With Christmas just around the corner, I thought it was time to share a “top 10″ list of our favourite dog toys.
At number 10, we have the Chuckit! Ball Launcher. This was one of the first toys I ever got for Kira. It made sense. No more picking up an icky, sticky, dog slobbery balls with your hands. And … you can toss for hours without ever getting a sore arm or shoulder.
The price was also right and the ball options are fantastic. It did spur two discussions though. One with Kira’s foster mom: she doesn’t retrieve. And one with fellow park frequenters: is that your ball or my ball ?
I bought the medium sized launcher. It’s easy for me to throw a ball at least 40 feet with minimal effort. And quite correctly, Kira does not retrieve. She does however love to chase the ball. And she will pick it up. If other dogs are around, bonus. She will run with that ball in her mouth as long as someone is willing to chase her. If no one wants to chase her, she will drop it and move on to something else.
I consider this toy to be a huge win and I am rarely at the park without it. We have a number of balls for the launcher, including the one that glows in the dark for night-time fun.
At number 9 is Nina Ottosson’s Dog Tornado. We own several of Nina Ottosson’s dog toys now, and Kira enjoys them all. I opted for the plastic version, although many of Nina’s interactive dog toys are available in wood. The Dog Tornado is a great place to start if your dog is new to puzzle games. It’s pretty easy for dogs to figure out. Hide treats (or food) in the bone-shaped depressions and then close the bone-shaped cups over top. Your dog has to figure out how to spin the cover to get at the treats.
Set your dog up for success by letting him or her get the treats out without covering them at first. If your dog is a chewer, this is a good time to teach “no chewing”. Keep at it until your dog uses his or her paw to slide open the cover, instead of using teeth. You can always spray a little Bitter Apple or any kind of chew deterrent on the game for heavy chewers.
I love the mental stimulation that puzzle games provide. I also love the fact that this toy is so easy to clean. It’s dishwasher safe !! Just load it into the top rack of the dishwasher and let it air dry once it’s through the wash. A word of caution though … this toy is not indestructible. Keep it out of reach when you are not playing with it and you will have it for years to come. You could even start up a toy exchange with fellow dog owners. This lets you try a variety of new games while keeping the cost down.
At number 8 is the Chuckit! Indoor Ball. Shhhhh. Kira is getting this one for Christmas.
None of the outdoor balls we have seem appropriate for in-house play. They do their job outside, but a little too firm for inside. The folks at Chuckit! must have figured that out too. Hence the indoor balls.
You can get a Chuckit! launcher for the indoor balls (there are two different styles of balls). Personally, our home is too small to think about launching this ball 40 feet inside, and I don’t think the icky, sticky will apply to this ball. But, it’s good to know that there is that option. And I might take this ball outside in the summer.
I can’t report on a field test for this one yet, but it’s the right size for Kira (there is no way it can get stuck in her throat) and it’s soft.
Soft enough not to damage the walls or floors when tossed or her teeth when picked up. It also won’t deflate if she accidentally bites into it.
At number 7 is the Kyjen Hide-A-Squirrel Puzzle Toy. The person who invented this game was sure thinking. It’s just a natural fit. On so many levels.
If you don’t like squeaking sounds (the squirrels that come with the game squeak), you can hide other things in the tree. Like treats or non-squeaking toys. I found that Kira might squeak them once or twice, but she isn’t obsessive about it. What she does like to do is hunt for them in the tree. Even the cats like this game!
It is quite well made, and as long as you supervise this toy should last you for a long time. I love the fact that it’s a thinking game. And it’s fun to watch your dog figure it out. In our house, it has also helped with the concept of sharing, since the cats truly like the squirrels too.
As far as maintenance, I have washed all of the pieces in the washing machine — cold water, delicate cycle — and let them air dry. Comes out just like new and ready for another game.
Number 6 on the “top 10″ list is the Kyjen Puzzle Egg Babies toy. I have no idea what makes dogs so crazy for this toy. I just know that it’s a success. In fact, I had a hard time finding it in local pet stores because of it’s ability to keep dogs entertained.
The concept is similar to the Hide-A-Squirrel game. Plush, and squeaky, eggs hidden in a stuffed toy. The toy maker put a lot of thought into this one. And the concept actually makes sense. What’s the first thing your dog does with a stuffed toy that has a squeaker in it? Find and get that squeaker. So true!
With the egg baby toys (there are many types, from birds to hedgehogs and sharks) your dog can find and remove the squeaker without destroying the stuffed toy. Bonus.
I started with one egg inside the toy (we have the frog). Adding more eggs as the days went on. Trying to prolong the “new toy .. oh wow” excitement for a little longer. My only concern with this toy is the size of the eggs, depending on the size of your dog. Not a worry if you only let your dog play with this toy while you watch. Which we really should do with all toys anyway.
The toy washes up well (I put the eggs in an old pair of nylon stockings and then machine wash on delicate) and you can get replacement eggs when the time comes. The egg babies toy is also totally fun for any cats in your home.
At number 5 is Nina Ottosson’s Dog Twister. This is the first interactive dog toy I bought for Kira. Remember the longest 14 days of my life? Ha. Seems like forever ago now. It wasn’t by choice. It was the only interactive game they had in the store at the time. Lucky for me because this toy still gets a lot of use.
