Canine markets in everything

At a recent class in New York City on how to use iPads, an instructor had a remedy ready for distracted students: She smeared the screen with peanut butter.

One student, a Hungarian hunting dog named DJ Sam, ate it up.

Dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman began providing private iPad lessons to dogs last year. About 25 of her clients have signed up, and she is planning a 90-minute iPad clinic for dogs later this month, where they will learn to nose the screen to activate apps.

“People always say, ‘Oh, can you have my dog do my online banking?’ ” Ms. Grossman says. In reality, dogs don’t “necessarily do very useful things on the iPad,” she adds. “But I don’t necessarily do very useful things on the iPad either.”

Ms. Grossman is part of a nascent but growing group touting the use of apps for pets. They say the apps can entertain pets stranded alone at home, teach valuable motor skills and even promote social behavior by engaging loner animals.

Felines are involved too:

Brooklyn cat owner David Snetman intended to let his cat, Pickle, play with his iPad until he tired of it. An hour later, Pickle was still whacking at the screen. Although Pickle’s interest never flagged, Mr. Snetman hasn’t let him play again since. “It seems very frustrating for him,” Mr. Snetman says.

…He and business partner Nate Murray developed it after an app they designed for children flopped. They now have three cat iPad apps, including one that allows cats to paint on a screen and “Game for Cats,” which encourages cats to swat a laser dot, mouse or moth scurrying across the screen. Mr. Murray says the apps have been downloaded more than one million times. The basic version of the original is free; others sell for $1.99.

There is more here, interesting throughout.  At first I thought this was a kind of novelty item, but there is a good deal of evidence that many of the pets are quite absorbed in these games or perhaps even obsessed with them.  Is it wrong for me to think that some of these games are, using behavioral inducements, actually torturing the pet, a bit like perpetual catnip?


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