Tag Archives: playing fetch

SPOT Toy Review: Week One

While on a trip visiting family in southern California a few weeks ago my mother did her due diligence and paid a visit to a locally owned pet store in the area. At this particular store she found quite a few new toys to try out on our pups, but the one that made the cut (and the trip out of the store and back home) is a red, hard rubber chew toy from the company SPOT.

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The toy is rather large for a chew toy; it certainly has a little more surface space when compared to similar Kong toys. It is, like I mentioned, made of pretty hard rubber, so it is not immediately flexible or bendable, which is actually a good thing. It also has three different ends on it, with holes in each end so that (as the packaging states) it can easily float. It’s seemingly durable construction means that the toy is actually a little heavy, so not the best toy to throw around without care.

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It has become something of a delicate balance that needs to be reached when it comes to chew toys for Simon and Rosee. You see, they are strong chewers. Simon cannot be left alone with Kong rubber toys because his teeth can tear apart a brand new toy in just a few minutes. By now he knows the weak points on all of the toys (specifically where the different parts are glued together) and he shamelessly exploits them, tearing apart these toys ridiculously easy.

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However, Kong toys because they are lighter and bounce pretty well make for very good toys to play fetch with. Simon, and Rosee when she deigns to grace us with her cooperation, loves to chase after these toys for at least a solid thirty minutes every evening. It’s just a little costly to constantly be buying new Kong toys every time Simon is able to tear an old one apart and the separate pieces get to be too small and torn up in order to use safely anymore.

So, finding this new rubber toy by SPOT has certainly been an interesting development on the rubber toy front. The packaging on the toy that we got even states that this particular brand is “virtually indestructible” and is made for “tough chewers.” To sweeten the deal the toy only cost $15. Some of the other heavier duty chew toys we’ve found have always been upwards of $20, so finding this SPOT toy for cheaper is definitely a plus. The best part though? The toy comes with a 100% Lifetime Guarantee! If your toy breaks of is chewed up you can take it back to the store and get a new one.

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Clearly, this toy has all the makings of being a really good buy. The true test will be to see how long exactly the toy stands up against Simon and Rosee’s play time. Lots of toys in the dog world claim to be indestructible and for powerful chewers, but most are considered good buys if they last at least a month in our house.

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So, over the next few months (hopefully!) we here at Play Hard Bark Often will be keeping tabs on SPOT’s chew toy and reporting how exactly it is fairing, doing our best to test how indestructible this toy really is. We have high hopes after all, and not just because of the Lifetime Guarantee or because of the heavyweight rubber it is made out of, but because it has already been a week and so far after many rounds of fetch, chase, and just straight up chewing the toy has only a few scratch marks and teeth marks.

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Not bad for one week’s worth of play. But is it just early success?

I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!

Check back in next week to find out how Week Two went.

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A Little Late, But Still Grrreat

It happened. This past February 14th, Valentine’s Day for those who are more inclined to red, pink, and all things heart-shaped, my majestic, powerful, sweetly annoying, pushy, frustrating little boy Simon turned the big 4. Unbelievable! I mean just yesterday is seemed like he was being a little devil pulling on his leash, stealing food off of the counters–oh wait, that was yesterday. (At least it’s not as frequent as it used to be. I call that progress!)

So, let us take a look at how the birthday boy spent his big day (especially since he had to share it, ugh.)

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The playful pup was happily gifted with a giant birthday treat and a giant tennis ball. The tennis ball is made by Kong (as it so subtly displays) and comes with quite a high-pitched squeaker inside that Simon thoroughly enjoys squeaking to death. The ball itself seems to hold up really well, it barely has a scratch on it even after four days of exhaustive play, the squeaker still sounding strong. Also, its bigger size makes it easier to take out of Simon’s mouth compared to regulation size ones, so that’s a plus for my beleaguered fingers.

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As for the over-sized bone it is made of Simon-friendly ingredients, meaning no peanut butter. (Unfortunately, the stuff gives Simon and Rosee the worst hives so it’s best just to stay away from.) Instead this treat includes a much better flavor with applesauce. He very much enjoyed his birthday bone. Simon was even nice enough to share his goods with Rosee. He’s so benevolent is his old age!

