Joy of Toys

Nishi with all her toys

So, for those of you who don’t know Nishi, let me tell you the only thing you need to know about her. She loves toys! Toys mean everything to her. She will happily swap her meal for a toy. We got her to learn how to swim by tossing a toy into water. We got her to get over her fear of vets by buying her toys. We fixed her Separation Anxiety with toys.

It is quite fascinating to watch her in a pet shop. She walks straight to the toy section, carefully examines all the toys and after a lot of consideration, she pulls out a toy. She is very clear on what she wants. Once she has picked a toy of choice, she is very sure about it and no one can get her to change her mind about it. I once tried to trick her by carrying one of her old toys and placing it in the shelf and then trying to draw her attention to that specific toy. No way Jose! She will pick what she wants and she will walk up to the billing counter, bill it and then start playing with it. Yup! Watching Nishi shop for her toys is quite a sight. 

Given her interest in toys, we buy her toys as frequently as we can. I must add that she is also fantastic at preserving her toys. She destroys nothing. So the toy collection at our house just started piling up. Until…

Until, one day, Tigger came into our lives. Thus drew the end of the toy age. She has systematically started destroying all of Nishis toys. Unfortunately, we have a deal in our house that if the doggies left human stuff alone, they had a free reign on the doggy stuff. Being a fair mommy, I have to stick to my end of the bargain and allow Tigger to do what ever she wants to with the doggy toys. That toy chest is definitely getting depleted and how! It is now important, not only to buy toys, but to know them too. To know what works, what will last and what is safe. Yeah! We know our toys 🙂

Now, it just would not be fair if I did not review those toys. The collective knowledge from the TiN House (Tigger-Nishi House) needs to be duly shared and yours truly will be the scribe 🙂

The first toy I will review is…drum rolls please….The Kong! No surprises there. I will be doing a few posts on Kong Toys. This is just an introduction. The Kong is basically a popular dog toy that can be stuffed with treats. It is made of tough non-toxic plastic that can withstand heavy chewing. Very few toys can withstand as much dog teeth power as the Kong can. The Kong is pyramid shaped with a large hole at the bottom to stuff food in and your dog will pull food out of it. It also has a smaller hole on top, making cleaning quite easy.

We start our Kong-xploration with the Classic Kong. A simple red toy that comes in several different sizes, based on your dogs size. Then there is the colourful variation that is meant for puppies. Then there are the black ones meant for power chewers – those dogs that can chew through stone like it was a lovely soft idli. Then there is the Kong Wobbler, which is slightly different in design. This Kong does not fall down. It stands straight no matter what the dog does and has a little key hole on the side. So the dog knocks down the kong, the food falls out a little, then it stands back straight up again. And finally, there are a whole bunch of variations on the shapes of the Kong. I will not get into those here. Later perhaps!

Now a bit on how to use the Kong. Our Kong came home because Tigger is not too fond of kibble. Then Kong happened. Since then, Tigger seems to love meal time. Meals have become so much fun for Tigger. She gets thrilled at each kibble that rolls out of the Kong. She takes each kibble to a safe place, eats it, really relishes it, then returns back to the Kong for the next kibble. How fun! Nishi has started joining in on the fun and now we need 2 Kongs.

So, we decided to check out the Kong Wobbler for. Since it stands straight all the time, Tigger was at a bit of a loss on how to use it. But Nishi loves it. She whacks it hard on its head, makes it fall down, drops a few pieces of kibble and munches on them while she watches the wobbler jump back to position. I think she quite likes the sound it makes as well. BUT here is the catch – the key hole being so small means that kibble like Royal Canin & Hills Science Plan don’t come out that easily. RC needs to be broken up and filled into the toy. Also, I will not be able to use them for intermediate and advanced use of the Kong.

The Kong is not just a toy. It is something that challenges your dog and makes your dog work for her food. Once the dog is finding it easy to pull kibble out of the Kong, you can start adding challenges like adding cookies that are larger or sticky food like peanut butter etc into the Kong and watch how your dog strategizes to pull the food out. She might crush the food first and then pull it out, lick it out or device some other plan. The whole idea is that she needs to use her brain. A great idea is to get rid of that food bowl all together and start using toys like this instead. The more your dog spends time and energy in figuring out stuff like this, the less time is spent on figuring out what furniture to destroy next.

Check out this video on beginner level use of the Kong

Once your dog is doing the beginner stuff easily, there are many many sites that show several things that can be fed in the Kong. There are Kong-Recipes even.
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/how-stuff-kong-toy
http://www.caninemind.co.uk/kong.html
  
The ideas are plenty and all it takes is a bit of weekend fun project with kids to get some stuffing made and give the Kong to your dog before you leave. Sure the house might be a bit messy when you get back. But at least your sofa will be intact. Worth it right?

Pros: Long lasting. Durable. Non-toxic. Does not need supervision; Safe. Does not get boring as it can be made interesting by changing the stuffing. Can provide mental stimulation for dogs. Can keep dog occupied for a long time, distracting them from being destructive. Can turn meal times into fun game times.

Cons: Expensive. Needs initial training for the dog to learn to use it

Where to buy: Pawsthepetstore.com (Also available in the physical store near Brigade Road, Bangalore), Dogspot, Glenads & Cessna (These two shops have only some limited options)

TiN Verdict: This is one toy that is a must have in your toy cupboard. Even if you don’t buy any other toy, do invest in an appropriate Kong. But do your research on what is the right Kong for you. Once you spend the money on it, do spend some time in teaching your dog how to use the Kong. Totally worth it!

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2 thoughts on “Joy of Toys

  1. This is a great toy for our dogs. My kids love kong classic.. I typically put Kong biscuits which are shaped to fit in the toy and makes it harder to get them out. I also put jerky and other treats which don't drop out just by movement..but yes initially I did fill it with kibbles to get my pups used to the toy and now that they are used to it..they get more challenge and more exciting treats 🙂

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  2. Oh yeah. It's very interesting to see what strategies they come up with to get the treats out. Each dog has his/her own strategy. Nishi uses pure muscle power to smack it hard and get the treats out. Tigger initially tried licking it out. That did not work. Then she watched Nishi and tried to smack it, like Nishi does. But she does not have the strength. So now she just waits for Nishi to smack it and runs after the pieces that fly out of Nishis line of sight and “scavenges” 😉 So…different strategies for different dogs!

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