PupPod sent me a PupPod Rocker interactive dog toy free of charge to test and review. Because I have both reactive and hard-of-hearing dogs, I was able to test the product in two entirely different scenarios and provide honest feedback about the toy. I was not otherwise compensated for this article and all opinions in the article are my own truthful observations.
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Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have a reactive dog, and that mental enrichment in the form of mentally stimulating dog toys, decompression walks, and puzzle toys help keep my reactive dog more calm and balanced.
So when given the opportunity to try the new PupPod Rocker interactive dog toy, I was very intrigued to see the toy’s effect on my reactive dog’s mental state. This company has taken dog enrichment toys to a pretty cool automated level; would my dogs engage and learn with me sitting in the next room?
After spending a month using the toy, I am pretty darn impressed. Not only is the toy a great way to mentally stimulate my dogs, but the responsiveness of the company to questions and comments is hands down one of the best I’ve encountered.
Read on to learn about how the PupPod works, how my dogs reacted, and the pros and cons I encountered while using the toy.
What is the PupPod Rocker Interactive Dog Toy?
The PupPod Rocker is a fully automated electronic dog toy that gets progressively harder as your dog gets smarter.
Your dog is initially rewarded for tipping the rocker, and as they progress, they can be conditioned to rock the toy after certain sounds like doorbells, crackly treat bag sounds, squeakers, and more.
In a nutshell: the rocker makes a sound (you choose the sound), your dog rocks it with their nose or paw, and the treat dispensing unit emits a sound to mark the moment the rocker is tipped then dispenses treats to your dog.
Believe it or not, you can actually activate the toy and watch your dog play when you are not home. Everything is controlled by an app on your cell phone.
As your dog advances through the 5 difficulty levels, you can use the toy to desensitize your dog from specific sounds (helloooooo doorbell), or mentally challenge your dog to discriminate between different sounds and figure out which sound makes the treat dispenser toss treats.
It’s pretty mind boggling that all of that can be automated.
Features of the PupPod
The PupPod has several adjustable features, including:
- 9 different sound options for the rocker
- 2 different sound options for the treat dispenser (this sound is made to “mark” the moment that your dog correctly rocks the rocker toy)
- 5 different levels of difficulty
- 10 time settings (how often the rocker plays a sound)
- Video feature allows you to watch your dog play remotely.
What Situations is the PupPod Rocker Used For?
This toy helps entertain, engage, and calm down dogs in a HUGE number of situations.
- Separation anxiety
- Reactive dogs
- Injured dogs on activity restrictions
- Post-surgical dogs on activity restrictions
- Bored dogs
- Busy days (i.e. you’re trying to get something done and can’t play with your dog at the moment)
- Bad weather days (hot, cold, rainy, snowy) when you can’t walk your dog
- Just for the heck of it
Did the PupPod Help My Dog’s Reactivity?
First, just to be clear, no toy on the planet directly reduces a dog’s reactivity. If there was such a thing, I would literally mortgage my house to buy it. Sigh.
That said, I am a firm believer that when you provide mental stimulation for reactive dogs you help them achieve a better mental state so that your training to reduce their reactivity is more successful.
The PupPod provided great mental stimulation for Tico, and he loved it. Each time I would take the rocker down he would come running with his tail wagging.
When I provide fun, mentally stimulating activities for Tico during the day, I see a reduction in behavior like barking out the window at passing people and dogs or chasing the cats.
On days in December when UPS and Amazon were coming to my door way too often, the PupPod was a Godsend. I would be frazzled, trying to finish writing something, and sick of him barking. In desperation, I grabbed the PupPod and turned it on, and….ahhhh.
Tico was completely entertained and I had 10 power minutes to finish my task uninterrupted. PupPod gave me 3 big wins in those 10 minutes:
- Tico was quiet and not practicing bad behaviors
- I finished what I was working on
- I was less stressed and exasperated with him so had positive energy on our walk later that day to do my reactive dog training protocol when we encountered other dogs and people.
Here is a video of Tico using the toy to give you an idea of the PupPod in action:
How Did it Work for My Deaf Dog?
It was actually quite interesting seeing my mostly-deaf dog, Rose, try this toy out. She couldn’t hear the noises emitted by the rocker or the dispenser, so I wasn’t quite sure how it would go.
Because Rose has been trained a ton using clicker training, she has a base of trial-and-error training that I think helped her in this situation.
Rose loved the toy, but it was harder for her to understand the process of [rock the toy] – [dispenser spits out treats]. Because she didn’t hear the dispenser beep or click before shooting treats out, she continued to look at the rocker. So what she learned was [rock the toy] – [treats rain from the sky].
Which, in all honesty, was just as fun for her. She rocked the heck out of the toy and had treats shooting out faster than she could eat them!