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Let’s hope that 5 proves to be just as fruitful (or should I say bone-ful?) as 4 has been.

Happy Birthday Simon!

More than Fetch

Recently, I made sort of a whim of a purchase. I was walking around Petco and saw the Outward Hound Zip and Zoom Outdoor Agility Kit, and immediately thought it was pretty cool. I mean, the agility course comes with three obstacles and in a handy carrying case.

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Really, how could I pass it up? I must admit though that I almost did pass up buying it due to the price. It was $50, which (to me at least) seems awfully expensive for something that comes in such a small bag and was not very heavy. Yet, I wanted it. I wanted it because it’s not something I’ve ever seen before. Of course, I have looked into dog agility courses previously, but besides books that cover building one’s own course or simply assume that the course pieces are easy accessible, I haven’t found an actual kit with pieces. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor handy enough with tools and such to build my own course obstacle pieces. DIY-er I am not. Still, I’ve wanted to try doing agility with Simon and Rosee for a while. Along with being a good form of physical exercise, agility training can also be mentally challenging for dogs, which is very good for dogs like Simon. I do know that actual training classes for agility are out there, but there’s really no class available close to us and these classes typically require your dog to listen to you well off leash. Regrettably, Simon does not listen so well off leash because he finds everything and everyone else he encounters more interesting, which is why he is only allowed off leash when we go to a dog park. Rosee is pretty similar, and, well, she is very lazy. If left to her own devices she’ll mostly choose to lay down and take a nap. She doesn’t like to exert herself if she doesn’t have to, and I can imagine she would decide to lay down instead of listen to me. Also, training classes can be expensive, and I wanted something that we could all do at home on our own time. As a result, I broke down my initial misgivings and decided to buy the Outward Hound Agility Kit to try.

The kit comes with three obstacles: a tunnel, weave poles, and a high jump.

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It seemed like a pretty good deal at first, and very good for a beginner like me who doesn’t know too much about agility. I know the basics from watching the annual dog agility competitions, but, really, that’s not a whole lot. Luckily, this kit comes with a handy-dandy instruction manual along with a tunnel, eight poles (six for weaving and two for the jump), and several curved pieces that create a circle in which your dog is supposed to jump through. There are also metal spokes included to hold the tunnel down, stakes to attach to the poles to stick them in the ground, and clips that attach the circle-hoop jump to the poles that hold it up.

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It’s all fairly easy to set up, and can easily be taken down and packed away when you’re down. I like the fact that it comes in a case because it makes storage easy and all the pieces can stay together so as to avoid losing any of them.

Now, I have to brutally honest here. While I may have initially liked the idea of this product, the actual product is kind of a letdown. The tunnel is awfully short, maybe three feet long.

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The poles are made of very thin plastic and tend to fall down when a gust of wind hits them, let alone a 75 lb. dog. In fact, after setting up the weave poles Rosee decided she wanted in on the action and stole one. The plastic was so thin that just by her carrying the pole around in her mouth left it dented. She didn’t bite down, but rather simply held the plastic piece in her mouth, and when she dropped it it had two pretty serious dents—pretty disappoint.

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Lastly, the circle-hoop is barely big enough for either Simon or Rosee to jump through, and some creative problem-solving was needed to create a jump that was actually usable. I actually had to take one of the weave poles and attached curved pieces to each of the ends to make a high jump that could accommodate Rosee and Simon.

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Plus one of the tails from the tunnel that is used along with a metal spoke to attach the tunnel to the ground ripped way too easily. Seriously, all that happened was Rosee went through the tunnel and when she came out she hit the end and the tail ripped.

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Tunnel tail with metal stake to hold it down.
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The metal grommet ripped right off of the tunnel tail.

Despite all of these issues with the agility course I do have to say that Simon and Rosee along with us humans have had an awful lot of fun with it so far.

