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When we adopted our rescue Pepper last year, our household was all in on her energy and playfulness. She’s an Australian Cattle Dog mix, so we knew from day one that we’d have our work cut out for us when it came to entertaining this adorable little beastie. Thus it was with a lot of excitement that we set out to test the Wickedbone Smart Bone.
Why Do Dogs Need Toys?
Dogs need mental stimulation and physical activity so they stay healthy—and are good and tired enough they won’t get a chance to be destructive. And of course, that means rain or shine! In places (like our rainy Pacific Northwest) where it’s not always ideal to get outside for a play session, it’s important to have an arsenal of indoor toys and games that you can use to help your dog stave off boredom.
In recent years, the need to entertain high-energy pups has led to new wave of high-tech dog toys—which is how I found the Wickedbone, a robotic bone that rolls around on its own and (according to its makers at Cheerble) can even automatically adjust its reactions to your dog’s play style. Worth investigating? We thought so!
Unboxing the Wickedbone Smart Bone
Pepper was immediately intrigued by the snazzy little white robot bone (along with its box, of course). I downloaded the app, which directed me to plug it in to get it charged up; meanwhile I checked out the instructions.
The app turns your phone into a remote for the bone. From here, you can put it into automatic mode for different lengths of time (five minutes and up), where the bone will go through its library of tricks—rolling, bouncing, shaking, and more—at random. You can also run the bone manually.
Once it had charged, I went to sync my phone to the bone. To do this, you hold your (Bluetooth-enabled) smart phone close to the bone when the lights are blue and touch “connect.” Or at least, that’s how it should work. It took a little fiddling on our end to get it right. Eventually, we realized the bone has to be unplugged to pair, and you have a relatively short window of time after unplugging it to connect it.
Pepper’s Reaction to the Wickedbone Smart Bone
Once we got the Smart Bone up and running, Pepper, a fan of all things that move, took to the Wickedbone’s wiggling, shaking, flipping, and rolling antics right away. She chased it and grabbed it with her paws, pinning it so she could move on to her favorite activity: chewing.
We found that the automatic mode worked a little too slowly to keep Pepper really entertained. She would stare at it, waiting, then it would move in a short burst, which caught her interest. But the bursts were too short and the wait time in between was too long to make it truly rewarding or interesting.
The manual mode, though? It was great. My husband and I both had fun tapping the Wickedbone’s variety of tricks and watching Pepper try to figure this thing out. There are lots of customizable aspects that you can dig into in the Smart Bone settings. For example, you can put it in carpet or hardwood mode, with each adjusting the toy to move more easily or more gently on the different surfaces.
Predictably, Pepper chewed a tiny hole in one of the rubberized, removable smart bone ends as soon as I left her a minute with it unsupervised. But that doesn’t matter—it keeps on trucking. And luckily, Wickedbone thought of the chewers: you can buy replacement tires (in different colors, even!).
The manufacturer, Cheerble, also makes other smart toys, like the Wicked Ball—for a dog like Pepper that likes to grab and chew, I could see this being an even better option because it will roll and react, even when it’s not in the middle of its programmed tricks. That constant movement is likely to keep a dog like Pepper even more engaged.
It only took one session for Pepper to get excited to see the Wickedbone again and to seek it out. When we had the Smart Bone plugged in on the counter, she’d pop up on her hind legs to check up on where we put it—a sure sign of a winner.
Is the Wickedbone Worth It?
We say yes! The Wickedbone Smart Bone is a good, solid interactive toy that should keep many dogs (and their pet parents) entertained. But there are a few kinks that are just annoying enough that it may not be the first toy we reach for when we’re up for a quick play session.
- Pairing with your phone can be a little tricky; you have to quit the app in order to turn the toy off, but you can’t reconnect until you plug the bone in, unplug it, and pair again.
- The automatic mode might not be as engaging as manual mode for an especially high-energy pup like Pepper.
- The Wickedbone is, unsurprisingly, spendier than your average dog toy.
That said, there’s a lot to recommend the Wickedbone—it kept us entertained, and Pepper was a huge fan.
- The customizability of manual mode offers an impressive range of options to keep dogs (and humans!) with a variety of play styles entertained.
- The bone moves, shakes, and wobbles effectively on different surfaces, making it a nice choice for indoor play.
- Sturdy tires held up well under Pepper’s abuse, and when they eventually give way, they’re replaceable.
Who might like the Smart Bone? We think lots of dogs and their humans will be pleased—especially pet parents who are less mobile, kids (and adults) who love gadgets, and anyone who needs a low-key way to entertain their dog. Every little bit helps!