My two-year-old Vizsla, Finley, has a pretty strong prey drive. The moment her little amber eyes catch sight of a moving bunny or squirrel, she assumes the classic pointer stance and tries to slowly creep up on the unsuspecting critter. She’s never actually caught anything (thank goodness), but spotting and chasing furry moving objects is, without a doubt, one of her favorite pastimes.
Knowing how obsessed my dog is with this game of chase, my father-in-law has actually tied a stuffed-animal squirrel to a remote-controlled toy car in an attempt to engage Finley’s natural instincts. But it never works exactly as planned. Instead of taking off in hot pursuit of the squirrel-topped car, Finley cocks her head to the side and stares at it as if to say, “What are you crazy people doing to my toys?”
Just when I was ready to give up hope of pushing Finley’s play-for-prey buttons, I came across the Toys R Us Pets Move ‘N’ Shake Hedgehog, an interactive electronic toy that responds to the dog’s movements via a motion-sensor collar clip. It was just what I’d been looking for: a buzzing little ball of fun that shakes and rolls across the floor right at your pup’s eye level.
The cherry on top is that the hedgehog toy also dispenses treats, which felt like an added bonus. I knew Finley would be motivated to chase and play with the toy regardless of whether or not it housed tasty morsels. So first I tried the device without any paw-licking temptations.
I attached the smart sensor tag to Finley’s collar. It’s essentially a keychain — small so that the dog doesn’t notice it’s there, but substantial enough that you don’t want it hanging out on your dog’s neck 24/7. After pressing the buttons on the hedgehog and also on Finley’s sensor to engage the toy’s five-minute play period, I dropped the hedgehog device about 10 feet away from Finley so that she’d approach it. The toy remains still until the sensor gets within 5 to 7 inches, so I was ready to see Finley react, as her proximity meant a moving, shaking critter within paw’s reach.
As promised, the toy started to tremble as Finley made her approach, and it jiggled across the carpet the closer she came to it. Of course, Finley loved this and followed the hedgehog as it made its way throughout the living room. The more Finley followed the toy, the more excited she became, and she started play bowing and barking at it. Once she gathered up some courage, she started to mouth the toy and nip at its fur. She was trying to figure out the little device but didn’t quite know what to make of it.
So I broke up a few pieces of Finley’s favorite snacks and stuffed them into the treat chamber to make her extra motivated to figure out the toy. Once she got a sniff of the tiny delicious bites that were hidden inside the hedgehog, she couldn’t get enough of chasing it from one end of the living room to the other. After a few minutes of back and forth action, with a few dispensed nibbles here and there, Finley caught the creature underneath her paw and proceeded to chow down on the toy itself.Up until this point, the Move ‘N’ Shake kept Finley herself moving and shaking, but once she had it under her paw, all bets were off. She was ready to claim her prize. The toy managed to keep her engaged for an additional 10 minutes or so — which is an eternity in terms of Finley’s attention span — as she fulfilled her need to chew. When she had emptied the hedgehog of its treats, I put it away for the day and didn’t take it out again until that weekend. But Finley hadn’t forgotten what the critter was all about. She went after it with the kind of gusto only reserved for her most favorite playthings. A far better alternative to the squirrel-topped remote control car!
Quality: The Move ‘N’ Shake is made mostly of plastic but has largely stood up to Finley’s persistent gnawing. Although, half of the furry shell has come off a few times, so I’ve had to put it back on every now and again.
Style: Toys that buzz or light up are cute and fun, but not exactly stylish. As far as dog toys go, this one is probably average or a little above when it comes to style factor. The furry gray hedgehog essentially looks like a little cartoon animal.
Function: The hedgehog does indeed move and shake as promised once the motion sensor comes close to it, and the treat dispenser lets loose a little nibble every now and then, so the toy is highly functional.
Creativity: I love how the Move ‘N’ Shake plays into a pup’s chase instinct. The interactive element also makes the toy a truly creative creation.
Value: At $24.99, the hedgehog isn’t a big investment, but it’s probably not the type of toy you’d buy on a whim when others cost as little as a few bucks. Still, you get more bang for your buck with this plaything because of the element of engagement.
It’s not quite the game of chase that a live hedgehog (or squirrel or bunny) would provide, but it’s certainly stimulating for curious, active dogs like Finley.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.