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The course is not very big, but for the size of my backyard that’s okay. It fits on our small patch of grass, and is long enough to be good exercise. However, it’s not too long and overly complicated so as to have either Simon or Rosee become bored and run away to do something else– which Simon totally does by the way. Overall, I would recommend this product, but only if you happened to find it on sale or maybe you have a coupon. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s worth $50, especially considering the quality of the course pieces and the fact that it’s not really made for large dogs. There should be a recommendation on the tag that says for small to medium sized dogs (just my opinion, of course). Nevertheless, it is easy to use, to store, and has been fun to use so far.

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She just loves it so much she can’t wait!

Panting Through It: Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

I knew summer was on its way, I guess I just didn’t quite realize that it was already here! Recently, the temperature has spiked into the 100s. For days. Of course, we make sure to turn the air conditioning on before it gets too warm and to keep the house cool, but in my house the air conditioning is not something we like to leave on for a long time. Generally, it’s used to cool the house down and then it’s turned off at night before we all go to bed. Unfortunately, despite the blazing heat, both Rosee and Simon expect their daily walk in the morning, and Simon still requires his afternoon play session. The problem still remains that it is too hot. Now, I don’t mind playing with Simon, but when it’s so warm outside it is not great to play for an hour. The cement is hot which can be dangerous for the dogs’ paws, Simon gets winded easily, and too much time in the sun can mean a longer time to cool down. Therefore, I am going to share a few tricks on how you and your dog can beat the heat this summer.

Trick #1: Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Much like humans, dogs need to stay well hydrated, especially over the summer. Most dogs don’t have any problem drinking water. If they’re thirsty, they’ll drink water. Just like if they’re hungry, they’ll eat. However, during the summer there are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring your dog is well-hydrated. Drinking water, while significant, can be harmful if too much is ingested, particularly at one time. So, in order to avoid this, the best thing to do is to give your dog water breaks over a period of time. For instance, if we take Rosee and Simon on a long hike or something of a similar nature we make sure to bring water for them and every so often we all take a short water break. This way the dogs stay hydrated throughout the whole walk. Also, while I know it can be tempting for your dog if they see a water puddle from a sprinkler or run-off, I don’t recommend letting them drink from these puddles. Rosee always likes to look for a puddle while we’re out on walks, but I can never be sure what’s actually in the water. Maybe there’s soap (if someone was washing their car) or run-off from lawns which could d have things in it such as fertilizer. So, just to be on the safe side, if you don’t know where the water came from and if there’s a chance that there could be something foreign in it, don’t let your dog drink it.

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Trick #2: Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening.

Even when the weather turns warmer, exercise is still a must for most dogs, especially dogs like Simon. Normally, I like to take Rosee and Simon for walks in the morning anyways, but during the summer we sometimes have to go even earlier than usual. Where we live it can get pretty hot (we’re talking in the 100s for multiple weeks). As a result, it gets too hot to go in the afternoon, and by the time it’s cooled down enough in the evening it’s too late (I don’t like walking when it’s dark out). Plus, I enjoy going in the mornings because for me it’s a natural energy boost. Either way, whether you go for a walk or play with your dog it’s important to avoid peak sun hours (I think it’s about 10:30am to 4pm). Along with avoiding the hottest part of the day, because it’s just not good for anyone to be outside when it gets that warm, it’s also important to watch out for your dog’s feet. While the pads of their paws are usually pretty sturdy, they can still be vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. The general rule (as far as I know) is that if the ground is too hot for you to walk on it barefoot, then your dog shouldn’t be walking on it for prolonged periods either. That’s why it’s best to exercise in the mornings before it gets too warm, or later in the evening after the sun has gone down.

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Trick#3: Find ways to engage your dog inside.

While daily walks can be rescheduled to more accommodating parts of the day, the same can’t be said for Simon and Rosee’s playtime. Every day around 5pm Rosee and Simon awake from their afternoon naps and decide that it’s time to play. The problem still remains that the sun hasn’t quite set and it’s still pretty warm outside. Yet, both dogs still expect to play.  Consequently, I’ve had to come up with ways to entertain them inside. Unfortunately, playing fetch inside the house is out because there’s not really enough room and Simon’s not great at paying attention to what he might run into. Although, if Simon and Rosee don’t get any playtime, they start to wrestle, and being part Boxers that can involve a lot of jumping up, which again, there’s really not enough room for. Ultimately, I’ve found the best ways to entertain the dogs while inside include giving them bones they can chew on, rope toys because they can both pull on an end (and they tend to tire out quickly) and it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and training practice. Besides the bones and rope toys, training practice is helpful in keeping Rosee and Simon entertained as it’s mentally stimulating and helps build good habits (since, you know, training your dog is really never ending).

