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iFetch Dog Toy Fetches Best in Show at SuperZoo

Posted: July 26, 2013, 5:25 p.m. EDT


By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

New. Fresh. Innovative. Of the more than 800 new products introduced at SuperZoo this year, one rose to the top: iFetch, an interactive toy that allows a dog to play fetch with itself.

The toy, and the acclaim it drew Wednesday during the announcement of SuperZoo’s best new products, all started with a dog named Prancer.

"He loves to fetch,” said company manager Pat Hamill. "When he wants to play, he puts the ball in your lap or on the table and barks until you play with him.”

 iFetch
iFetch CEO Denny Hamill with SuperZoo’s Best in Show product.
Three years ago, Hamill’s son Grant was studying for finals and Prancer wanted—well, demanded—to play.

"Grant was so frustrated,” Hamill recalled. "He said, ‘Can’t we make something for him that will let him play fetch with himself?’ So we did our research to see what else was out on the market, hired a design and engineering firm, and developed a prototype.”

The ball-launching iFetch was born, ultimately earning the adoration of SuperZoo attendees, who voted it the top new product in the dog category and Best in Show.

The design is simple. The dog (or human) deposits a small ball in a funnel and a few seconds later the ball shoots out the other end. Powered by batteries or plug, the unit turns itself on and off.

"When the ball is dropped in, the iFetch activates,” Hammill said. "So it’s not on constantly. And as the unit warms up, the dogs hear it and get excited.”
 
Still in prototype stage, the iFetch comes in one size and shoots 2-inch balls. Hamill reported show-goer requests for a larger version that would launch standard tennis balls.

"This version is for indoor use,” he said. "But the next one, we’ll design for indoor-outdoor use that uses larger balls. For now, though, we’re focusing on getting this version right.”

The toy should be ready for shipment in the first quarter of 2014.

PetChatz Videophone
Taking second in both the dog category and Best in Show, the PetChatz by Anser Innovation is a videophone that allows owners to interact remotely with their pets via smartphone, computer or iPad, said CEO Lisa Lavin.
"Owners log in, share a smile with their furry pal and remotely dispense a calming scent and a tasty treat,” she said.

Designed to be lickable, scratchable and safe for just about any pet, the plug-in unit flush mounts over an electrical outlet or on a kennel door, Lavin said. The company is preselling units online to retailers and consumers. It should be ready for nationwide release by the first quarter of 2014.

Puppy Feeder
The Company of Animals secured the third spot in Best in Show overall and in the dog category with the Green Interactive Feeder for puppies. Based on the company’s full-size version for adult dogs, the feeder is designed to train puppies to eat slower. It’s made from hard BPA-free plastic and is dishwasher safe.

New Product Winners

Aquatics
1. BioBubble Premium Generation 3

(BioBubble Pets)
2. Zooquariums
(RefinedKind Pet Products)
3. Aquasweep Filter Attachment
(Zoo Med Labs)

Bird
1. Petamine Song Food
(Volkman Seed Factory)
2. Natural Java Wood Bird Toys
(A&E Cage)
3. Senior Nutri-Berries
(Lafeber)

Cat
1. CatMan-Doo Toilet Seat for Cat
(CatMan-Doo)
2. Catit Design Senses
(Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp.)
3. Green Interactive Feeder Cat
(The Company of Animals)

Dog
1. iFetch
(iFetch)
2. PetChatz
(PetChatz)
3. Green Interactive Feeder Puppy
(The Company of Animals)

Equine
1. Spurr’s Big Fix
(Spurr’s Big Fix)
2. Espree Equine Care
(Espree Animal Products)
3. Equine Matrix
(Matrix Healthwerks)

Grooming
1. Bark Art Blow Pens
(Espree Animal Products)
2. Burt’s Bees
(Fetch for Pets)
3. Kerchiefs, Bowties, Hair Bows
(Doggone Cute)

Miscellaneous
1. The Handy Camel Bag Clip
(The Handy Camel)
2. PAWVACS
(Tightpac America)
3. Shout for Pets/Arm & Hammer
(Fetch for Pets)