What I like about this game is that it is a challenge. It was for us anyway. Sliding the compartments over to get the treat was easy. Pulling the plastic bones out before she could slide the compartments took it to another level. I have to say, after 10 months of play, all of the pieces are still in tact and none the worse for wear.
With different levels of thought comes a variety of ways to use this game. I still use it to feed Kira her food every now and then. Usually on mornings when I have a meeting and haven’t been able to walk her for as long as I should. Or days when it’s 40 below out and she has cabin fever.
The game itself is fairly indestructible. Kira pulls the plastic bones out with her teeth. I guess that’s another level we can still get to. Taking them out with her paws.
Dishwasher safe on the top rack. I hand wash the plastic bones, but I am sure you could safely wash those in the dishwasher too.
Sitting at number 4 is the Chuckit! Kick Fetch ball. In a word: brilliant! This isn’t the first soccer type ball to grace our home in the last year. But it’s the best.
The first one was a beach ball. No, not the kind you blow up. I wasn’t that clueless. Close though. It lasted 10 seconds. Did it never even occur to me that Kira would try to pick it up with her teeth. Regardless of the size. Apparently not.
The second one was a full-fledged Nike. A professional soccer ball. I can still see that man standing there at the park. Shaking his head and smiling. Telling me I was going to lose it in the river. Well I did lose it in the river. After 4 kicks. But … I went in after it. And retrieved it. So it wasn’t that bad.
When I saw someone in the park, in the dead of winter, with the Chuckit! Kick Fetch ball, and all of the dogs that were there at the time were having fun with it, I could hardly get the words “where did you get that” out of my mouth fast enough.
You can kick it. Dogs can pick it up with their teeth. It does not deflate. Told you it was brilliant!! The only negative review I could find on this toy is that a dog got his tooth stuck in the ball. I have never seen this, nor experienced it, but it is something to be aware of.
This toy is a big time winner in my books. And sorry Nike. I was using your soccer ball for a purpose it was not intended for, so the fault is entirely mine. Your soccer balls totally rock too! Two months of summertime play, a couple of trips down the river, and still inflated and ready to go.
At number 3 is the Ruffwear Hovercraft Flying Disc. If you read toy reviews like I do, you will be pleased to know that this toy consistently scores a 5 out of 5 on almost every review board. And with good reason. It’s extremely well made, easy on your dog’s teeth, a snap to clean, and it flies through the air with ease.
The Ruffwear Hovercraft Flying Disc comes in a variety of colours and has a molded foam core. The core is a little firm at first, but over time it softens up. I have washed mine about 100 times in the top rack of the dishwasher, letting it air dry after the wash cycle, and it still floats and flies just fine.
Kira is into team sports. That’s my way of rationalizing the “what … you want me to bring it back to you … seriously ??” aka does not retrieve. And this toy fits perfectly for both solo retrievers and team players. With a ball, it’s catch me if you can. With this toy, it’s take it away from me if you can. Many a game of tug-a-war has been played with this toy.
I also like the fact that even with constant sharing in the park, there are no rips or tears to be found on this toy. Something that happens often after only one use with plastic frisbees. Don’t get me started again on the plastic beach ball that lasted all of 10 seconds. Boo me.
Is this flying frisbee indestructible? Some claim it is. I put ours away after outdoor playtime. It’s an investment that will be around for many years to come.
At number 2 is the Meteor Light K-9 LED dog ball. When it’s dark outside at 5:00pm in December and you want to take a ball to the park, this one is it. This ball fits in the Chuckit! launcher and has an on/off switch. It takes a fair amount of pressure to activate the switch (you have to press the side of the ball really hard), which is perfect for dog play.
I tried a number of other brands that were easier to turn on and off, but that also made it easier for dogs to accidentally turn them off when they played with them. Without the light, it’s next to impossible to find a ball in the dark and in the snow.
These balls are waterproof, float, and you can replace the battery when needed. Just watch out for hard surfaces like pavement. When hitting a hard surface at just the right angle, the LED could pop out and/or the ball could turn off. Pretty easy to avoid once you know.
Number 1 brings us to the KONG Classic Dog Toy. The first stop I made after adopting Kira was my brother’s house. He has three dogs. It was a natural choice.
He didn’t say much. Just a raised an eyebrow and said “she’s a good looking dog”. I could hear him thinking … “Does she have any idea what she is doing. Porcupines, coyotes, walking rain or shine, house training, chewing”. I love the fact that he didn’t say any of those things out loud. What he did do was give me a red KONG classic along with a simple instruction: A tablespoon of peanut butter.
That tablespoon of peanut butter got me through the first month. I learned not to freeze things in the KONG that I didn’t want thawing all over the house. I learned that stuffing it creatively meant I could have a bath in peace. I also learned that despite teething and wickedly sharp puppy teeth, the KONG held its own. No bits of plastic scattered through the house. It stayed in tact.
In my opinion, every new puppy should come with a KONG Classic. A little tag attached to it that reads: Fill with a tablespoon of peanut butter for 10 to 30 minutes of quiet time.
Happy Christmas Everyone !!