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Barbie Goes to the Dogs: To Messy, Not Housebroken Dogs

Barbie has a dog that eats and makes a mess!

Because humans have such an enduring bond with dogs, it is not surprising that many successful and well-loved toys involve dogs. Some are plush and huggable, some have batteries or windup motors that allow them to move and bark and even talk, others are simply models of dogs to keep in doll houses or to use in "pretend" games. The toys are friendly, and often have fantasy colors. However the Mattel toy company seems to have taken the concept of dog related toys several steps farther than many adults may feel is polite and proper.

The first of these is the Barbie and Tanner play set. Tanner is a dog, a sort of yellow Labrador retriever. He is described as "soft and fuzzy and her mouth, ears, head and tail really move." Tanner comes with a dog bone, chew toy and some magnetic dog biscuits. There is also a magnetic pooper-scooper and a trash can. Have you figured out what this set is about yet? Well if not, let me quote the description on the box, "Finally, Barbie has a dog that eats and makes a mess!" and "When Tanner has to go to the bathroom, Barbie cleans up with her special magnetic scooper and trash can."

Image from Mattel Inc.
Source: Image from Mattel Inc.

The game is for Barbie to house train the dog. The action requires you to place brown log-shaped food in the dog's mouth, then crank the animal's tail and watch the food slide out the dog's butt. Obviously the food and poop are identical in appearance. Because the food/poop is magnetic Barbie can use her pooper-scooper to deposit it in a trash can. Later you can retrieve the brown pellets from the trash can and start the process again. I suppose the aim is to promote the concept of conscientious dog care by cleaning up after your dog relieves himself. Perhaps the reuse of the dog pellets is an attempt to promote recycling as well.

For those of you who prefer pets of the feline variety, the Mattel Company has not forgotten you, although it is hard to imagine that anything can match the gross factor of Barbie and Tanner, however the Forever Barbie Theresa Doll and Mika are an attempt to do so. Mika is a cat and she comes with a bottle, kitty litter box, cat litter, scooper, cat food bowl and cat toys. The premise of the Theresa and Mika set is that Theresa gives her kitty a bottle and then the cat pees in the litter box. This actually seems all well and good and a lot less offensive than a poop eating dog.

The action involves Theresa filling a bottle with liquid and feeding Mika who is a little plastic Siamese type cat that is cream colored with shades of brown marking the face, tail and paws. Once you have enough liquid in Mika you give her a squeeze and out comes "pee." Because the aim is to encourage responsible pet ownership, you obviously can't just let Mika pee on the floor. So you are provided with a litter box. Mattel also gives you three different colors of sand (green, pink and orange) to fill it with. As in real life, the "pee" clumps in the litter, and you are also given a scoop to clean out the litter box.

The most recent entry into Mattel's collection of scatological toys is the Barbie Potty Training Pups. The set includes Barbie who has been specially deformed with one bent elbow and jointed knees so she can get down on the ground to play with the little puppies. There are three puppies included, two look like yellow Labrador retrievers and the other is possibly a brown shih-tzu. There are a lot of other things in the set including a bed, a water bottle, a dog dish, a ball, three dog toys that can go in the dogs mouths (a pink ring, a purple shoe, and a blue bone) and three collars for the dogs to wear (two blue and one pink). In addition there are two plastic sheets of newspaper for the dogs to use when they are being housetrained.

Getting the process going is similar to filling Mika the cat with "pee." To fill the water bottle, you need to fill a shallow dish and then squeeze the tip into the water which pulls water into the bottle. The tip of the bottle is shaped so that it fits into the puppies mouths and then you squeeze the bottle and load the puppies with water. The urination process is different for each puppy. One of them is a male and is supposed to be able to relieve himself when you lift his leg and then press down on his body or tail. The girl puppy can assume a squat position with both her legs dipping when see pees. Finally, the brown puppy is "the shy one" that is supposed to require a little squeeze in order to do its business (much like Mika the cat).

Somebody with too much time on their hands spent a lot of effort designing the newspapers used to housetrain the puppies. They are made of plastic, with what looks like fashion ads on them. However when these news papers get wet they turn yellow and brown meaning we get the benefits of imagining that we have both Tanner and Mika actions occurring simultaineously. Fortunately the puppies do not have to consume their own waste for the game to continue, and when the water dries the colors indicating the "mess" they have deposited goes away.

As an adult who has cared for many dogs and cats during my lifetime, the idea of scooping poop, cleaning litter boxes and picking up urine and fecal stained newspapers is not my idea of fun or a great concept for a toy. However Mattel seems to know better. Kids seem to be preoccupied with toilet functions and seem to love playing with Tanner, Mika and the pups as they go through their house training period. Fortunately Mattel has kept the realism factor low, and they have not yet stooped to supplying ammonia smelling fluid for Mika and puppies to use. On the other hand, perhaps doing so might make the toys even more popular with young children.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: The Modern Dog, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, How To Speak Dog, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies, Sleep Thieves, The Left-hander Syndrome

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