Reptile
1. BioBubble Terrarium Riser
(BioBubble Pets)
2. Vita-Bugs
(Timberline Live Pet Foods)
3. ReptiHabitat Kits, 40 Gallon
(Zoo Med Labs)

Small Animal
1. Critter Mazes
(Critter Mazes)
2. Harvest Stacks
(Oxbow Animal Health)
3. WonderBubble Wonder Kits
(BioBubble Pets)

Best in Show
1. iFetch
(iFetch)
2. PetChatz
(PetChatz)
3. Green Interactive Feeder Puppy
(The Company of Animals)
Toilet Seat for Cats
Norman Strohdach, president of CatMan-Doo had a problem. When he bought a kitten for his wife, she failed to clean its litterbox, so he designed a product that would teach the feline to do its business in the toilet.

"It’s a seven-step training program,” Strohdach said. "The seat starts out like a shallow litterbox. As the cat gets used to going to the bathroom on it, you open a small hole in the middle. Then you gradually make the hole wider and wider until the entire bowl is open.”

The CatMan-Doo Toilet Seat for Cats, which earned first place in the cat category, mounts to both standard and long toilets and features two wide landing pads on either side. This, Strohdach said, allows the cat to do its business without falling into the toilet.

Spurr’s Big Fix
Earning the most votes in the equine category, Spurr’s Big Fix is an antiseptic spray for horses and livestock. It was developed by a ferrier to treat a range of maladies in horses, such as hoof abscesses, thrush, white line disease and rain rot. The formula, which is also effective on dogs, features a base of alcohol and iodine and proprietary essential oils.

Bark Art Blow Pens
Blow Pens, from Espree Animal Products, gathered the most votes in the grooming category. Available in 12 vivid colors, including green, purple, orange, yellow and pink, the washable dye for pets allows groomers and pet owners to blow paint onto a dog’s coat in stencil or freestyle designs. Each package of pens comes with a free stencil.

Double Winner
Putting a twist on a traditional tank or terrarium, BioBubble Pets won both the best new aquatic and reptile products.

The BioBubble Premium is a dome-shaped, collapsible saltwater or freshwater aquarium that expands and compresses vertically. Fish keepers unlatch the base and lift the sleeve, which contains the water. They can remove the marine-grade acrylic dome for full access to their finned friends. The unit also may house turtles, frogs, reptiles, small animals, birds, insects and plants. Additional options include risers, filters, LED lights and substrate trays.

The Terrarium Riser is a modular and expandable terrarium for reptiles. With a removable domed top just like the BioBubble Premium, the risers—available in 15 and 24 inch—can be stacked on top of one another. They may be used with land-dwelling reptiles, amphibians, small animals and birds.

Critter Mazes
Colorful and engaging for kids and adults, Critter Mazes earned the most votes in the small animal category. Developed by John Fields, who said he couldn’t find a suitable maze for his pet rat, the modular maze is made of hard and soft plastic pieces that can be connected and configured in myriad ways.

"It’s a playground for pets,” Fields said. "You can stack them and make obstacle courses, different levels, anything you can imagine.”

All the U.S.-made pieces are safe for chewers and may be washed in lukewarm water, he said, adding that Critter Mazes is not intended to be a habitat.

Petamine Song Food
Canaries have a hankering for hemp seed, reported Talt Thompson of Volkman Seed Factory. That’s why the company included hemp seed in Petamine Song Food, which won the best new bird product. Loaded with sterilized hemp seed, nyjer seed, millet, sunflower seed, flax seed, rape seed, canary grass seed and oat chips, the diet makes birds sing more, Thompson said.

Handy Camel Bag Clip
Winning best miscellaneous product, the Handy Camel Bag Clip is no stranger to accolades, having won the 2013 National Hardware Show’s bronze medal for new products. The long and sturdy plastic clip, from The Handy Camel, keeps bags of all kinds, including pet food, road salt, potting soil and more, sealed tight and inaccessible to bugs and vermin. Rated to carry 40 pounds, the clip features a carrying handle.

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