“ Brand: Nina Ottosson / Animals Equipment Type: Dog Toys „
* Prices may differ from that shown
I have a few of these old style Nina Ottosson games as well as some of the newer plastic versions. The Dog Smart product is made from an MDF base and wooden hollow blocks.
The idea of the game is for you and your dog to play together, this product does require supervision as the blocks are a very nice size for your dog to chew (speaking from direct experience!). Food is hidden underneath in the base which is recessed so that the hollow blocks slot in, the dog has to lift out the hollow blocks with his mouth in order to get to the food. You can also attach string through the holes so that a dog can use the string to lift the blocks out.
One of the most tiring things for a dog to do is to use his mind and olfactory senses together (sense of smell) and this game caters for this activity very well. Your dog will be more tired doing brain training and nosework than he would just walking in the park.
It's an idea to use a high value foodstuff such as ham or treats to begin with so that it entices and motivates your dog to investigate how to get the blocks out. When they have the hang of it you can switch to a lower value product like your dog's daily kibble, you can feed him his meals in games such as this and make him work for his dinner rather than just serving it up in a bowl, which must be quite boring for an animal that's designed to sniff out his food!
Once your dog has got the idea that there is food underneath each block you can also mix it up and not put food under every block, but still put the empty blocks back in the game - this will also make him work to find out which blocks have food underneath and which don't, he might use trial and error and lift all the blocks, or he may sniff through the holes to find out where the food is.
You can wipe down this product for cleanliness but I wouldn't recommend soaking it in water as the MDF is likely to warp.
This is a fun game, and it's fun to watch our dogs problem solving isn't it?
*What is the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart?*
This interactive dog puzzle dog is produced by a Swedish based company who solely manufacture these dog toys, designed to encourage use of your dogs mind during play sessions.
*The product itself*
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of owning, or should I say, being owned by, either a Rottweiler or a Bernese Mountain Dog will know that as well as their obvious good looks, their major intelligence is another attractive feature of both breeds. Both the Rottie and the Bernese are classed as highly intelligent, highly trainable and highly clever breeds of dog. Apparently.
As you most of you will know, I own one of each. Whilst they are certainly very well trained and were moderately easy to train to that level, I'll give them that, they seem to sometimes lack in brain power! They are the kind of dogs that despite weighing 36kg and nearly 50kg will still try and fit through a cat flap, not once, but on a near daily basis or will go swimming with a toy in their mouth, bark at a duck or whatever, letting go of their toy in the process, and then spend a good ten minutes snapping and biting at the water with a look of sheer puzzlement and bemusement on their faces, trying to figure out where their toy has just gone.
But I know they are not complete twits. Benson has his Gold Award in the Kennel Club Good Citizen Scheme and Grace has just passed her Silver, and when they want to be, they can be extremely clever dogs. It would just be nice if they demonstrated this a little more often! So I went in the search for some items which would maybe bring out the inner genius in both of them, which I certainly know is there!
One of the items I purchased was this interactive dog puzzle, called Dog Smart which is part of a Swedish range of dog products designed to encourage dogs to use their brains to work out simple puzzles in return for small food based rewards. The range is quite large and includes many puzzle games designed for all breeds of dog and in different difficult levels. The Dog Smart is classed being suitable for beginners and was one of the first toys in the range.
The Dog Smart, although marketed as a 'dog toy', is not a dog toy for general use like something like a ball or tugger might be. It is designed for use by owner and dog at the same time, so will help strengthen the bond between you and your pet whilst also helping to stimulate your dogs brain which helps to relieve boredom and also enables your dog to exhibit natural behaviours such as scent tracking and foraging.
The Dog Smart is quite a strange looking device. It is made from solid construction wood and is a large circular 'plate' which has 9 small holes in- eight around the rim of the circle and then one in the centre, there are then 9 wooden 'caps' which slot in the holes on the plate. The idea is that you place a small treat in a few of the holes, insert all the caps (even over the holes which have no food in) and your dog must use his nose, and brain, to figure out where about the food is. When your dog discovers it, he is then meant to remove the cap with his mouth, no knocking with paws or nudging with noses allowed, to enable him to eat the reward underneath.
The manufacturers claim that regular use of the toy, and others in the range, will help relieve anxiety and stress in bored dogs, improve your dogs intelligence and problem solving skills and lastly, exercise your dogs brain resulting in a much happier, calmer dog. A lot of claims for a few bits of wood eh?!
