Startup Develops Smart Dog Toys To Make Pets Brainier

For most pet owners, their animals are members of their family. And who wouldn’t want to make their furry children smarter than they already are? Seattle startup PupPod has received $772,000 in seed investment to develop smart dog toys.

PupPod CEO and co-founder Erick Eidus noticed how his dog Puccini loved watching television and seemed to tell the difference between cartoon dogs and other characters. Puccini also only barked at the TV when a dog was on screen. This gave Eidus the idea to create a toy that would foster learning and be entertaining at the same time. PupPod was conceived at a Startup Weekend event more than four years ago.

Dr. Roger Mugford, a veteran animal psychologist and founder of The Company of Animals, has invested in the startup, reports GeekWire.

“As I learned about PupPod’s technology platform and vision, it became clear to me that software and data are going to substantially disrupt the pet industry and these trends align perfectly with the expectations of millennial pet parents,” Mugford said in a statement. “PupPod has assembled a remarkable team capable of linking pets and technology and I wanted to be involved.”

PupPod’s toys promote mental stimulation and offer positive reinforcement. For example, the Wobbler game rewards dogs with food, lights, and sound if the animal plays it correctly. The more the dog plays the game, the harder it gets. Pet owners can use their smartphones to control the rewards or use an optional Bluetooth dispenser.

PupPod did a lot of research and worked with a board-certified veterinarian behaviourist to create its product. Areas covered include: 1) addressing mild separation anxiety through behaviour modification, 2) turning mealtime into an activity to reduce obesity, 3) providing a low-impact activity for dogs recovering from an injury, and 4) making PupPod accessible for blind and deaf canines.

The Wobbler isn’t cheap. It costs US$69 and requires a monthly plan, which ranges in price from US$3.25 to $16.58. The plans include various levels of games, treat sounds, random timing, and up to five dog accounts.

PupPod isn’t the only pet startup that’s gaining traction. The industry reached $579 million last year and is just one part of the $100 billion global pet care market. Startups Rover and Wag have each raised more than $300 million for their products, and Tomofun has developed a product called Furbo which involves an AI-powered dog camera and feeding device.

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