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Trick #4: Rethink treats.

Most dogs love treats, mainly the edible kind. Simon will eat just about anything he’s given or stolen. He especially prefers tortillas, particularly the homemade kind (he’s weird like that), and while Rosee loves special treats as well she can be somewhat pickier about what she puts in her mouth. Nevertheless, treats during the summertime can take on a whole new meaning.  Ice is always a good treat during the summer, especially if you’re trying to keep your dog hydrated. Sometimes after their morning walks I’ll set out a bowl of ice for them to help them cool down more easily. Other times I just put ice in their water trough, although it’s mostly for my own amusement as Simon likes to bob for each piece of ice.  Also, during this time of year seasonal produce can make excellent treats. For instance, try a nice dog-friendly fruit salad. Rosee and Simon particularly love strawberries and bananas, and recently tried blueberries for the first time. Simon wasn’t too sure about the blueberry and actually spit it out a couple of times before deciding to eat it. You could even freeze bananas and strawberries to serve as a cold treat. Point is: get creative. Dog treats can be more than milkbones.

Trick #5: Take shelter.

Besides water, another summertime essential for a dog is some type of shelter. Particularly, if your dog is left outside when you’re not home it’s important to provide them with some type of shade or dog house. Personally, I prefer the igloo-type dog houses because they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, we have a covered patio so there is ample shade in our backyard. Still, when it gets to the days where the temperature reaches the 100s it’s best to stay inside. Originally, Rosee and Simon were outside dogs, meaning that when we weren’t home we left them outside in the backyard. However, due to circumstances (i.e. neighbors, and weather) we now leave the dogs inside when we aren’t home. Frankly, over the summer it’s just too hot outside to leave them there during the afternoons. I know leaving your dog inside isn’t for everyone. Some dogs aren’t used to holding “it” for long periods of time or maybe you’re afraid they’ll get into too much mischief. I would probably recommend then kenneling your dog while you’re gone. Otherwise, make sure that if your dog is left outside when it’s hot they have shade, shelter, and plenty of water.

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Trick #6: Throw a pool party.

Of course, when it gets too hot outside and the air conditioning just isn’t doing enough the best thing to do is have a pool party of course. Whether it’s a kiddie pool or an actual full-sized pool, taking your dog swimming or splashing through it can be fun, and a good form of exercise. Rosee and Simon absolutely love water, just not when they’re getting bathed. They love splashing around in the waves when we go to the beach, swimming in the river when we visit the local park next to the Sacramento River, and will not stay out of the pools at the local dog park we sometimes visit. Simon is a natural born swimmer. The first time we took him to the Sacramento River he went right into the water and took off. He couldn’t get very far since he was on a (very long) leash, but he swam around for about an hour before coming back in to the shore. Rosee, on the other hand, is a splasher. She’ll only go as far as she can touch the bottom, and loves chasing the waves at the beach. Overall, it’s just another way to have fun with your dogs, and it’s most fun when it’s warmer outside.

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Trick #7: Wet your dog down.

I know this may sound strange (or maybe not), but stick with me on this one. Due to the fact that dogs do not sweat they have to cool down in a different way, hence why they pant. Another way to cool them down though, is to get their paws and bellies wet. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, dogs are similar to pigs in this way. However, instead of rolling around in mud (even though Simon would probably do this if he could), dogs typically will roll around on grass (since it’s usually cooler) or step through puddles of water. Or some dogs may be like Simon who just puts his front paws in his water trough, and if he’s really warm he will paw at the water in order to splash it on his stomach. Basically, getting your dog’s stomach and paws wet can help them cool down or at least keep them cool for a little while.

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So there are my tips for beating the heat this summer.

It may be hot outside, but there are still ways to have fun with your dog(s).