“ Brand: Training Lines / Animals Equipment Type: Dog Toys „
*What is the Kicker Dog Activity Toy?*
This product is part of a range of interactive dog toys designed by Jens Reinhold which includes this toy and many others of varying difficulty levels suitable for use by all ages, breeds and sizes of dog.
*The product itself*
Deep down, I know that both Grace and Benson are incredibly clever dogs, it is a trait of both of their breeds and they have both done well in the Kennel Club Good Citizen training scheme, with Benson reaching the Gold level and Grace has passed her Silver and will be working towards her Gold in the near future, so I do have proof they are intelligent dogs! However, in day to day life at home, they choose not to demonstrate this all that much! They are the kind of dogs that will try to fit through cat flaps when in reality they can barely squeeze their noses through or will try to fit through a gateway with a stick twice the size of themselves in their mouths, not to mention Grace's incredibly stupid habit of running into closed patio doors on a number of occasions.
So recently, I've purchased a few different products that can hopefully help me to encourage the pair of them to prove to me on a more regular basis that they are infact very clever animals and not just a pair of idiots with brains the size of peanuts.
I've already reviewed one of those products and that was the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart which I was very disappointed with, the dogs figured it out within a matter of seconds and considering it was quite expensive, I wasn't at all pleased with it and hoped that another one of the products I had purchased would be a bit better. Enter the Kicker Dog Activity Toy.
The Kicker Dog Activity Toy is part of a large range of toys developed by Jens Reinhold which are designed to help encourage dogs to use their brains that little bit more by figuring out simple puzzles in return for small food based rewards. This will not only helps strengthen the bond between you and your pet as the toys are designed to be used together by both owner and dog, it will also, with regular use, help relieve boredom in stressed dogs, help to improve their problem solving skills, provide mental stimulation to keeps their brains active and lastly, enable dogs to exhibit natural behaviours such as scent tracking and foraging, which will result in a much happier, healthier and contented dog.
The Kicker is quite a strange looking product. It is made from wood and contains three tube 'sliders' which can be filled with small treats. Two of these sliders can be pushed upwards and the other must be pushed to the side and the idea is that the owner places a small treat in each of the tubes, and the dog must then use his brain and nose to figure and where the food is and what he must do to remove it from the toy. When he has figured this out, he must then use his nose to push the slider along, and the treat inside will emerge from the hole at the end.
The sliders all have small circular knobs on the end for the dog to nudge with his nose and it has non-slip rubber feet to prevent the toy from moving during use. The Kicker, although obviously a dog toy in its own right, isn't a toy in the way something like a ball may be, it is designed only for supervised use and dogs should not be left unattended with it because of the easily chewable wooden design.
The product dimensions of the Kicker are 26 x 15 x 24 cm which makes it suitable for any breed of dog and is graded as being suitable for beginners, so is a good starter product if you are looking to start your dog with these problem solving toys.
The Kicker comes supplied in a small cardboard box which informs us about the products intended use and all the usual information you'd expect to find such as care instructions and contact details for the manufacturers. An instruction booklet full of hints and tips is always included which is handy as it enables you to get the most use possible from the toy. All packaging can be recycled once no longer needed.
*Price & Availability*
I have not seen the Kicker in any offline shops although it is widely available from various places across the internet and all prices seem to be around the same. I purchased my Kicker from www.traininglines.co.uk for the fairly reasonable price of £15.95.
After my disappointment with the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart that I brought, I was fairly sceptical about the Kicker, but seeing as I had ordered the Dog Smart, the Kicker and another toy (review coming shortly no doubt!) all at the same time I was left with no option but to give it a go anyway.
On first impressions, the Kicker does look quite a complicated and complex piece of equipment and to be honest, I thought Grace and Benson stood no chance! However, they surprised me with how quick they mastered the Dog Smart so I thought just maybe they would surprise me here too, although I hoped they would get a bit more use from it and that it would take them a little bit longer to master! The Kicker is made from wood, which I hadn't noticed when ordering but it seemed quite sturdy and robust and appeared to be varnished so it looked a lot more hard wearing than the Dog Smart and was wipe clean, which is a handy thing when owning a Bernese Mountain Dog who can slobber for England!
I popped a small cube of cooked chicken in each of the tubes (this was very easy to do- I just dropped it through the hole at the end of the tubes, made sure the sliders were set at the bottom and that was it), I then set the Kicker down on the kitchen floor and called the dogs through.
Benson had a go first and he was initially quite baffled by it! He could obviously smell the chicken inside the Kicker but didn't understand what he needed to do to remove it! He whacked it a few times with his paws, gave it a quick nudge with his nose and then went to his favourite method of doing things- using that huge gob of his! - he started to have a little chew of the corner of the Kicker! I quickly put a stop to that and decided to let Grace have a go instead!
She was just as confused by the whole thing as Benson was, she gave it a few nudges (the non slip feet are very good here- they were battering the poor toy but it didn't move an inch along my kitchen floor) and then started scratching at it in frustration. This is probably the point that most dogs would give up but Grace and Benson are very determined at the best of times, not to mention where food is involved and they certainly weren't going to leave the toy whilst there was still chicken inside! I was now feeling very pleased with myself that I maybe had just managed to out smart the pair of them and was a lot happier that the Kicker was presenting more of a challenge to them than the Dog Smart had.
I didn't want to go putting too much pressure on their delicate little brains so I called it a day for now! The chicken was very easy for me to remove, I just moved the sliders myself, of course not letting the dogs see, and the chicken fell out the hole at the end, the sliders were very easy to move and moved very smoothly so it was nice to know that when the dogs did master it, they wouldn't be hurting their noses in the process of moving the sliders. Although here I realised that there was no way of cleaning inside the toy, so thought it'd be best to stick with dry treats the next time I used it.
A couple of days later I tried them with it for a second time, this time with small pieces of broken dog biscuits inside. Again, they were both very confused by the whole thing, they could smell the biscuits inside but just couldn't seem to figure out how they could get to them but were determined not to give up. It took them a good thirty minutes or so until Benson finally cottoned on and began to nudge one of the upward moving sliders with his nose until the biscuit fell from the end, very chuffed with himself he then moved onto the other upward moving slider to claim his reward, then looked at me all proud as if to say aren't I a clever boy!
The side wards moving slider still baffled the pair of them though and it was another three attempts or so later until Grace figured it out.
To conclude, I'm really impressed with this product. It was cheaper than the extremely disappointing Dog Smart yet worked a million times better- it actually made Grace and Benson use their brains, it look them a long while to master and even now, after they know what to do, they still get a lot of use out of it as they love using it and I tend to get it out a couple of times a week, pop a couple of treats inside and it makes them work for their reward, which is much more exciting for the pair of them compared to just eating from a dish.
The only downside is that it is made from wood, that time Benson did attempt to chew the corner, he did leave teeth marks and if he persisted, he could have chewed through it very quickly, although not leaving the dogs unattended with the toy solves that problem. Also there is no way of cleaning inside the Kicker which means you are limited to using dry, clean treats with it, not a major problem for my two but it could make the toy unsuitable for less determined dogs who need fairly smelly treats for motivation!
Contains three tubes which can be filled with treats.