K9 Connectables is one of the latest innovations in the valuable pet sector. It’s a toy designed to ‘challenge the dog’s brain’ in order to stop it chewing and destroying things.

Invented and designed by dog lover James McIlvenna, K9 Connectables has been nominated in the consumer product category in the Irish Design Awards. Here, he speaks to ThinkBusiness about the new device.

Where did the idea for the toy come from?

The idea for K9 Connectables came about when my wife and I got our own dog Sandy about four years ago. Everyone is well aware that dogs require food, shelter and most importantly exercise and it’s this last point that is most important if you want to have a well-balanced dog. It’s not just physical exercise a dog requires but mental stimulation as well.

“We created over 100 different prototypes using 3D printers which we were then able to test on every dog in the street.”

Dogs have a lot of energy and if we don’t channel this energy in a positive way, behaviour problems can arise. Most dog owners have hectic lives so it can be difficult to provide all the necessary requirements their dogs needs. This is where K9 Connectables come in. Being a product designer I noticed a gap in the market for toys that really challenge a dog’s mind.

K9 James Lauren

How does the product work exactly?

The idea is that you stuff the dog’s favourite food and treats inside and connect them together. They can smell the treats through the small holes in the toy but they have to use their brains to work out how to break the connection. This engages the dog, keeps them occupied and rewards them when they manage to get the treats out. You can start out easy with the connection system and then the further you connect the toys the more difficult it gets.

Did you face any difficulties or challenges when you were designing the product?

We created over 100 different prototypes using 3D printers which we were then able to test on every dog in the street so that allowed us to be confident in the products before we went into production. Having said that, trying to make a toy for every type and breed of dog in the world is almost impossible and our products are most suitable for dogs between 7kg – 30kg. For the smaller dogs, we are working on a range of Mini K9 Connectables which will be available in the coming months.

“K9 Connectables are meant to be a compliment to an active dog’s healthy lifestyle and can be used in different ways to prolong play and keep dogs busy.”

You said that dogs need to be mentally engaged – how does the toys challenge them mentally?

The fact that dogs can see and smell the treats but cannot get at them makes them use their intelligence to work it out. Also, being able to break things apart is satisfying for the dog, and also for the owner as it is something they are allowed to do.

Does this mental challenge last for the long term or are there still possibilities that the dog might go back to biting?

All dogs have an intrinsic desire to chew and bite, this will never go away. Their teeth and jaws are designed to go through bone so it’s clear they can do significant damage to owner’s personal belongings if left on their own. It really is up to dog owners to provide an enriching environment, mental stimulation and plenty of exercise for their dogs.

K9 Connectables are meant to be a compliment to an active dog’s healthy lifestyle and can be used in different ways to prolong play and keep dogs busy. An extra tip is to freeze the toys so it takes even longer for the dog to work out the treats once the connection has been broken.

“It’s not just physical exercise a dog requires but mental stimulation as well.”

You claim that established dog toys are rudimentary. Care to explain what you mean by that?

So individually K9 Connectables are like many dog toys on the market, they have cavities that can be stuffed with treats and dogs have to lick, bite and chew until they work their treat out. Dogs love doing this and you will see their tails wagging away trying to get their reward. The difference with our toys is that we took it one step further and added the patent pending connection system that connects the toys together to form a large assembly of toys. This also means there can be variety in play by creating different formations for dogs to work out.

What are your future plans for the product?

We are working on a Kibble (dry dog food) dispenser that connects to all of the toys in the K9 Connectables range. This will really make a strong offering as not only can owners put some healthy treats in the toys they can now feed their dog their dinner in an engaging way. When you give a dog its food in a bowl the majority will wolf it down sometimes without even chewing and this can overload them. Slowing down feeding helps aid digestion while also burning energy and is satisfying for dogs as it is like scavenging for food just like their ancestors.

Facebook: K9 Connectables

See more at www.k9connectables.com 

Interview by Stephen Larkin.