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Tag: toys

Are Perfect Petzzz a little too perfect?

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We’ve been showcasing in recent weeks a few Christmas gift ideas that are either quirky or cute, but here’s one that’s a little creepy — both the product and its marketing.

Perfect Petzzz are “breathing” stuffed dog toys that come in 10 different breeds — all with fur so authentic looking some shoppers have assumed it was harvested from real dogs.

That, as Snopes.com reported recently, is a false rumor.

Still, some creepiness remains — mostly in the way the company markets the toy on the Perfect Petzzz website:

“These adorable pets offers a real pet ownership experience without the hassles and expense. Say goodbye to feedings and vet bills. Say hello to lots of love and cuddles. Perfect Petzzz – the ultimate pet.”
cavThey bill themselves as “a unique alternative to pet ownership, we offer a lifelike experience that all ages and walks of life can appreciate. With our ‘adoption program’ you can take your new puppy or kitten home today!

“…You can even see me breathing! Our fur is soft, and we love to be petted! I even come with my very own bed, minus the fleas!”

Perfect Petzzz are not picky eaters, “consuming only one ‘D’ battery every 3 months.” They are “factory potty-trained, with all their shots and papers, including obedience classes!”

Of course, none of that is true of “real pets,” and owning a stuffed toy dog is not really a “lifelike” experience at all.

Should those things be what you are seeking in a dog, though, by all means, get one of these — as opposed to impulsively adopting a real one as a Christmas gift.

But don’t be fooled into thinking cuddling or watching this lump of fur breathe is any way the equivalent of — or in any way will prepare your child for — the experience of owning a real dog.

yorkietoyReal dogs are messy, real dogs take work. And to imply that a “perfect” dog would involve none of that — and nothing more than batteries — is irresponsible and a little spine-chilling.

Perhaps the website is trying to send out some kind of positive message by pretending buyers are “adopting” the stuffed dogs — they even include an adoption certificate — but that side of it bugs me too, as if they are trying to make a profit co-opting the goodness of real agencies that do that.

And seeing these (about $40 each) stacked up on display in a store, on top of each other, in boxes on a rack, reminds me of something you might see at a South Korean outdoor dog meat market, or on the back of a truck taking dogs to slaughter in China.

Snopes had dispelled the real dog fur rumor, which appears to have started with a single social media post by a Facebook user who somehow jumped to not just the conclusion that Perfect Petzzz were made with fur from real dogs, but that dogs were killed for that sole purpose.

Snopes says the company insists the fur is entirely synthetic.

Still, Perfect Petzzz — other than maybe being right for that person who shouldn’t have a real dog — will not be making any of my Christmas lists.

Say what, AlphaPup?

A toy that’s supposed to help kids learn the alphabet may be teaching them a dirty word.

At least that’s how a couple in the UK is hearing it.

Stuart and Diane Gravenell from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, bought the Leap Frog AlphaPup toy for their 18-month-old granddaughter, Iris.

alphapupThe singing dog helps teach young children the alphabet and phonics, and features three educational songs, one of which the Gravenells say, includes a word that sounds a whole lot like something a dog would never say. It sounds a whole lot like f***.

(F*** is generally how us old-fashioned types write “fuck,” but if a baby toy is saying it now, why should we hold back?)

The Gravenells told the Daily Mail their daughter, Jessica Sollars, took the toy out of the box for her granddaughter and turned it on, playing some of the songs.

In one, the dog sang, “One, two, chew on a shoe, three, four, bark at the door.” But instead of “bark,” it sounded like f*** to the parents and grandparents.

gravenell“When Jessica heard it she phoned us up and asked, ‘Is this some kind of joke?'” Gravenell said. “And then when she played it to us we both heard it and I just thought, ‘oh my God!’… These things are supposed to teach children to speak properly, so you’d think they would over-enunciate correctly.”

The toy is widely available in the UK and the U.S., where retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Toys R’Us offer it.

In the American version of the toy, the dog has no British accent, so “bark” doesn’t sound like f***.

The couple said their daughter has taken the toy away from Iris.

Said Gravenell, “It has been a naughty dog, so Jessica has put it into quarantine.”

(Photos and video from the Daily Mail)

Should we let our cats play video games?

If I had a cat — and I don’t — I would never let it play video games.

Why would anyone want to take an animal that is always so joyously in the moment — in the natural moment — and immerse it in an artificial, non-tactile, monotonously repetitious, pixelated, and quite possibly addicting world where time passes in a blur?

To take the house pet perhaps best known for being able to make a game out of anything — string, toilet paper roll, dust bunny — and put a $200 iPad in front of it so it can paw at virtual fish? That just strikes me as wrong.

It might be fun for you to watch the first time, and it might even be amusing for the feline for a while.

ipads-for-catsBut then it becomes more obsession than play, and your feline, once a wildly imaginative beast with an admirable knack for making anything fun, is stalking the room, zombie-like, Jonesing for his iPad.

