An Interview with the creator of the Buster ActivityMat, Marianne H. Vesterholt

August 8, 2016

We received a very generous gift, for Christmas 2015, from a parent of two of our students.  The Buster ActivityMat has become a favorite of ours, when working with dogs on problem solving and creative thinking activities.  The Buster ActivityMat is a problem solving interactive play center designed to mentally stimulate dogs and get owners down on the floor, guiding their dogs as they work through the various tasks in order to retrieve treats.


We wanted to find out about the creative mind behind the Buster ActivityMat so I set out to contact Marianne H. Vesterholt, who resides in Denmark with her husband and family, including her inspiration, Ludvig, her schnauzer.


What was your inspiration for creating the Buster ActivityMat?

When developing the Buster ActivityMat, my dog Ludvig was my own private little tester.  Actually, I started making the toy just for him, developing new tasks as he needed new challenges.  And along the way my friends with dogs started asking for one, too.   If I hadn't seen how excited Ludvig gets when I bring out the mat, I am not sure I would have ever made it far enough to have the toy produced.  But the thought of it reaching dogs all over the world-and making them happy - motivated me to continue my efforts.


I initially tried to make more myself, but it quickly became evident that it was too much work and I had to let go of the idea.  But then I spoke to dog psychologist, Anders Halgreen, who suggested getting the toy produced by an external partner.  And I started researching my options.


It took a long time to find a company that was interested and to finally have it put into production. But it worked out, and I am now collaborating with the Danish company, KRUUSE, who manages all the practicalities and sells their merchandise in countries across the globe.


Are you working on any other activity items for dogs?


As I mentioned,  it was a lot of work to get this off the ground. So for now I am focusing my energy on taking care of my dog, Ludvig, and spending time with my husband and our family.  I currently have no new inventions in the pipeline.


What is your background working with dogs?

Let me begin by telling you a bit about myself.  I am a trained child care professional, who has spent 18 years managing a day care center and later,  counseling other child professionals working with special needs children.  I stopped working 5 years ago due to a hereditary condition that leaves me with chronic pain and fatigue.  In terms of dogs, I have no professional background or training, though I grew up with dogs and have lived with dogs all my life.  I have found that I can actually use my background in child care when working with dogs.  I find that there are a lot of similarities when it comes to children's basic needs and the basic needs of dogs.  Both groups need love, boundaries and mental stimulation to thrive.


Do you have a vision about companion animals, or perhaps what mindset for people with pets, would become common?

In my personal experience, it was great to know that even when I was having a bad day, I still had the energy to find the mat and spend some quality time with Ludvig.  And I imagine that it might be the same for other people who may not have a health condition but perhaps are just as tired from a long day at work, juggling children, chores, etc.  


It makes me sad to see healthy dogs being brought to shelters or even put down because they cause too much trouble for their families - simply because they are under-stimulated.


My wish is that dog owners realize that a lot of their issues can be avoided if they just remember that dogs are living creatures who need walks, mental stimulation and spending time with their families.


Thank You!, Marianne


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