PickPocket foragers are a relatively new innovation but we are already seeing a number of different products in the range, for example, crate and caterpillar foragers. The focus of this review is the six mini foraging pouches with large pouch. There are many different options available in the pouch sets so make sure you check out what the pack contains before purchasing.
What’s in the pack? Six mini pouches, one large pouch and some instructions which include three levels of difficulty.
What’s the price? This set costs £30
Where can I get one? PickPocket Foragers website
What do you do with it? Ultimately, you place dry food inside the small pouches and place these inside the large pouch. The dog’s job is to find the food.
Quality: Many decades ago, my job involved sewing fabric conveyor belts together. They had to be super-strong. Since those days, I always look at the stitching of products to ascertain the quality. From the outside, no stitching is visible. Turning the product inside out allows us to see that the stitching is of high quality and the thread is industrial strength rather than the thin thread found in our home sewing kits.
Using moderate force, I attempted to force the product to come apart by gripping each side of a small pouch and pulling in opposite directions. This caused no damage. Due to the nature of the material, however, it is obvious that under great force, the stitching or fleece will rip. It seems likely that if the product is given to the dog to work out for themselves, rather than introducing it as advised, damage will occur. Appropriate, gradual introduction is therefore strongly advised and is recommended by the product developer.
My recommendations for introducing and using the product.
1: Start easy, with one small pouch. Open it wide and place dry food just inside.
2: Place food in a small pouch and fold it.
3: Place a small pouch (containing food) just inside the opening of the large pouch.
4: Add more pouches.
5: Place them further inside the large pouch.
6: Fold the large pouch over.
Ensure that the dog is successful, happy and eager at each step. If they are unsuccessful, you have gone too far, too fast; take a step backwards.
Let’s see what Mr B. thinks..
You may also use the pouches in other ways, for example, hiding them around the house for the dog to go and find.
1: Place food in one pouch and let the dog see you place it.
2: Place the pouch out of sight but still allowing the dog to see where you placed it, for example, behind a cushion.
3: Gradually make the game more challenging by not allowing the dog to see where you place it. If you say something like ‘go search’ each time you play the game, the dog will soon learn that there is something to find when you say ‘go search’.
4: You may now start to add extra pouches to extend the game. When I do this I start at an easier level again so that the dog learns there is more than one object to find.
When all of the pouches have been found, say something like “all done”. They soon learn that there is no more to be found and they can relax.
The forager range of products are not too complex. They do, however, promote the act of sniffing, seeking and foraging, which are some of the greatest and most beneficial forms of enrichment.
How are they cleaned?
Cleaning is easy because they can simply be placed in the washing machine and washed at 30°C and even tumble dried on a cool setting. The downside to this is that washing powders may contain detergents which you do not necessarily want on a product which your dog is mouthing. Speaking to the product developer, I was reminded of the alternative; soap nuts. These are berries (nuts) of the Sapindus mukorossi tree, which are used as an eco-friendly laundry detergent. Available here for USA and here for UK.
Pros: Well made and should last for years. Easy to clean and store. Multifunctional and can be used with other PickPocket products, for example, placing the small pouches inside the caterpillar forager pockets. Very engaging and the movement of the fabric as it gets pulled around ensures every use is slightly different from the last. Encourages foraging, scenting and seeking. Because it’s soft there’s no harsh or loud noises as the dog interacts and this may, therefore, be an excellent product for building confidence in dogs of a timid disposition.
Cons: Because it’s made of fleece, there no doubt that it can be damaged by dogs. If the dog does not learn to use the product as intended, they may simply think that the best way of getting to the food is by biting and chewing the fabric. It must be considered that if dogs were to consume pieces of the fabric the consequences could be very serious, even fatal. It is, therefore, imperative that the dog uses the product as directed and is supervised (as all enrichment should be) at all times.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read