Tag Archives: toys

Spencer tries Nina Ottosson's Tornado

Spencer the Tornado

One of the challenges with a Cane Corso is to keep him occupied. This working breed used to have four jobs on the farm, so he needs lots of activity. Plus, each of his skills has its “dark side” when not properly channelled:

  1. Herding — This contributes to stress when the family is not together and separation anxiety.
  2. Guarding — This entails distrust of strangers and plays a role in the genetic aspect of fear aggression.
  3. Traction — You think your dog pulls on leash? Try walking a 44 kg (~100 lb) dog designed to pull carts loaded with heavy stuff.
  4. Hunting — A strong prey drive that makes fleeing cats irresistible.

Spencer has loads of toys to keep him busy, but most of them don’t seem to be very satisfying unless we are trying to get them out of his mouth or at least sitting nearby watching him play.  Other toys are supposed to occupy him, but he’s very smart and has figured them out. He can empty a Kong in under five minutes through a clever technique that entails picking it up in his mouth and dropping it to dislodge what’s inside. Freezing Kongs to slow him down was effective in the beginning, but then he realized that the easiest thing was just to let it sit there a few hours until it melts.

So I’ve been looking for new toys to provide mental stimulation. He likes his Kong Wobbler, but he knows exactly how it works and likes chewing on it too much. So I got him a new ball that distributes food and makes a funny noise when it’s turned a certain way.

But what I’ve wanted for a really long time was a Nina Ottosson toy. My mom offered to buy him one for his 2013 Christmas present, but I couldn’t decide which to get. I wondered which level of difficulty to get — he’s smart, but he’s never had one before. Plus, it wasn’t very clear from the descriptions which ones might be well suited for a very large dog. Finally, I decided to get a hard one simply because there was a picture of a German Shepherd using it, so I figured it would be size-appropriate.

It’s the Tornado game. It consists of three bone-shaped trays stacked on a central axis around which they spin. There’s a bone-shaped cover that also spins. Each tray has fours compartments where you can put treats or food (or a little bone-shaped cover that is meant to make the game harder because it keeps the level from spinning until the dog dislodges it).

There are really detailed explanations of how to teach the dog to use it. So I started going through them one by one. At about instruction three of fifteen, Spencer pushed me aside and took over. Here’s the video proof. This is about five minutes after he saw the game for the first time.

Spencer’s critique? Super fun! To understand just how much he likes this, you need to realize that the cleaning lady is vacuuming in the room next door, and this is usually a very stressful event for him. He kept asking me to refill it and was all smiley and happy, even when I re-opened the door and he was reminded the cleaning lady was there.


Run (in the) Forest, Run!

Because of Spencer’s stress issues, we have a really hard time getting him to play away from home. And looking back on it, it actually took a really long time for him to feel relaxed to play here too. (The one exception is with other dogs — all he wants to do is play with every dog he meets.)

But playing is also an important way for him to learn that the outside world is less scary. First of all, we signal to him that we are relaxed enough to play. Second, the pleasure of playing helps him to associate good feelings wiht the outside world and to relax. Continue reading

Learning how to play

I don’t think we’ll ever forget the first time Spencer played with us. He had been so docile and calm, showing no interest in his toys. And then, one evening, I took the garbage out, and he watched me leave with mournful eyes. At that time, he found it hard to be alone for even a few minutes. When I came back, he went into a pounce stance, and, for a split second I thought he was going to get aggressive with me — and then I suddenly realized he wanted to play. Continue reading