Product Review: The StarMark Bob-A-Lot Dog Meal Toy

Wild dogs, be they dingos, coyotes (pronounced ky-yotes) wolves, jackals…whatever, don’t eat meals from a bowl. They don’t gulp down a pile of kibble in under 90 seconds and call it “done.” Why do you expect your dog to do the same? In an effort to slow our dogs’ eating, give them a little physical excecise, and provide a LOT of mental stimulation we tried out the StarMark Bob-A-Lot meal toy.

Wild dogs - even feral specimens of canis lupus familiaris eat dead animals. They tear them apart. This takes time. It takes energy. And it takes a little thinking. If you have a dog with a wealth of energy (physical OR mental) the Bob-A-Lot can help. The Bob-A-Lot toy provides a lot of similarity to eating dead animals: it takes time, consumes energy, and requires them to think. Fortunately it does all this but doesn’t require you to drag roadkill into your home.

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Another excellent benefit of a meal toy is that it slows your dog’s ingestion. If you have a breed that is prone to bloat, a meal toy may be for you. Instead of gulping down a bowl of food, your dog is forced to eat kibble a bite or two at a time. Obviously this won’t work if your dog is on a BARF diet, wet food, or, well, really anything other than kibble.

The StarMark Bob-A-Lot

The StarMark Bob-A-Lot is a weighted plastic toy. It is capacious enough to hold (at least) a little over a cup of kibble - the amount we feed our dogs (we got the large version). Loading the toy up is fairly simple: unscrew the big plastic cap. An internal cover keeps food in the body of the toy (if you wish, more on this later); rotate it to the open position. We’ve found that slowly dribbling kibble in from a Pyrex measuring cup is the fastest and easiest way to load up this meal toy.

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After you’ve filled it with food, rotate the internal cover to closed. Screw the big plastic lid back on. Open up the dispenser cover on the main, lower body of the toy. That’s it - the meal toy is ready to go!

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Finally, set the toy in the floor and let your dog go at it. It may take some time for your dog to adjust to the toy. You may even have to help him or her understand what is happening. Once your dog gets it, they really “get” it, though, and will enjoy eating their meals a little closer to they way hundreds of thousands of years of evolution prepared them for.

Challenging Your Dog

You can make the toy more challenging for your, um, gifted dogs. You can also make the toy easy for the “Jake” of your family. The opening on the main body of the toy can be adjusted to allow food to flow more, or less, easily and quickly. Closing the opening even slightly can greatly increase the difficulty of dispensing food. This will require more physical and mental energy from your dog. In our house Ppepper’s toy is halfway closed and Jake’s is wide open.

Jake the Dog on the left…aaaaand Ppepper on the right.

Jake the Dog on the left…aaaaand Ppepper on the right.

If you want to make the toy even more of a challenge, you can leave some food in the upper chamber and adjust its portal. This requires the dog to get food to both fall down into the lower chamber, and to fall out of the toy.

Our Results

We have three dogs. One thing we figured out right away is that we need to separate the dogs. We also need to adjust each dog’s toy so they all finish at roughly the same time. For example, if we leave Ppepper’s toy wide open, she’ll be done in half the time of the other dogs. If she finishes before them she’ll creep on them…and food aggression ensues.

One other thing we discovered - the dogs will move the toys around quite a bit, especially on hard floors. If you have multiple dogs t is important to create some space for them so they don’t run into each other. Even though our dogs have been together for years there can still be some food aggression at meal time.

Even considering these really minor, totally fixable issues, we LOVE the StarMark Bob-A-Lot. It wears our dogs OUT, slows their eating, and we really enjoy watching them eat. Check it out; we think you’ll be happy with the results.

Justin Carroll