Then, when you try to take their iPads away, they become evil tantrum-throwing monsters who no longer see joy, mystery and adventure in something as mundane as a cardboard box or paper bag.

Sure, it is all starting out innocently enough. Remember, though, we humans started with Pong before progressing to virtual murder and mayhem. If history is any indication cat computer play will progress into darker realms — to the point where cats are tuning the real world out and, albeit virtually, engaging in pretend sex and violence, car theft even, on their computers.

Am I exaggerating to ridiculous proportions? Clearly. But seriously, taking the long view, is this best for cats?

Or will we, with all good intentions, slowly drive them insane?

How long, for example, can you watch this before feeling a certain panic in your soul?

Video games for cats have been catching on for several years now — to the point that even some animal shelters have turned to them.

The Regina Humane Society in Canada turned to iPads last year to keep their resident cats occupied and engaged.

“This is just another way, another tool in our toolbox that allows us to keep our animals healthy and happy while they’re awaiting their special someone who’s going to take them home forever,” said Lisa Koch, executive director.

“Owned cats around the world have apps that they play with on their owners [iPads], and it’s something that we’ve adopted here at the Humane Society for cats who don’t have families to make the environment that they’re living in more stimulating for them mentally.”

Koch said these programs are meant to keep cats active and stimulate them mentally.

Stimulate? Maybe. But does laying down and pawing a mouse on a $200 screen keep a cat more active than batting an actual $1.29 play mouse around the room and chasing it?

Lost, too, if we let cats live their nine lives in the virtual world, is interaction with humans. High-tech pet toys that bill themselves as “interactive” have a way of removing a human’s resolve to spend one-on-one time with their pet, to the point where they no longer feel much need to do so. It’s like setting child in front of TV set for three hours.

The Regina Humane Society does good and noble work, and maybe in a shelter situation, where it’s challenging to keep all the animals occupied, something like this is acceptable.

On the other hand, cats are already the ultimate game inventors. We should be pinpointing what is in them — a play gene? — that makes them so able to look at a spool of thread, a pencil, a puzzle piece, and see an amusement park.

Instead, we appear headed to making them as addicted to the computer screen as we are?

Candidates your dog can chew on

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As you sit breathlessly riveted to your TV screen for the Republican National Convention (now underway) and the Democratic National Convention (July 25-28) what’s your dog supposed to do for fun?

You could get him or her a presidential candidate to chew on.

A Vermont-based company is offering chew-worthy likenesses of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and, though he’s out of the running, Bernie Sanders.

donaldThe canvas-covered, fiber-filled toys, designed by Sarah-Lee Terrat and Anne Lika of Fuzzu for Pets & You, come in three sizes: nine inches tall for cats, 17 inches for dogs, and a 27-inch jumbo size for cuddling, punching, berating or whatever else you might want a stuffed presidential candidate for.

They run $19.99 each.

And of course they squeak — they’re presidential candidates.

The cat-sized toys contain catnip, aimed at making your feline even more attracted to the candidate.

The Hillary doll wears a red pantsuit and pearls and campaign buttons reading “Pro-whatever” and “Anti-whatever.” On her back is a facsimile of a light switch to turn her smile on and off.

The Trump doll has a sourpuss look on its face, and hair that is swooped back, topped with golden plush. A pamphlet in his pocket is titled “Great Wall Building for Idiots.” On his back is a button that reads, “Push to inflate head.”

The Bernie doll, put on the market before he withdrew, has a button on the back that reads, “Push to activate the revolution.”

hillaryI can’t vouch for how safe any of the chew toys are — both the Trump and Sanders dolls look like they could cause hairballs, as both come equipped with fuzzy shocks of “hair” — but the company does have experience making dog toys.

According to Sevendaysvt.com, the Likas operated a pet toy company called Fat Cat for more than a decade before selling it in 2007.

They launched the new company recently with help from a Kickstarter campaign.

Anne Likas said she missed the dog toy business, and was happy to get back into it. “We love the humor around our toys,” she added, noting that other pet toys “don’t get edgy.”

(Photos: Fuzzutoys.com)

The short, sad lives of dog toys

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Poor things, they never had a chance.

Even the so-called “indestructable” ones would end up torn and in tatters — victims of the enthusiastic canines to whom they were gifted.

Rope LionVirginia dog photographer Hannele Lahti — after seeing how quickly her dogs went through dog toys — decided to document the not-at-all-surprising phenomenon.

The project began out of frustration, Lahti, of Manassas, says.

“Every cute (expensive) toy I brought home for my dogs ended in a mangled mess destined for the landfill,” Lahti wrote in a photo essay for The Washington Post. “I decided to photograph the toys in their pristine shape, then again months later, observing this savage demolition with the scrutiny of an anthropologist.”

She started taking before and after photos of toys she bought her own dogs, Boston terriers.

Friendly Octopus“I started the project in late 2013 after noticing how grotesque a green stuffed snake had become. I photographed the chewed-up snake, but felt in order to really understand how disgusting it was, the viewer had to see how cute it was in the beginning”

Other dogs were later recruited into the project and presented with new toys to have their way with.

