Saturday, August 30, 2014

Puzzle Toy Review: Kyjen Star Spinner

The Kyjen Star Spinner is a plastic puzzle toy intended for use with close supervision.
Photo by Erin Koski

The Star Spinner has two levels, each with five compartments. The top level covers the bottom level, and the lid covers the top level. There is no resistance, and all three pieces spin freely. I have seen an adjustment knob on the bottom mentioned, but mine has no trace of this and the product website doesn't mention anything like that.

This is a ridiculously easy puzzle for most dogs to solve. The internet is filled with reviews complaining that it only takes a couple of nose nudges to open all ten compartments. Other issues include difficulty removing the treats for large and flat-faced dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

I found this toy at a thrift store, so I originally wondered if parts were missing. What kind of dog can't figure out how to open this thing in two seconds flat? Then I gave it to Ulysses. This toy is a challenge for dogs that are skittish and unfamiliar with the concept of making things happen. Uly watched me load it up with kibble, gave it a few cautious sniffs and then looked sad that he could not find it. After watching me spin the lid back and forth a few times, he ventured to touch it with his nose and then startled at it moving. Once he became more comfortable with the whole concept, he attempted to eat the kibble, and instead bumped the lid shut again.

Puzzle Toy Rating

Capacity: 2/5
I can fit maybe half a cup of kibble in here, it's definitely not a food bowl substitute unless the dog is very small or eats very little.

Loading Speed: 5/5
Spin it open, pour in the food, spin it shut.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 3/5
It took Ru a few minutes to nibble all the kibble out of all the different compartments, and Uly took more than ten minutes to warm up to the whole concept.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 1/5
For Brisbane I'm not sure this is any slower than a food bowl. It definitely takes me longer to fill it.

Size: 2/5
This is safe and even fun for tiny dogs to use. However, there is definitely a maximum size beyond which dogs will have trouble using this toy, and Briz and Uly are just about there at 40 and 45 pounds. The compartments are shaped in a way that makes the kibble annoying to retrieve even though it is very easy to find. The wider the dog's muzzle, the harder it will be for them to eat their treats. It probably varies from dog to dog, but I wouldn't give it to a Labrador, and even a French bulldog or Boston terrier might have trouble.

Durability: 2/5
This is a toy intended for use with very close supervision, as in, the handler should be right there beside the dog the entire time. It should not be chewed or flung. It should, however, be able to withstand a whole lot of scooting across the floor along with enthusiastic pawing and nosing.

Noise: 5/5
Rubber grips on the bottom make this toy quiet enough for a top level apartment with hard floors and no rugs. I guess it could be loud if the dog decided to scoot it around instead of just spinning it open, but the vast majority of dogs aren't that dumb.

Locatability: 5/5
Rubber grips, close supervision, and a lack of incentive to pick the puzzle up and carry it around means I always know where it is. It is usually on my counter, or in the toy box, unless I am actively cheerleading a dog into opening it.

Washability: 2/5
Oh god, it is nearly impossible to clean. Seriously, I needed three different types of scrub brush to get into all the little nooks. There are plenty of places for water to pool and hide too, so drying it can be a pain in the ass. It's probably not dishwasher safe, either.

Hoardability: 1/5
As this is a supervision-only toy, Brisbane is not allowed to drag it off to his lair. Not that he would need to, it's basically a food bowl and holds no allure once emptied.

Total: 28/50
As far as puzzle toys go, this one isn't that impressive. It is absolute cake for a problem-solving dog like Brisbane. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it made a nice, simple introduction puzzle for dogs unfamiliar with the concept.

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