impressed by the preventative, second small hole, to avoid suction. It's not just urban legend of a dog getting her tongue stuck in a toy -- it happened to a friend of mine. Not pretty.

Posted by: Jency | January 2, 2016 7:32 PM    Report this comment

We have two of these balls a small one and a large one. We have had them for about 6 years and they are durable. The dogs love them and when the treat balls come out there is great, vocal dog joy. Perhaps your balls are newer and more flexible but I just checked and the tubes on ours might invert but I think I would injure myself in the process. The larger dog (30 lbs) always perseveres until his ball is empty of the kibble we use (Acana) and the smaller dog (15lbs) usually needs some help but we find it easy to shake out the last bits. These are great feeding toys and we have never had a problem with them.

Posted by: Kathy K | December 24, 2015 11:31 AM    Report this comment

After reading all the comments, my dog will have to play with another toy.

Posted by: JaonM | December 23, 2015 5:20 PM    Report this comment

I WISH, WISH my 9 month old puppy liked these toys! I've tried several puzzle toys, but he just doesn't care about food that much. Soft treats stick to the sides, but those are the only ones my dog would work for.

Posted by: Alice R. | December 22, 2015 5:44 PM    Report this comment

I have a straight nosed hemostat and use it like tongs to get those errant bits of kibble out. We have a softer ball similar to this one you have, but maybe a little bigger yet smaller than the ones we usually see. That tube is way too stiff to pull out, so the hemostat works great. I believe you can get them longer nosed than mine.

Posted by: 3grrrs | December 22, 2015 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Is this the toy that the dogs' tongue gets stuck in and considered dangerous..

Posted by: Sharonsoutbackhairshack@gmail.com | December 22, 2015 12:20 PM    Report this comment

Is this the toy that the dogs' tongue gets stuck in and considered dangerous..

Posted by: Sharonsoutbackhairshack@gmail.com | December 22, 2015 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Thanks so much for the tip! Perfect timing as I JUST ordered one for my Sheltie (Shelly) but haven't gotten it yet. Shelly absolutely adores the larger one of these that is made of harder plastic (can't pull out the tube). She couldn't care less when I leave the house because she is so happy to get her "treat ball"! I wish I could offer as "wow" of a tip, but my mind went blank... thanks again!

Posted by: jllewis | December 22, 2015 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I did know about the tube being flexible enough to pull out, but find it hard to do in the larger balls. I generally involve needle-nose pliers to help.

My dogs have been known to bury their balls outside, bringing them in *days* later with an assortment of lovely garden creatures on board. In order to be able to clean the balls out really well I use an exacto knife to cut a small hole on the other side of the ball from the built-in large hole. In one ball my added hole is just slightly larger than most kibble, so I can get every bit out without having to struggle with the tube, but it's small enough that it doesn't significantly alter the challenge to my dogs in getting kibble out.

Posted by: marniem | December 22, 2015 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Be very careful with this type of ball. I have seen reports where dogs have been injured or killed because the dog chews the ball and the hole auctions to its tongue and can't get it off. There needs to be a second small hole so that vacuum can't occur.

Posted by: Pednurkim | December 22, 2015 12:01 PM    Report this comment

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