“It’s funny — it seems all of the dogs have their own objectives when playing with the toys, she said in an interview the American Society of Media Photographers.

lahti2“One of my dogs, Annie, will suck on a toy for hours as if it’s a pacifier. Murray, my senior, removes the eyes before he de-stuffs it. A Newfoundland buried his for a few weeks while another snuggled with it for a month before systemically tearing it to shreds. Two of the others ripped theirs apart immediately then had no more interest in them.

“I have not analyzed what any of this means about their personalities but it was interesting to see how different their methods were.”

You can see more of the mangled toys on Lahti’s website

(Photos by Hannele Lahti, from the Washington Post)

Another fun thing to do with your dog that won’t require your actual presence

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Here’s another special report from your favorite worry wart.

No sooner do I bemoan one high-tech invention for dog owners than another comes rolling along, equally worth fretting about.

This one is a 3-inch remotely controlled orange ball, with a high-def camera inside, that you can watch and listen to on your cell phone.

Its makers boast it will “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Let’s hope not.

It’s called PlayDate, now in the Indygogoing stage, and like many other contraptions hitting the market, it’s designed to make all the time your dog spends alone more bearable for him, and more entertaining and guilt-free for you.

The problem I have with that, as I’ve stated before, is how it lets dog owners shrug off the responsibility of dog ownership and diminishes the bond between dog and owner.

What I fret about is that the “future of human-pet interactions” could be long-distance, computer-assisted, virtual and heartless — exactly opposite of what dogs need, and exactly opposite of the reasons for having a dog in the first place.

A Manhattan inventor has come up with what the New York Post called “the next big thing for man’s best friend.”

Company co-founder Kevin Li says he got the idea for PlayDate after adopting his Rhodesian ridgeback-Lab mix, Hulk, three years ago.

“Looking at his sad face every time I left for work, I realized he … needed more time with his best friend.”

So Li (and we hope he worked from home at least a little bit) invented a ball for Hulk to play with — one he could control remotely, issue commands through, observe his dog through, and make squeak.

An adjunct computer-science professor at Columbia, Li described the $249 gadget as “Fitbit meets iPhone localization.”

He has already raised more than $200,000 on Indiegogo and has sold out of pre-orders.

With the rechargable ball, a pet owner can watch and listen to their pet, take photos, and record video, all from their iOS or Android device.

A stabilized camera inside provides real-time HD images. And a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings while allowing the camera — slobber aside — to see out clearly.

There are just three simple steps, its makers say: Download the free app, connect to wi-fi and “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Sorry, but talk like that scares me, as do a few other things.

The shell of the ball is made of a strong, chew-resistant polycarbonate, designed to withstand rambunctious play, according to its makers.

I hope that has been well tested, because I’d prefer not to think about what swallowing a little camera and a lithium polymer battery might do to a dog (or cat).

In the world of pet products, many a toy marketed as indestructible has proved otherwise.

Even PlayDate’s makers are saying that part might take some fine tuning:

“As we put PlayDate’s smart ball in front of more dogs and cats, we may discover the need to make aspects of its design more robust; any pet owner will tell you there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy. We have purposefully designed features like the replaceable outer shell with this in mind. Additional design changes may be required as we perform more testing.”

And what, I wonder, will be the effect of communicating with — and issuing orders to — your dog via an orange ball? Seeing an orange ball wandering around the house on its own, and hearing a disembodied voice come from it would, at the very least, be confusing, I’d think.

I’m all for keeping a dog active, engaged and feeling loved when the owner is away. But it’s a mistake to assume that technology can make up for failing to give your dog adequate attention.

And — needless to say — one shouldn’t get a dog in the first place if one is unwilling or unable to give him or her their time.

Face-time, I mean, with no cameras, or wi-fi, or remote controls involved.

Before we usher human-pet interaction “into the future,” it might be wise to question whether we really need to take that trip.

Didn’t we pretty much have it down just fine already — most of us, anyway?

(Photo: from PlayDate’s website)

The one toy Luca has not destroyed

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Maybe it’s no coincidence that the one toy an Alaskan Malamute named Luca hasn’t destroyed is the one that looks a lot like her — or at least what she used to look like.

The photo above was taken of Luca with the toy when she was 8 weeks old.

Here’s Luca and the toy now:

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Luca is now one and a half years old. She’s owned by Karissa Lerch, of Durham, who got the stuffed animal when she was in college.

She told Buzzfeed she really wanted a puppy then, but decided at the time a stuffed animal would be more affordable.

“A few years later when I was able to finally get my own dog I passed the stuffed animal down to her and she has kept it by her side at all times ever since.”

Lerch posted the images and others on imgur this week, and they received more than 1.2 million views in two days.

In that post she noted that the stuffed animal is the only toy Luca hasn’t shredded up in minutes.

(Photos: Karissa Lerch, via Imgur)