The Dog Smart comes packaged in a small cardboard box which is completely covered in information about the product, all of which I didn't bother reading because there was so much of it! The product itself is covered in a plastic film inside the box to prevent damage in transit and everything is recyclable once no longer needed, although you may want to cut the instructions from the box to keep until you are sure how the product works. As you'd expect, contact details for the manufacturers are on the box should you have any questions, although they appear to be a Swedish address.
*Price & Availability*
As far as I'm aware, Nina Ottosson toys are only available online. I purchased my Dog Smart from www.dogonline.co.uk for £24.95, although be sure to shop around before you purchase one, as I have seen them a couple of pounds cheaper than that on other sites.
I'm with Grace and Benson 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They come to work with me all the time and even when I am not at work, I am generally doing something that involves them, they are house dogs so are always around at home and then they sleep on my bedroom floor at night. They're about the only living creatures I could spend that long with without wanting to kill them! So I'm always looking for new bits and pieces to do with them as they are worse than trying to entertain two small kids at times!
So I ordered the Dog Smart with two ideas in mind- one, I wanted the product to make them use their brains a bit more and provide a bit of entertainment, and secondly, I thought it looked quite interesting and I generally just wanted to have a go with one. I placed my order and upon delivery, I was kind of disappointed with it. Firstly, it was made of wood, hardly an ideal material to make a dog product from- it's hard to clean, chewable and can splinter- rubber, plastic, or even metal would all have been miles better. I wouldn't have even ordered it if I had realised it was made from wood to be honest, so I went back on the site to check if there was any mention of it being, and there it was in black and white stating it was made from wood, so my fault really. The 'caps' are also really quite small, so don't leave your dog alone with this product as they propose a choking hazard. Anyway, back to my experience of it.
The Dog Smart is very easy to use, I put a small cube of cheese in 3 of the 9 holes, set the thing down on the floor and called the dogs through to the kitchen. I let Grace have a go first, I got her to sit and had the Dog Smart on the floor in front of her, she instantly put her nose down, had a quick sniff around and straight away went to one of the holes that had cheese in, she took the 'cap' in her mouth, gave it a little pull, off it came and that was that, she'd mastered it in thirty seconds flat. She then went on to find the other two pieces of cheese with very little effort. I re-filled it and let Benson have a go and he too, removed all the cheese, first time round, in about thirty seconds. So basically, I'd paid nearly twenty five quid for something that my dogs mastered in one minute between them, I wasn't impressed to say the least.
Determined to get more use out of it however, I tried it again a couple of days later with some dry biscuits, rather than cheese than had more scent to it, to see if I could make it a little bit more challenging for the dogs. The same thing happened, both dogs had a quick sniff and went straight to the holes than contained the biscuits. I proceeded trying to modify the game a few more times, making the dogs remove the 'caps' and drop them on a plate before eating the treat, even filling just one of the nine holes with food, but they weren't having any of it, it was far too easy for them and I did eventually give up and gave the Dog Smart to my best mate. It took her Shih Tzu a bit longer to figure it out than it had my two, but he did still get the hang of it fairly quickly.
All in all, a complete waste of money. The dogs got about five minutes enjoyment from it in total and that was about it really, it was far too easy for them, offering no challenge whatsoever, not making them use their brains in the slightest and it was poorly made and designed. Being made from wood it was near impossible to keep clean, the dogs left tooth marks in the 'caps' and it had no non-slip base so I had to keep hold of it whilst in use to stop it sliding across the kitchen floor as the dogs used it.
About the only things I did like about it was that the 'caps' didn't simply knock over when the dogs sniffed at the Dog Smart, they needed a moderate tug and a firm grip from the dog to remove them and also the fact that the holes were spaced quite far apart, which gave large dogs and the flatter faced breeds adequate room to get hold of one 'cap' without the others getting in the way.
To conclude, I was a bit of a fool to pay as much as I did for it. The same thing could be achieved with some small up turned flower pots with treats under it and it posed no challenge whatsoever to my dogs, admittedly it is advertised as being for beginners, but even so, I can't imagine there would be many dogs that struggled with this.
Hide dog snacks underneath hollow blocks and let your dog search for the snacks by letting it use its mouth to lift the blocks in order to find the snacks underneath.