Sunday, May 4, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball

The Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball is a hollow, flexible ball with two holes for shoving treats inside. It is also made to be used with the Starmark Interlocking Treats. It bounces and floats, and smells nice at first.
Photo by Erin Koski
Way back in 2005, I was working at a pet store when the Starmark products first came out. Originally there was the Everlasting Treat Ball, made to be used with hard chewable treats called Everlasting Treats, along with Every Flavor Treats and this ball. At the time it was called the Everlasting Fun Ball, and I don't think the interlocking treats hit the stores until later. Our Treat Dispensing Chew Ball is almost 9 years old and gets used at least once a week, so far it hasn't shown any signs of wear in all that time.

The Treat Dispensing Chew Ball feels really flimsy, but it's actually pretty tough. It's not indestructible though, and I'm certain a real power chewer would destroy it quickly. The ball is very flexible and hollow, it's surprisingly thin-walled. On each side there is a four-lobed opening that stretches very wide. This makes it useful both for dispensing small treats and larger biscuits. The video on the product website shows that the opening can be cut larger for dogs who have trouble getting treats out. (It also shows the Every Flavor Treats before Starmark got all serious and renamed them Pro Training Treats.)

Brisbane usually gets small treats and kibble out of this thing by biting down on it and shaking it. This opens the hole on the opposite side and the treats fall out easily. I don't usually use this to feed kibble, though. Normally I grab a couple of hard dog biscuits and shove them in there. These will not fall out, and to get them Briz has to break them up by biting the ball, and then shake it until the pieces fall out. He empties it pretty quickly, but it's a nice little project for him to focus on while we're leaving.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 3/5
We have the Medium ball, 2.75" in diameter, and I can fit about half a cup of kibble in here. The Large ball is 4" in diameter and would fit a lot more, but Briz would have trouble picking it up.

Loading Speed: 4/5
This would have been a 2/5 because I am used to loading this thing up one kibble at a time, but the helpful video on the product page shows how a funnel made from a soda or water bottle can be used to fill the ball very quickly. I do have issues with kibble just falling out the other side. It's also super fast to just shove a couple of big low-calorie biscuits in there on my way out the door. 

Unloading Speed(standard dog): 4/5
This took Josie a while to empty out, and she enjoyed nosing it around even when she didn't feel like standing up.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 2/5
Brisbane can empty the ball in under 10 minutes no matter what I put in there. Kibble just falls out the openings anyway. Crunching up big biscuits takes a few more minutes, but this isn't a huge project for Briz.

Durability: 5/5
I've heard that some power chewers have destroyed these things, but ours has lasted almost a decade and still looks brand new. Brisbane bites it very hard to break the treats inside, but the ball shows no signs of wear.

Size: 5/5
The Medium ball we have is great even for Ru the chihuahua to nose around in search of treats. The ball is flexible enough that I don't have to worry about someone getting their lower jaw caught inside. The Large ball is big enough that it shouldn't present a choking hazard even for gigantic dogs. 

Noise: 5/5
Totally quiet, even when bouncing around the house. Heavy enough to be thrown pretty far, light enough not to do serious damage if it hits anyone. 

Locatability: 1/5
The only reason I don't use this toy more is because it has a tendency to roll under the furniture and get lost every time. I should try the Large, it looks too big to fit under the couch.

Washability: 4/5
Dishwasher safe for those who have a dishwasher. It's also pretty trivial to scrub this thing out with a baby bottle brush, but getting the brush back out always sprays soapy water everywhere.

Hoardability: 4/5
The first place I look for the Chew Ball is in one of Brisbane's lairs. If it's not there it has probably rolled somewhere obnoxious.

Total: 47/50
I love this little ball, it would get daily use if I could find it more often. I plan to buy a large one, and I will definitely be replacing this one if it ever gets damaged or (more likely) lost.

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