Pioneering K9-Online project unveiled

Posted on Apr 01, 2015

Learning strategies


An innovative research project aimed at delivering remote connection and training to man’s best friend could offer help to thousands of dog owners worried about their pets suffering from separation anxiety.

“Dogs, much like their human counterparts, have strong emotional connections to their family,” said dog psychologist, Adagio Slant.

“Dogs often feel scared, anxious or bored when separated from their owners, even for just a short time, which can cause them to be destructive and aggressive.”

Leading elearning company, Sponge, has been working with Slant to create an online training tool to address this canine problem, using the Adapt multi-device platform along with the latest in 4G networking.

Sponge, Managing Director, Louise Pasterfield, said:

“When she got home, Andrea noticed that Molly kept looking at the PC for reassurance and there was distinctly less damage to her apartment than usual.

“We started looking into the potential for expanding this idea using elearning technology and roped in an animal expert to help.

“The prototype, called K9-Online, combines sound, images and even words to reassure lonely dogs and teach them basic commands, using an innovative remote dispersal system for healthy treats.”
“The idea started when one of our team members, Andrea, kept Skype open on her tablet so she could interact with her dog, Molly, while at work.”

The tool will automatically adjust to work on a PC, tablet or smartphone.

Researchers have found that dogs mainly learn in pictures and can associate certain images with positive actions.

There is also evidence to suggest that some dogs can respond to words and will obey written commands such as ‘sit’.

Stephen Hodge, Elearning Developer at Sponge, said: “We think K9-Online could help busy dog owners train their pets as well as keep the dogs happy when they are left at home.

“The trickiest part was creating the treat system so we worked with Language Analogue Systems Software York to develop a plugin for Adapt which remotely operates an automatic dispenser.

“Initially, it felt like we’d bitten off more than we could chew, but tests of K9-Online with Molly, who is a Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross, have, so far, proved exciting.”

Creating elearning for dogs, or D-learning, has thrown up unexpected challenges for the Sponge team.

Senior Visual Designer, Glen Harling, said: “Dogs colour perception is different from humans so we were limited with the colours we could use and we had to test out Molly’s reaction to different combinations, tones and illustrations.

“We also had to rely more on audio commands and reinforcements that are suitable for canine hearing.”

Sponge is now working on how the sensory experience of K9-Online might be expanded to include smell before seeking commercial partners for the project.

Dog psychologist, Adagio Slant, who owns an Alsatian dog, said: “This is a ground-breaking project which could make life better for both dog owners and their pets.

“Elearning for dogs could be the next big development in the pet industry and I think animal behaviourists would be barking mad to ignore it.”

Sponge will continue to carry out testing over the next 12 months with the second phase of the K9-Online due to be release on April 01, 2016.

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