Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Starmark Bob-a-Lot

The Starmark Bob-a-Lot is a kibble-dispensing toy that is rounded at the bottom, and weighted so it bobs upright. It can be loaded through the top and dispense kibble through both the top and the bottom. This toy is amazing because the openings are adjustable. ADJUSTABLE!!!

Photo by Erin Koski
This is an incredibly sturdy and durable puzzle toy, and it can keep Brisbane busy for a good long time. Josie also enjoyed the Bob-a-Lot, though some days it was just too much work. Briz got this for his fourth birthday, so it has now been in regular use for five years with minimal wear. There used to be an orange grossgrain ribbon attached to the top for hanging and carrying the toy, Brisbane eventually destroyed that. He also chewed the inside of the top, under the yellow lid, shortly after we acquired the Bob-a-Lot. Aside from a few scratches, it has zero wear.

The purple bottom of the Bob-a-
Photo by Erin Koski
Lot is very solid and heavy, it actually takes a bit of effort to move. The yellow cap at the top unscrews, and under that is an opening that can be adjusted by spinning the yellow half-disk. The half-disk has a nice little ridge poking up to help spin it around to make the hole larger or smaller. Occasionally I find this piece flipped, so that the ridge is pointing down into the hole and unable to rotate. When the yellow half-disk gets flipped it becomes very difficult to remove to add kibble, and I usually end up prying it out with a butter knife. For a while I blamed my husband for this, but then I found it flipped while he was out of town so now I'm blaming the lizard people from beneath Los Angeles.

Photo by Erin Koski
The yellow cap can be left off the Bob-a-Lot so that the toy must be tipped over to dispense it's treasures, but I did this once and Briz chewed it. The yellow cap still screws on nicely so I just use the bottom opening and load kibble through the top. This bottom opening is set low on the purple section. It features a little sliding door that makes the opening adjustable. I could fill this thing with tiny kibble and make the opening tiny so the toy takes longer to empty! This definitely solves that 'kibble just falls out constantly' problem.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 5/5
I can fit several cups of food inside this thing, enough for an entire meal even for Josie.

Loading Speed: 2/5
Neither of the holes in this thing are very big, so it basically needs to be loaded one kibble at a time.
Photo by Erin Koski
I try pouring it in the top and they usually just jam up. 

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
The Bob-a-Lot usually wore Josie out long before she finished her meal. She could get about half a cup out in 30 minutes and then needed a nap.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 5/5
A quarter cup of kibble takes Brisbane easily 20 minutes to empty, even with the bottom door all the way open. Occasionally I accidentally leave the door closed and he spends 45 minutes batting it around with increasing frustration. I apologize to my neighbors for any hysterical screambarking that results from this error.

Durability: 4/5
As long as I screw the yellow cap on, this thing is indestructible. Minus the cap, the rim is an invitation to chew. Briz doesn't often chew things that aren't food, but this was apparently worth it. Like pretty much everything else out there, I wouldn't leave the Bob-a-Lot unattended with a serious power-chewer.

Size: 5/5
We have the large size, and even 6-lb Ru could play with it if he felt like putting in any effort to get food. There is also a small size, so even more ridiculously tiny dogs can play with it. The large is very large, I would give this to a Great Dane or a mastiff without worrying about the dog choking.

Noise: 1/5
If I lived in an apartment, my downstairs neighbors would hate me. This thing is heavy, and we have hardwood floors. As an added bonus, it's tall enough to whack into the kitchen cabinets when Brisbane really gets it going.

Locatability: 5/5
This one is way too big to lose!

Washability: 2/5
The Bob-a-Lot does not open up at all, but it's not meant to be filled with peanut butter or anything either. The Starmark site says it can be cleaned by pouring in soapy water, shaking, and drying by setting it upside down. I have never washed our toy. That might make me a bad person.

Hoardability: 1/5
Since he removed the ribbon at the top of his Bob-a-Lot, Brisbane is physically incapable of carrying this toy. It generally stays in the same room where I leave it.

Total: 35/50

I use this toy at least once a week, often more. I can increase the loading speed by dumping kibble into the top so it has to fall into the bottom chamber before falling out the lower door. Briz will enjoy that.

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