Archive for the 'Dog Toys for Aggressive Chewers' Category

Have You Seen This Ball?

I am so very grouchy today. I have been overdoing on every level: physical, cognitive, emotional, and I’m paying the price.

I’m on day two of a migraine I can’t seem to shake, day and night, which is not doing wonders for my sleep. Barnum has hair in his ears from the haircut we gave him yesterday, and I have been trying to decide whether (and what) to use as a non-commercial ear flush, since all the commercial ones are scented. He hates having anything in his ears, so that will be fun, if I decide to do it.

I’m also having writer’s block — which I never have — on a story that I’ve been given an extension on by the editor. So, I really feel indebted to her that I have to finish it. Yet, it is floundering, and I fear that whatever I send her will not even be something she can use. And I’m still struggling to finish my post for the ADBC.

Of course, there’s also the never-ending pchair saga. I haven’t made progress on my letter of demand because my brain has been too occupied with other things, or I’ve been too sick (from overdoing). Meanwhile, Betsy and I have been making Herculean efforts to get my old Jet running again, and that’s been a bumpy ride, which has not made for happiness on the home-front, either.

Still, there is progress there, at least.A very nice guy from my town came over today to help me figure out why we can’t get the Jet working, even though we had the batteries installed correctly, and they are new. It took a lot of detective work, but we have figured out there is a wiring issue with one of the wheel motors. It’s not safe to use yet, since it could die at any moment, but at least now I can charge it and use it around the house to keep the batteries in shape.

Barnum was a complete flake when my neighbor was here working on the chair with me: getting in the way, stealing treats, totally couldn’t figure out how to do “go to mat,” and then when he did, couldn’t maintain it. His zen was abysmal, particularly in the realm of crotch sniffing — which he only does with strange men, which makes it hard to practice! — and is not an appealing habit for a service dog! Augh! There are always 8 million additional skills he needs “work” on!

Lest I go into a complete spiral of despair and frustration, let me remind myself of skills he really knows and is reliable on:

  • Shutting doors. (He actually went and shut a closet door while my neighbor was here, and he’s only ever had one session on that door before, of only two or three repetitions. I was impressed.)
  • Shutting drawers.
  • Shutting cabinets.
  • Brace. I had to get up and down from the floor several times, and he really is rock-solid on this one. It really helps. I have to start calling him over more for help with that when I just need a moment of balance at other times, too.
  • Stand.

That’s it! AUGH! He still does not even have sit and down under stimulus control! He confuses them, gets nervous, cues off of environmental or body cues, etc.

So, here’s a new problem: Barnum’s favorite ball is dead. It was the only toy he would play with anymore, so this is a problem. Play is important.

Many years ago, Deb, my neighbor, gave Jersey and Gadget each a ball for Hanukkah. Jersey never had any interest in hers. Gadget wasn’t interested in his except for water retrieve, which became very useful as part of him helping me to swim.

We had a blue one and a green one. The blue one died eventually (a Lab chomped it to death during a play date), but the green one was Barnum’s most, most, most favorite toy. It’s a good size for his mouth (bigger than a tennis ball, about the size of a large naval orange or a small grapefruit), and soft enough to squeeze but still tough enough to have lasted. Most importantly, it squeals incredibly loudly. Or, it used to. That’s what he loved so much about it. It had a very loud, high- and multi-pitched, piercing squeal. If you didn’t know what it was when  you first heard it, you might be concerned that a small animal or baby was being killed, but Barnum’s Mr. Prey drive, so he loved that.

This was not an ordinary squeaker, at all. The squeaker was part of the ball, part of the construction, and “squeaker” is really a misnomer. It was a squealer.

Another important factor was that even when these balls got tooth holes in them, they still squeaked (although, if  you used them at the beach, they became waterlogged). Apparently, however, they are not made to withstand being accidentally run over by a powerchair.

Now, Barnum will run and pick the ball up, attempt to squeak it, and then drop it in disappointment. It’s a very sad sight to behold.

Thus, I am asking you, my internet dog community: Have You Seen This Ball?

Green plastic ball with blue, orange, and pink slightly raised designs on it. The designs are five-pointed stars or "suns" -- rough-shaped circles with little lines around them like rays. This ball is scuffed up quite a bit.

The Best Dog Toy in the World

I haven’t seen them in any dog catalog I have. I’m really hoping I can replace it. If I can find several, I will buy them all!

Please, if you see this ball anywhere — online, in a catalog, at a pet supply store, at a garage sale — buy it and send it to me! I will reimburse you! Or tell me about it so I can buy it.

Just imagine Barnum quoting Shalom Aleichem, “So, if you had a bad week, why should I suffer?” Poor dog wants his ball.

– Sharon (fully trained grouch), Gadget  (sorely missed on days like these), and Barnum, SDiT and bored pup

Toys for Aggressive Chewers: The Kong Stuff-a-Ball

For almost a year, I’ve been wanting to write posts about toys for aggressive chewers, because Barnum is a shredder!

