ROCHESTER, NY – Some animal shelters, such as Lollypop Farm, had reported that as pandemic restrictions were relaxed, more pets were being brought into the shelter. But two former Rochester Institute of Technology students created a new app in hopes of reversing that trend.
Chubby likes to go outside, but his owner, Ting Zhu, says he’s easily distracted.
“When he was very young, his owner didn’t take him outside regularly every day,” Zhu said. “So he just kept Chubby in his house, which makes Chubby too sensitive to ever go outside.”
She and her roommate Howard Shyng wanted Chubby to be more relaxed when he went outside. While studying at RIT in 2019, the two created a new app and a company called Sniffy Labs.
The app comes with professional dog trainers who provide step-by-step instructions so that everyone can train their own dog as they wish.
Shyng points out that about three million dogs are sent to the shelter every year because of behavior problems.
“A lot of owners know their dogs need training, but they just don’t have the time,” Shyng said. â€œAnd the visit outside of class, the group settings, do not suit their needs. So we thought about doing something to do dog training at home, and that’s how we formed this idea. “
Zhu says Chubby has improved a lot since she adopted him two years ago with the help of Sniffy.
“I bring treats for walks, not every day, but sometimes I take them with me,” said Zhu. â€œI reinforce Chubby while he walks very nicely. And every time he walks very nicely, I’ll give him a treat. So this is how Chubby knows that this behavior gives me the pleasure. You just reinforce the process and your dog will learn. “
It also helped Maureen McGrath, who owns three boobs and has been using Sniffy for two years.
She told Shyng and Zhu that it was often difficult for her to walk her dogs until she started using the app’s leash training.
“It was stressful for me,” said McGrath. â€œAnd I probably passed that stress on to the dogs because I yelled at them and pulled them and sometimes just got excited. And now I just drag them to the side of the road with their leashes and harnesses and they just sit there and wait. They don’t pull the leash while we’re walking. It is wonderful.”
Shyng and Zhu are excited to help dog owners like McGrath and when they play outside with Chubby they think about how they can do more.
That’s why they’re launching a Kickstarter campaign to add more robust training content, nutrition and health tips, and more customization.
Shyng believes this could help reduce the increase in dogs being sent to local animal shelters.
“I think people are bringing dogs home because of the loneliness during the pandemic,” Shyng said. â€œAnd after it ended, people started bringing these animals because they hadn’t developed a strong bond with their dog. With our training style and philosophy, we not only help owners teach their dogs basic behavioral manners, we help them build strong personalities that can last forever. “