Friday 19 January 2018

Sandy eating wedding album an inspiration

Mega bite: Sandy the Labrador plays with Lauren and James McIlvenna’s new interactive
dog toy. Photo Conor McCabe
Mega bite: Sandy the Labrador plays with Lauren and James McIlvenna’s new interactive dog toy. Photo Conor McCabe
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

When Sandy the Labrador ate their precious wedding album, industrial designer James McIlvenna and his wife Lauren knew they had a problem.

Put simply, the third member of their family was bored to distraction and James set out to invent an interactive dog toy that could finally provide a solution to the problem.

Now more than 160,000 people who will later this week flock to Crufts, Europe's premier dog show at the NEC in Birmingham, will get to see the new invention first hand.

Dubliner James also designed the National Lottery retail stands around the country, but it is his latest design for four-legged friends that has caught the imagination.

"The idea with the K9 Connectables series of toys is that you stuff the dog's favourite food and treats inside and connect them together," said James. "The dog can smell the food but has to break the connections apart to get at it.

"And the connections are designed with a three-ring system which can gradually make the task even harder for your pet - for example, it takes Sandy 45 minutes of constant play to get her reward of peanut butter inside the toys."

James, who holds a degree in industrial design and a Master's degree in medical device design, emigrated to China for two years during the downturn. After moving home to Howth, James and wife Lauren got Labrador Sandy, who proved to be the inspiration for K9 Connectables. "Sandy is extremely high energy and while going through her early biting phase, managed to jump up onto the hall table and tear apart our wedding album which had come through the post. Sandy gets up to two hours' walk a day but I knew that we had to find something that kept her mind occupied.

"A lot of dogs suffer from separation anxiety - when you leave the house the dog just gets bored and has to channel their energy somewhere. To develop the toys I worked with dog behavioural experts, veterinary professionals and a dedicated team of dog owners.

"We are currently in negotiations with a UK distributor and are excited to be going to Crufts.'' Independent stores and 13 Petmania outlets stock the toy here. More details from

Sunday Independent

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