Most of the toys we started out with are now scraps in the sewing or rag-bag, with the stuffing waiting to be used in cushions or made into new dog toys.

Today’s Featured Tough Toy: The Kong Stuff-a-Ball!

Kong Stuff-a-Ball

It's excitingly rollable!

[Image description: Red rubber Kong toy, sort of ball-shaped, but not round, maybe octagonal. It has “dental ridges” running vertically along the sides, which supposedly clean the dog’s teeth, but the best feature is that it’s big, tough, and rollable (like a ball), and stuffable. It has a cross-shaped hole on the bottom, which is large enough that food does come out, but not so big that it comes out easily, if you use something sticky and freeze it.]

Like most of the Kong products, it’s all-natural rubber, which I like. For my MCS readers, I admit that I don’t remember what it smelled like when I first got it (several years ago), but I don’t remember it being extremely problematic, and it is certainly completely outgassed now.

Not all Kong products are made equal, however. The bone-shaped Kong, which Barnum really liked, was too easy to destroy, so I bought the black version of that (the black rubber Kongs are made for aggressive chewers), and it reeks. Even non-MCS people who have been around it were appalled. I’ve been outgassing it for over six months, outside, in the sun, rain, and snow, and it still smells!

Barnum also chewed through the Biscuit Ball quite easily. I’ll write more about other rubber and Kong products another time.

Anyway, I made it my mission to find tough toys, and I have. Several of them. As I get the chance, I’ll write product reviews on which work for us, and why. But this is one of the few I already had, pre-Barnum.

In the last few days, Barnum has been getting a lot of use out of his Kong Stuff-a-Ball. This is because I have been A Neglectful Mommy and A Bad Trainer.

Instead of spending most of my energy on him, I was writing and revising a personal essay, inspired by my previous post, about the discoveries I made in training Barnum to help me with my agitation symptoms. I was behind on the deadline, so I had to be very single-minded.

Since writing took all my time and energy (and then some) for the last few days, I was either writing, resting, or sleeping all the time, and Barnum was very bored.

Even though he was getting physical exercise (from two of my dog walkers), he was not getting training, and he missed it! He whined and jumped on my bed and barked inappropriately, generally acted like a grouchy teenager, demanding to be entertained.

I couldn’t have been more pleased! How very different from the low-energy, tentative, careful dog of yore!

Well, I did feel guilty, actually. I tried to keep him occupied, and was most successful with his favorite toy, which is the Kong Stuff-a-Ball. I stuff it with dog food and cottage cheese (his favorite), then freeze it. (I recently used wet dog or cat food instead of cottage cheese, to reduce his calcium intake, but the smell made me sick. I need to find an all-natural brand that he likes, that doesn’t trigger my MCS.)

The Stuff-a-Ball works the best of any toy because it’s really big, can be played with like a ball, and it’s difficult to get the food out (as opposed to the Kong Biscuit Ball, which is not only too easy to get food out of, but too easy to destroy).

This Stuff-a-Ball was Gadget’s, and it’s still in one piece, which is true for very few of the toys that Barnum inherited. Not because Gadget was an aggressive chewer — he wasn’t. That’s the issue. I had not stocked up on indestructible toys in the past because both Jersey and Gadget were gentle chewers. Then Jaws Barnum came along and sent those toys to their demise.

Anyway, Barnum nudges it with his nose, rolling it all over the house, like a canine Pelé, leaving a trail of cottage cheese everywhere. (Not that I am suggesting Pelé left a trail of cottage cheese, ever. I think smearing the soccer ball with cottage cheese is probably against FIFA regulations and would earn you, at minimum, a yellow card.)

Periodically, I’d call Barnum, just to work on his recall and remind him that good things happen when he comes to me. (Good things in this case are food, some lovin’ up, and a release to go back and play with his toy.)

The regular Kongs are not reinforcing enough to keep Barnum busy for long because either the food comes out too quickly and easily, or not at all. Also, they can’t be rolled around the house, like a ball. Barnum prefers ball-shaped toys to other shapes.

With the Stuff-a-Ball, with it all frozen and sticky inside, pieces come out often enough that he doesn’t give up in the beginning, but not so often that it’s too easy. The unpredictable, intermittent reinforcement keeps him going for a long time. I also give him knuckle bones for entertainment chewing, but our supplier is out of those, currently.


-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (who was much too dignified to destroy his toys, except his pink, squishy rabbit, which clearly provoked the incident), and Barnum, SDiT and Toy Demolitions Expert

P.S. In case you’re wondering why I don’t use peanut butter inside the Kongs, it’s because Barnum hates peanut butter. He acts like it’s poisonous. If it even touches other food, he won’t eat any of the food. Maybe he’s allergic to it. Who knows? He will work on a ground-meat stuffed Kong, sometimes, but not with much enthusiasm or tenaciousness. He also doesn’t like honey. In other words, he’s incredibly picky, which I’ll write about in another post, so unless you have an all-natural, wet dog food to suggest for use as a sticky substance, please don’t suggest foods for me to try in the Kong.

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