Kirkland, Wash. — The PupPod is the first toy designed to increase doggy brainpower.
"It's pretty revolutionary there's nothing in the market like this,” said Kirkland's Erick Eidus, who developed the toy, which uses lights and sounds to keep dogs busy.
"It's a multilevel puzzle game for dogs,” Eidus said.
It looks like a 'Kong' toy on the outside – and it is – Eidus has a business relationship with the company he appreciatively says “builds the Volvo of dog toys”. But what's inside is what separates the PupPod from any other chew toy.
"It sounds kind of nerdy but really, in essence we're building a computer for dogs," he said.
A computer that dogs can operate with noses ... and paws. And it works over a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone.
"Your phone will beep and tell you to provide a treat. If anybody's heard of clicker training, this is clicker training to humans to give treats at the right time,” Eidus said. "Then if the pet parent doesn't want to be the dispenser then we have optional Bluetooth dispensers and you can automate the process.”
Games get progressively more challenging, so the dog is never bored.
Eidus’ pooch, Ollie, is a level five. She’s a PupPod ninja.
A busy dog is a happy dog. Eidus has tested this toy on thousands of dogs and says it can actually help prevent behaviors like chewing and barking.
"Separation anxiety, all these kinds of things can be benefited by doing these types of activities,” said Joey Iversen, a professional trainer who owns the company Think Spot and has brought in a dog to try the toy.
Even though Chaya, a 9-month-old pup, has never seen a PopPod, she quickly figures out how to make it work, showing that no special training is required for dogs to interact with PupPod.
Eidus' biggest challenge bringing his product to market?
"Figuring out how to get people to buy the product because we're so focused on dogs as the user, but unfortunately dogs don't have any money,” he laughed.
You, not your dog, can find it at PupPod.com -- it retails for 179 dollars. And this entrepreneur has already sold out his first production run of this smart toy -- that makes smarter dogs.
"I think my favorite part is seeing the reaction from people who didn't even imagine that this was possible."
Story produced in collaboration with Start IT Seattle. Connect with them via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.