Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puzzle Toy: PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude

The PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude is a durable rubber chew toy with a hole at the bottom for dispensing food. The Squirrel Dude comes in four sizes suitable for most dogs.
Photo by Erin Koski

So this is basically an off-brand Kong in a lot of ways. It's a hard, durable rubber toy that is hollow inside, but it's shaped like a squirrel. The hole is in the bottom, so the squirrel basically poops kibble. Erin wanted everyone to be very clear about this.

So how is the Squirrel Dude different from everybody's favorite durable rubber chew toy? For one thing, the cavity inside is longer and narrower. We have a large Squirrel, intended for dogs over 50 pounds, and Brisbane and Ulysses can never get all the goodies out of the very bottom.
Photo by Erin Koski
The hole (in the Squirrel's bottom) is also smaller in diameter than the ones in our non-animal-shaped Kongs. This makes the Squirrel Dude a little safer for smaller dogs, who can get their lower jaws stuck inside the biggest Kongs.

The Squirrel Dude is made from harder rubber than Kongs, I think it's actually less flexible than our XL Extreme Kong. The large Squirrel is surprisingly heavy and while PetSafe claims it has a fun unpredictable bounce, I would be worried about head injuries and broken windows if this thing started bouncing anywhere nearby.

So what makes the Squirrel Dude a puzzle toy and not just a stuffable rubber toy? It's the four little prongs poking out around the butthole. These prevent kibble from pouring out and turn the toy into a challenge rather than a simple unstuffing task. The prongs can be trimmed to widen the hole, and are flexible enough that I can violate the squirrel with a bottle brush in order to clean it. Stuffing this thing is a bit of an art though, particularly since the large Squirrel is a bit oversized for my dogs. The fastest way to stuff it with a soda bottle funnel, which jams the prongs open. With heavy use the prongs may eventually break off, but the squirrel can still be stuffed with peanut butter and other goodies. I've had to abandon the idea of jamming larger biscuits inside our Squirrel because Briz and Uly can't get them out, and even with thumbs I have a tough time of it.

Puzzle Toy Rating
Capacity: 5/5
I can fit an entire cup of kibble in this thing.

Loading Speed: 5/5
Jam a funnel in the hole, pour in the kibble, done.

Unloading Speed (standard dog): 5/5
Ulysses, the dog who recently mastered the ball with a hole in it, can spend all day getting a meal out of this thing.

Unloading Speed (superdog): 4/5
Brisbane never gets a whole cup of kibble because he would turn into a blimp, but it takes him an appreciable amount of time to get his daily quarter cup out. It doesn't require a whole lot of effort, but it's tougher than a ball with a hole in it, and doesn't randomly dump most of its load at once.

Size: 5/5
Comes in Extra Small for tinydogs and large for big guys. I might have been happier with a medium, but the large is a nice addition to my collection of heavy duty toys.

Durability: 5/5
This is one of the few puzzle toys I actually would give to a power chewer. It's not indestructible, but it's also not made from hard plastic like many puzzles. It's a seriously heavy duty toy, and often one of the only ones a power chewer can enjoy without demolishing. Careful supervision is required for a while, but the Squirrel Dude is one of the first toys I feel comfortable leaving a new dog with unattended. Is the Squirrel Dude tougher than the Extreme Kong? It seems to depend on the dog, many destroy one and not the other.

Noise: 4/5
While I don't relish it thudding repeatedly on my hardwood floors, it's much quieter than heavy bobbers and hard plastic toys.

Locatability: 4/5
It's small enough to be shoved under the furniture, but the woodland creature shape prevents it from rolling under the furniture most of the time. It's also big enough to prevent the boys from carting it around the house.

Washability: 3/5
Dishwasher safe, whoopity-doo.(I don't have a dishwasher) The prongs make scrubbing a bit annoying, and since Briz and Uly can't get bigger stuff out I end up scrubbing this thing quite a bit. The small hole is great at preventing kibble from dumping out, not so great for getting the Squirrel squeaky-clean inside.

Hoardability: 2/5
Brisbane and Ulysses can both pick the Squirrel up, but it's kind of awkward and heavy so they tend to just empty it in place. I'm more likely to find it on the kitchen floor than in a crate or bed.

Total: 42/50

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