Swedish dog owner Nina Ottosson first marketed some of her puzzles and games for dogs in Sweden in 1993; we first heard about them (and reviewed the original wood versions) in 2008. Since then, probably in a defensive response to a number of cheap plastic knockoffs of her designs, Ottosson has developed a line of high-quality plastic toys, though the original, beautiful wood models that are made in Sweden are still available.
but they are anything but equal in terms of safety
Only rarely does a totally new genre of dog toy appear on the market, and it almost never happens that a new genre of toys is introduced with more than just one or two representative products. This rare event was recently engineered by Sweden’s Nina Ottosson, with the introduction of her Zoo Active Games, a line of 10 novel interactive dog toys (and a few cat toys!). As a huge fan of interactive toys for dogs, I was eager to get my paws on as many of the toys as I could, and see if they were as fun for dogs as they looked! The Zoo Active toys are available in the United States from only a select few distributors, including Paw Lickers Bakery and Boutique, owned and operated by Marianne Gage and her son David in Greenfield Center, New York. Fortunately for me, when Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns contacted David to inquire whether we could test the toys, he generously offered to send me seven of the products to try out. I’ve been introducing the toys to my own dogs for a few months, so I knew they had great “fun potential,” and looked forward to an opportunity to try them out on a bunch of other dogs, too.
which are made with natural rubber."
First, there was Kong. Originally designed as a fetch item, the hard rubber toy bounced into the lead as a training tool when some enterprising dog person realized you could pack it full of yummy stuff as a doggie distractor. A food-filled Kong can be used to keep a dog occupied while you complete other tasks, or help him stay busy and content after you leave for work. Unstuffing the food is also a self-reinforcing activity, rewarding the dog for persisting in his efforts to chew, lick, and thump the treats free.
I have some good news to report and some bad news. First, the good news: Happy Dog Toys is really on to something. Their products are highly appealing to playful people, so much so that they can’t wait to go try them out with their dogs. The bad news? None of the three interactive toys I tested performed quite as well as their packaging suggested.
Every pet supply store and catalog sells commercially produced recreational chew bones. But there are some things you should know before your dog gnaws one. All the manufacturers whose representatives were willing to be interviewed told us that their companies obtain raw products from American slaughterhouses, and some (such as Abbyland Foods) get bones from their own slaughtering plants.
Beef hides and hooves, pig ears and snouts Do you know which of these animal products are good for your dog, and which are dangerous? Walk down the right aisle in any pet supply store and you can't miss them: row upon row, bin upon bin of preserved and processed animal parts, all intended for your dog's chewing pleasure. First, there are the rawhide products perhaps the least visually objectionable stuff on display. Most pet stores carry many varieties of rawhide chews, including flat discs, round rolls, twisted and braided chews, and fanciful items such as rawhide footballs and food bowls.
There are just a few companies who specialize in chew toys for canines with shark mouths – dogs who instantly shred the majority of toys. If you are looking for something that an aggressive chewer can take under the kitchen table and gnaw on for any stretch of time, you’d best stick to those few. For this article, we wanted to find toys that could last long enough to entertain us and our shark-mouthed dogs for more than a few hours or days.
Interactive toys that require your dog to do something to make the toy pay out food treats are a great invention. They can assist with behavior modification programs and help to keep your dog busy, out of trouble, and well-behaved in your home. The more time your dog spends pursuing one, the more energy she expends in your absence, the more tired she is by the time you get home. And a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. First on the interactive scene was the Buster Cube, followed by the Roll-A-Treat Ball, now joined by a whole host of other interactive products. We decided it was high time to compare some of these treat-dispensing toys to see which ones can give you and your dog the most value.
A rousing game of fetch is a team sport; it requires a thrower and a retriever. Dog and owner work together, or the game doesn’t happen. This partnered activity helps to cement the dog/human relationship. It’s also a perfect outlet for a dog’s excess energy. The ball-fetching dog gets to satisfy his hard-wired instinct to chase and catch prey, while benefiting from the regular exercise that promotes good physical and mental health. Besides, there is something intrinsically soul-satisfying about watching a dog in hot pursuit of a ball, stretching his legs in full flight across open space, whether it’s with the lithe grace of a sighthound, the determined strides of a retriever, or the scrabbling charge of a stubby-legged terrier.
Testing new toys! This is always our favorite assignment, since we get to spend lots of time playing with our dogs. We have once again perused the pages of various dog supply stores, catalogs, web sites, and trade shows to find a selection of new toys to review. This time, we found a greater than usual percentage of delightful surprises, though we were, as usual, also disappointed a few times. All in all, remember that proper toy selection is a very individualized venture – you must keep your own dog’s interests, propensities, and chew power in mind when shopping for her.
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