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Several weeks ago we purchased the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick interactive toy (see earlier review for this one). This turned out to be a success, but as per the review, after a while my dog had it so well sussed out that it only occupied her for a couple of minutes at a time.
Having been pleased with the entertainment factor and also design/durability of the first one we decided that it would be worthwhile to buy another. This time I looked for one which was a higher level of difficulty in the hope that it would keep her occupied for that bit longer, as she does seem to enjoy playing with these toys.
After looking at what they had on offer I decided to buy the Dog Casino which looked as if it was a more interesting and more complicated version of the brick.
== WHAT IS IT? ==
The toy is a rectangular shaped blue plastic enclosed tray of approximately a foot by a foot and a half. In the sides there are little drawers - two on each side so eight in total. These drawers have a small rounded handle to enable the dog to grip onto them and pull the drawers open. In each drawer, of course, they will find a treat of some sort.
On the top of the tray there are small white bone shaped pegs. There are eight of these and each one is responsible for 'locking' one of the drawers. So the dog needs to remove the bone shaped peg in order to be able to open the drawer. The bone shape on the top of the pegs are made from a hard, solid plastic and the 'stem' part of the pegs are made from the same plastic but hollow rather than solid. You can also put treats under the pegs on the top to encourage the dog to remove them.
== USING IT ==
Having used the dog brick, my dog could see that this was a similar type of thing, so she was immediately interested. Firstly, we left the pegs out altogether so she could get the hang of opening the drawers without the added complication of them being locked with a peg.
We started by putting a treat in each of the drawers and leaving one completely open, another mostly open, another half open etc so she could learn what was within and how to open them to get to it.
(I will add at this stage that the treats don't need to be big - we just use one piece of her kibble food for each treat, which is hardly anything. If need be, you can reduce their dinner slightly to make up for these extra treats should weight be a consideration).
With us sat on the floor to help and show her how to use it, it didn't take long for her to grasp the notion of getting hold of the little drawer handles to pull open the drawers. She used her teeth at times and sometimes her paw to achieve this.
Then we added the complication of the bone shaped pegs in the top which lock the drawers. Having seen something similar in her other toy, the dog brick, it didn't take her long at all to grasp the concept that these needed to be removed. However, they are much smaller than the ones in the dog brick and therefore more difficult for her to push out with her nose or paw. Also, because they are pegs, with a stem, they do not come out all that easily for a dog. It didn't take her long to find a way though - she dislodged them slightly with nose or paw and then used her teeth to grasp them and pull them out.
Then she was able to open the drawers. I think it may have taken several uses of the game for her to realise that the pegs are actually linked to the drawers and that once a peg is removed, the corresponding drawer can be opened. But we didn't get that far (see below) and for now just removing pegs and opening drawers which would or wouldn't open seemingly at random was still very entertaining and great fun!
== THE PROBLEM ==
The pegs were quite tricky to remove, so when she successfully managed to get one off, delighted with her success, she would go to trot off with her 'prize'(the peg). As these are not meant for the dog to chew however, I asked her to leave it, which she did immediately. But we noticed that in the short time the peg was in her mouth (probably 3-5 seconds) she had bitten down on the stem part and misshapen it. Unfortunately, the stems are made from hollow plastic so are easily 'squished' which I believe to be a design fault, given that the very nature of the game encourages a dog to take them into their mouth!
Our (small) dog is exceptionally good natured and well behaved and, if asked to leave something, will do so immediately. So we carried on playing with the game but found that she clearly like the 'hard but squishy' feel of the bone stems and, on removing them (for which she had to use her teeth by necessity) she would immediately bite down on them before dropping straight away as requested.
This happened on the first use of the game. We were able to put the pegs back into the holes but it was difficult as a couple of them were now slightly misshapen and the holes are made to exactly fit the pegs.
When we played with the game again, she would remove these pegs using a combination of her nose, paw and teeth (as per the instructions, this is the idea and is to be encouraged). But when she was again able to misshape the pegs within a couple of seconds of removing them, we decided that this was just going to render the game unusable so we should stop using it. A couple of them were getting almost impossible to put back into the holes.
At £30 we decided this was most certainly unsuitable so I contacted the retailer to return it as it clearly wasn't tough enough for the job.
== WHAT A FLIPPIN' CHEEK! ==
I explained to the retailer (Pet Planet) what had happened and the girl I spoke to was very helpful and said she'd get in touch with the manufacturer about it. She emailed me with contact details for the UK agent (Company of Animals) and advised me to contact them direct regarding this problem. So I called them, explained the problem again, and was advised to return the product with a covering note.
This was a bit of a pain to be honest, as I'd disposed of the original box, not expecting to have any problems, so I had to go out and get some packaging to send this awkward item back. I put in a note to briefly explain (for the 3rd time) how we had used this and why I considered it unsuitable. Job done, I awaited my refund.
Instead, however, I received a patronising email which basically insinuated that I was lying, because 'the dog has had some time to chew on the insert' and 'the inserts have been chewed at quite a severe level'. They went on to advise me (twice) that play with this product should be supervised, and even went as far as recommending me some products that were suitable for unsupervised play. All this despite my having explained that we were sitting on the floor with the dog when she was playing with this!
I was incensed (to say the least) and wrote a rather cross email back which made no secret of the fact that I was not impressed by their implication that I was a liar or had used this game in any way other than its intended use. The pegs should not be able to be damaged so quickly and easily, rendering them useless, and that's that!
I did eventually receive a refund but it was reluctant and it took me a while to get it - I had to make several more calls and speak to sulky 'customer service' team members. The refund actually came from Pet Planet in the end but my postage costs (which I of course had to push for) had to come separately from the UK agent. Let's make things easy for the customer........ NOT!
So I was left with a bitter aftertaste as I think the service I received was appalling. At those prices I certainly won't risk buying any more Nina Ottosson dog toys, as if they are in any way flawed its such hard work to get them to admit it that it's just not worth it. I will be looking for other brands of interactive dog toys, or making my own!
A great toy, but absolutely not recommended due to the design flaw making it far too easy for the dog to damage it within seconds and render it unusable.
(Review also appears on Ciao)