Dog brain game: Can a Cocker crack the code?

by Carol Bryant of FIDO Friendly Magazine

We exercise our dogs. Walking, running, climbing, chasing a ball, swimming, and more. When’s the last time your dog’s mind was exercised? When a game for dogs made its way across our desks, we thought to ourselves, “Will this be challenging? Fun? Frustrating? Easy to assemble?” Basically, all the things a parent thinks about when their child receives a new game.

The folks at “The Company of Animals,” the UK’s leading specialist in dog behavior and training products, sent us the Nina Ottosson Collection game called Dog Twister. I have to admit, I pictured right front paw blue, left back paw red, and so on. Dog Twister is very well grounded and requires no Cocker contortions.

This circular puzzle challenges dogs to dislodge removable plastic bones and then slide the top covers to reveal a hidden snack below (guardian’s choice). The skill level on this game is “Hard,” or the equivalent of three Beagles in graduation caps. Seeing as how I am raising a Cocker Einstein, I deduced not only would Dexter play this game, but he’d probably help me pick the pieces up and put it away. That’s my boy, I beamed.

And then we tried it. Easy to assemble for sure. You may want to keep Fido away from the smaller bone parts that are a part of Dog Twister. My cocker saw those as toys and immediately put one in his mouth. That aside, the game is very well built, colorful, and sturdy. I started with pieces of boiled chicken, Dexter’s favorite. You simply slide the top covers and hide the treat. Allow Fido to see you doing this and then encourage him to respond in kind by doing the same. I engaged Dexter slowly. He watched, I slid the cover over part of the way, still allowing the aroma of chicken to permeate his nose. He pawed at it for a few minutes and realized that behavior didn’t merit a reward. So he pawed some more, put his Cocker butt in the air and barked at it. I, meanwhile, did everything I could not to require stitches from laughing my you know what off.

So maybe I don’t have Einstein. Then the lightbulb went off. It clicked. Dexter approached the game, put his butt in the air, attempted to whack it one last time, and CLAMPED HIS JAW DOWN ON TOP OF IT!!! The horror. Not my boy! Come on, Sherlock Bones, solve this crime. Okay, maybe he didn’t get it at first. We all need reinforcement when we learn something new. I showed him over and over the slot opening and closing. Finally he used his nose to slide the top cover over to reveal the hidden snack beneath.

That took 10 minutes.

Not bad considering it was a first time. We kept at it another 20 minutes, off and on. Dexter eventually did “get it” and he would use his nose to slide the treats over. We never tried the insertion of plastic bones for an extra level of skill difficulty (and because I feared he would have swallowed the pieces). However, I am sure that a dog with a little bit of prowess, inquisitive nature, and diligent owner nearby to prevent the plastic bone pieces from being ingested, that added level could be great fun.

We could definitely see this game being used for rainy day fun, on road trips, and for use in doggy daycares and kennels. Fido will definitely be engaged, and remember practice and be patient with your dog(s) when trying a game like this.

Other Nina Ottosson games included in the collection include Dog Casino and Dog Finder. Games retail for $49.99 and are available for purchase online at Smartie Dog.

Overall Product Review: We give this product 4 out of 5 paws. We deduced one paw point because the toy bone pegs need to be monitored so dogs do not swallow them. Otherwise, this is a fun, trendy, game sure to make Fido think and exercise those canine brain cells.

Note: We accept no monetary compensation for reviews. Review is NOT sponsored by Nina Ottosson or The Company of Animals and is the sole opinion of the reviewer for FIDO Friendly magazine.

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