Saturday, July 19, 2014

Puzzle Toy: Kong Satellite

The Kong Satellite is a sort of rounded toy with three pseudopods. There is a large hole in the top center of the toy, and then each pod has a hole in a different place: top, side, or bottom. The toy can filled with kibble and dry or semi-moist treats.
Photo by Erin Koski

I love the Kong company, so it troubles me that I am less than enthusiastic about one of their products. I think this toy just isn't compatible with hard floors. It's also annoying to fill, spews treats out when barely touched, and at the same time is incredibly difficult to get that last piece of kibble out of even with thumbs and logical reasoning skills. I think it is the most irritating Kong product I have used to date, even compared to the damned Starpod.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 5/5
This toy is big enough to hold several cups of food. Big enough to feed entire meals out of. I would never do that though because...

Loading Speed: 1/5
This toy has four holes that are each an inch in diameter, not big enough to use a funnel so the thing must be loaded one kibble or treat at a time. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 3/5
At one inch in diameter, the holes in the satellite practically spew forth kibble whenever it is touched. The high rate of reinforcement makes it encouraging for slow and average dogs. However, it still takes way longer to load than it does to unload, and while filling it one must be careful to not accidentally dump it out.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
Our experience with the satellite has been that, when loaded with kibble, a single touch causes it to pour out 99% of its bounty immediately. The holes are all designed with a steep lip around them on the inside, preventing that last piece from falling out unless the toy is then either manipulated very precisely or just batted around wildly for a while. It makes a ton of noise on hard floors, so Briz bumps it to get all but one kibble out. nudges it around a few more times, and then decides that last kibble isn't worth all the banging.

Durability: 2/5
This toy is obviously intended for play on carpeted floors because it looks beat to hell after a couple of low-enthusiasm play sessions. I expect it to hold up to my non-chewers, but it sure isn't going to look pretty doing it. Probably not going to break, but very easily scratched, and the clear plastic makes the wear dreadfully obvious. Scratches also make plastic more likely to harbor bacteria, so this isn't just a cosmetic issue.

Size: 1/5
Hey Kong, that fat Labrador in your demo video is clearly not under 45 pounds, so why is the Satellite toy itself labelled as being only for dogs under that weight? The size and the way it moves also makes it intimidating and difficult for itty bitty dogs to use, so it's apparently only for 10-45 pound dogs. I would actually feel comfortable giving this to a giant pony dog if I knew the dog didn't chomp puzzle toys, so I am assuming the warning label is just for liability purposes. Still, officially this toy is only for a pretty small subset of dogs.

Noise: 1/5
This toy does not get much use at our house because everybody hates the clattering. Unlike our many rolling puzzle toys, this one is supposed to move across the floor like a jack. The Kong video even shows a Labrador batting it wildly. The kibble inside rattles around, and the hard plastic Satellite bangs on the hardwood in a profoundly irritating manner. I can't stand it, and Brisbane doesn't think it's worth putting up with the noise just to get that last kibble stuck under the hole rim.

Locatability: 4/5
Small enough to fit under the couch, but nobody can stand to move it that far so we're pretty safe. I can usually find it within a foot or two of the place I set it down for Briz.

Washability: 1/5
Kong doesn't say how to wash the Satellite. I want to swish it with warm soapy water and set it out to dry like the Starmark Bob-A-Lot, but there doesn't seem to be a way to let it dry without getting water caught in it. Ideally I'd only be putting in dry kibble and biscuits, but never washing it seems like a poor choice.

Hoardability: 1/5
Brisbane could carry it if he wanted to, but the Satellite is so noisy that he prefers to empty it and then abandon it.

Total: 20/50
Nope. Nope. Nope. I fully expect this one to either be discontinued or dramatically improved in the near future. It's a nice first effort at making a new type of puzzle toy, but it feels like the designers played with it and their dogs for a few minutes and called it good without giving serious thought to the real-life long-term issues that make or break a toy.

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