PupPod is very interested in future modifications that make the PupPod easier to use with deaf dogs. We discussed the idea of making the whole rocker unit light up and blink when rocked, and making the treat dispenser vibrate loudly before dispensing, which a deaf dog would feel with their feet.
I love that they are trying to make a toy that works for hearing impaired dogs – that is really admirable.
Pros and Cons
As with any toy, the PupPod has pros and cons. Here is an overview of the ones I noted when using the toy:
- The rocker is chew proof. The shape of the rocker is very hard for a dog to get in their mouth and slips out if they try.
- Toy can be run remotely when you’re not home or from a different room.
- Great mental stimulation for your dog!
- Great sanity saver for the owner.
- Product support is phenomenal.
- The website provides a video library detailing each level of the PupPod. I found it helpful to watch the videos to understand what was involved in each stage of difficulty; it helped me decide when my dog was ready to graduate to the next level.
- Support emails are answered promptly and the people answering them know the product well so their answers are thorough and accurate.
- Product is continually being improved. In situations where customers come up with ideas to improve the toy (like the volume suggestion in the section below), the company makes note of them for future software updates and product revisions.
- This poll from their Facebook page is a perfect example:
- As with any wifi equipment, the toy is only as good as your wifi. You want to be sure to use the toy in a part of your house where the wifi is solid. If it’s spotty, your toy may not dispense treats when it should, and your dog may get frustrated. That said, the tech support from PupPod is awesome. When I had trouble with the wifi part of the product, I received fast responses from the company and troubleshooting tips that resolved my wifi signal issues.
- Volume is on the quiet side. For some people that might be a “pro,” but I would prefer the sounds be a bit louder to catch my dog’s attention more like my real doorbell or clicker. Volume control would be an added bonus.
- Treat dispensing is slow; between the clicker noise or beep sound and the actual dispensing of treats there is about a 5 second gap. Research shows if you mark with a clicker a small delay in treating is OK, but this was long enough that I felt it affected how quickly my dogs learned.
Tip: You Can’t Always Tell Your Dog is Learning When They Use the PupPod, But it Happens!
When a dog learns from using the PupPod, they are learning through trial and error. What does that mean? It means that they are learning just as much from their failure to get a treat as they do by their success.
For the first few sessions, your dog will be trying to figure things out. They will spend some time rocking the rocker (especially if you put a treat under it occasionally as the company recommends) and will definitely spend a good amount of time staring at the treat dispenser.
You have to let them fail. Let them watch the treat dispenser until they give up and start using their brain to problem solve.
If you have questions, or are wondering if you’re doing it right, email the PupPod support team and ask. Andrew G. at PupPod answered my support questions lightning-fast every time with easy to understand advice or instructions.
One of the best tips he gave me when I was questioning if my dog was figuring it out and if I should stop the session or let him keep playing was “if your dog is having fun, you can keep playing. If you see signs of frustration, stop the game and try again later.”
After my dog Rose’s first session (hearing impaired dog) I didn’t think she was getting it at all. She wasn’t hearing the dispenser make the beeps so was always focused on the rocker. I put treats under the rocker, however, so she spent that session rocking the rocker and eating treats that shot out of the dispenser and into her view.
The next day I tried again, and she immediately ran to the rocker and rocked the heck out of it the whole session. So she DID learn that rocking the rocker produced treats, she just didn’t know where they came from. In her world they rained from the sky (since she was focused on the rocker) – but she didn’t care!
Had you asked me after her first session I would have told you she hadn’t figured much out yet. Obviously I was wrong!
Lesson: You may not always be able to tell your dog is learning, but over time, they are storing data about what works and doesn’t work.
Your Dog Will Enjoy Their PupPod!
Technological advances are providing amazing opportunities for dog owners to keep their dogs mentally stimulated. If you could see how excited my dogs get when I pick up the PupPod Rocker and set it on the floor, you would immediately know that they love their new toy.
As I said before, no toy can reduce reactivity or other behavior problems by itself. It involves dedicated owners who follow an effective training program each day to help rehabilitate their dog.
That said, my dogs loves playing with the PupPod. As a toy for mental enrichment and distraction, it rocks!
In addition, PupPod is now part of an arsenal of mentally stimulating dog toys that I use to provide mental challenges for my reactive dog. By using enrichment toys, he’s in a calmer mental state both in my home (less barking at the window) and on walks (more success with my training protocol = less barking at passing dogs and people).
With any mental enrichment dog toy, it’s important to rotate the toys you use each day. You want the toy to be new and exciting for your dog to avoid boredom and frustration.
PupPod has done an excellent job at creating an electronic toy that challenges the dog in a way similar to clicker training. If you are looking for a super-cool enrichment toy for your dog, give it a try!
Interested in buying a PupPod? Click the picture below to visit their website and purchase the PupPod.
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