Furbo and Amazon’s Alexa Work to Help Alleviate Pets’ Separation Anxiety

September 26, 2017

Furbo, a dog camera and treat dispenser designed to connect pet parents and pups from afar, recently announced the launch of an Amazon Alexa skill developed to help dog owners train their pets and decrease separation anxiety.

The first dog camera featuring treat-tossing capabilities on the market, Furbo is described as one of the most advanced pet technology devices available for consumers. Furbo is a property of Tomofun, a pet technology company that is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, with offices in Taiwan and Japan.

According to veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, an estimated 20 percent of dogs suffer from separation anxiety when their owners leave for extended periods of time. Separation anxiety can cause dogs to display destructive behaviors such as barking and howling, and chewing and damaging property, among others. When developing the Alexa integration, Furbo worked to incorporate commands specifically designed to help alleviate separation anxiety.

Allowing users to associate some of Furbo’s most innovative features with pre-scheduled or behavior-based events, the integration is initially launching with commands focused on treat-tossing capabilities. The Alexa skills integration will enable Furbo to make it easy for dog parents to use behavior modification techniques to help keep dogs calm while away.

“We worked with pet parents, trainers and veterinarians when we designed Furbo,” Tomofun CMO Maggie Cheung said, adding that the product’s multiple features help solve the problem of dogs being left alone at home.

By scheduling treat tossing for five minutes when a pet owner walks out the door, a dog’s mind is taken off the act of leaving, meaning the Furbo cataloguedog does not have to experience the moment of watching its owner leave. Additionally, barking alert-based commands will allow users to schedule treat-tossing following a pre-set period of time in which a dog does not bark, rewarding the pet for staying quiet while parents are away. And Furbo makes a clicker sound just before releasing a treat, which will enable the pet to associate the sound with its reward. See it in action here.

“As a dog parent, the struggle of having to leave my dog, Gobi, for hours on end when at work is what initially inspired the development of Furbo,” said Tomofun CEO Victor Chang, who started developing the product in 2015 before launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo last year.

“As Furbo has grown and evolved, we knew there was an opportunity to bring more technology and innovation into the training process to help with separation anxiety. This integration with Alexa is meaningful for decreasing anxiety for both the puppy and the parent who worries about leaving their dog at home alone.”

After linking the Furbo account and discovering the camera in the Alexa account, users can start tossing treats by saying commands like “Alexa, ask Furbo to toss a treat every 30 seconds for 5 minutes” or “Alexa, ask Furbo to toss a treat every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

One of the first pet technology companies to develop an Alexa skill, Furbo tested the integration with a dedicated set of users ahead of launch, including Dr. Brooke Deaton Medders, a veterinarian based in Brandon, Mississippi.

“The best tool in behavior modification is distraction and positive reinforcement. My Furbo does both,” Medders said. “Usually my pets would be standing by the door whining for me to come back home. With Alexa asking Furbo to toss treats on a schedule, they lose focus on me being gone and turn their focus to treats! A fun reward for being calm and turning their attention away from what’s stressing them out.”

Furbo is available for purchase at the Furbo website and on Amazon. The Alexa skill is available to download from Amazon’s Alexa skill store.

“Furbo was the best-selling dog camera on Amazon last Christmas, and the number one pet supply product during Amazon Prime Day this year,” Cheung said. “Right now, we’re going digital. In the future, we might open up the product to pet hotels and pet boutiques.”

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