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Traditionally, a stick was perhaps the most common dog toy- after all they're free, you can find them anywhere, it doesn't matter if you loose them, and they're easy to throw long distances for dogs to chase after. They're great, right?
Well, that was always what I thought too- I grew up with dogs and we'd always take them to the park and of course, just like any other dog owners, we'd find sticks along the way that we'd throw for them, and the dogs would have a whale of a time chasing, catching and chewing them. A second thought was never given to the dangers.
It was only after moving to England and qualifying to be a veterinary nurse that my eyes were opened to the dangers of these seemingly innocent dog toys. I hadn't long been qualified when a young Labrador was rushed into the surgery- his owners had thrown a stick for him, the dog had jumped up to catch it, but mistimed the catch, and instead of catching the stick horizontally in his mouth, it went vertically down his throat and had firmly lodged itself there. The owners had tried to pull it out, but the stick had snapped and there was a piece stuck- long story cut short, the ending wasn't a happy one and the poor Lab had to be put to sleep at just 18 months old, his life cut cruelly short.
And over the years, this story, and variations, have been repeated all too often. There have been countless cases of dogs not only having sticks lodged in the throats, but impaling themselves on them after the owner had thrown them and they've stuck in soft ground and the dog hasn't been able to stop running before ploughing into them, there have been dogs with shards of broken stick stuck in their gums or mouths when they've bitten down on a rotten one, and many, many other gory stories. Nearly all of which that have ended in surgery and a very hefty vet bill at best, or at worst, a dead dog.
So it probably doesn't come as too much of a surprise for me to tell you that my dogs are NEVER ever allowed to play with sticks. They love to carry and play with things on walks, so we always take our own toys for them, to discourage them from finding their own things to play with- such as the dreaded stick!
Toys that the dogs bring on walks must be a number of different things- they must be strong and durable since they'll be played roughly with by two big dogs, they must be relatively easy to clean as they'll no doubt be dropped in muddy puddles and lastly, they can't be too expensive- because Grace and Benson are a few sandwiches short of a picnic- they'll be carrying around their beloved toy, and then get scent of a rabbit and be off, previously loved toy dropped without a second thought, and they can never find it again when they go back to look!
I saw this Kong Pet Stix whilst browsing online and thought it looked good fun- made from high quality ultra durable nylon and a small amount of stuffing, it was in the traditional stick shape which dogs are drawn to, but came without all the dangers that come with natural sticks.
It is made by Kong, an American company, that I trust greatly to produce decent quality dog toys, so I didn't hesitate in purchasing one. They're available in 3 sizes: small (22cm)- £3.48, medium (26cm)- £4.63 and large (35cm)- £6.04. Pet Supermarket offer the best prices and that's where I purchase our one from, in the large size for my Rottie and Bernese.
When the toy arrived I was instantly really impressed with it, like all Kong toys we've had in the past, the Pet Stix was exceptionally well made- all the fabric was tightly stitched together with no loose bits for the dogs to get their teeth into and begin to rip it up. The whole thing just felt really sturdy and well made, and it looked great. They're available in 3 different colours- green, brown and camouflage, and it's pot luck as to what one you receive. We got the brown one and it looked boring and plain- we'd have much rather of got the camouflage one!
Grace and Benson weren't long in clocking something had arrived for them and we eager to try it, so on our next walk, the Pet Stix came too. It was lightweight enough for the dogs to carry, and large enough that they could both carry at the same time, walking side by side with either end in the mouths, and they had great fun running around like loons with it like this. As durable as Kong toys generally are, I had to discourage them when they tried to play tug of war with it, as the Pet Stix just isn't made for games like this- it's intended use is for fetch games, it won't stand up to chewing or extremely rough tugging play.
As soon as we were in an open field, we got to trial the Pet Stix at its intended use- a good old game of fetch! Grace and Benson suffer from a slight identity crisis- they think they're retrievers. Neither of their breeds are gundog breeds, bred to retrieve, but none the less, Grace and Benson beg to differ and would fetch and retrieve thrown objects until they were fit to drop, so they were more than up for a game with the Pet Stix.
I'm the first to admit I'm a pathetic thrower, and the dogs know this by now! They have learnt to realise that unless the object I'm throwing is a tennis ball, and I have one of those ball thrower arms with me, then they can only expect a few little steps until they've reached the object. The look on their faces when I threw the Pet Stix and it sailed through the air, was a pure picture. ''Eh?! Mum?! Since when you can throw!''.
The Pet Stix, I'm pleased to say, was an absolute breeze to throw! It was light weight, but yet weighted enough to enable a good throw, and even myself as a self acclaimed worlds worst thrower, could get it to travel a reasonable distance- much to my dogs delight! The rounded ends of the toy prevented in from lodging in the sound ground and creating a hazard and the soft construction of the toy made it gentle and safe for the dogs to catch, and easy for them to pick up and retrieve. It does, after a few throws, turn into a slobber soaked minging mess since the material doesn't absorb, but we tend to find this with most toys anyway- after all, I do own a Bernese Mountain Dog, who is a professional slobber gob.
We've now have the Pet Stix for about 4 months, and it's still a regular on our walks. It's coped with all sorts- from being smothered in mud, caked in sand, dropped in cow poo and taken in filthy puddles, and it's still looking good. A simple blast with the hose to get the worst off, and then a quick rinse in the washing machine gets it up as good as new. Some of the stitching on the toy has come ever so slightly loose now, but that's to be expected given the regularity we use the toy, and the roughness in which the dogs play with it, but all in all, I've been extremely impressed with the Pet Stix, and Kong has delivered once more.
My one little gripe with the toy however, is the colour! At first I thought the funky 'natural' coloured appearances of the toys was quite cool, but it's just not at all practical, because the colour makes the toy blend in with the surroundings! Quite often when the dogs have forgotten about it and left it in the grass or mud, I've had to go back looking for it and it takes me forever to find the damn thing! The other two colours the toy is available in (camo and green) are equally daft- bright blue or yellow would have been much more practical!
That isn't enough to stop me recommending the product however. The Kong Pet Stix is a great, durable, hard wearing toy that offers a safe alternative to natural wooden sticks. It's well made, exceptionally strong and affordable too- at six quid for the large size, it's hardly going to be the end of the world if it does get lost on a walk!