Pet Tutor® – Smart Technology for Positive Training

As seen at the APDT Conference 2013 in Spokane,WA  www.apdt.com

From phone apps to tracking systems or food dispensers, over the past decade, technology has gradually made its way into the world of dog training. There was a time where most technology was applied to tools that were primarily focused on punishing the animal, delivering a shock, a buzz or a spray, but with the advances in our understanding of animal behavior and the development of mechanical and electronic tools, we now have new ways to apply technology to positive reinforcement. Smart Animal Training Systems is a brand new company dedicated to the development of positive solutions to help owners (or guardians) and trainers with their pets. The company is launching the most advanced technological training device: Pet Tutor™ (patent pending),a remotely controlled intelligent treat dispensing tool designed to assist us in training, feeding and playing with our pets.

Wes Anderson & his dog TD

Wes Anderson & his dog TD

Wes Anderson, the man behind this incredible device is both an electrical engineer and a passionate dog trainer. I met Wes as a service dog volunteer during the years when I was the director of training for a service dog organization. Wes had always struck me as a methodic, thoughtful trainer; combining both technique and experience. Wes was the volunteer that I would send the dogs to with the most difficult problems. Through his experience at chicken camp, he had acquired a keen understanding of applied behavior analysis. He is also a true fan of Bob Bailey and was inspired by his work at ABE (Animal Behavior Enterprises). He saw a need for technology that could assist when we couldn’t be around, or when training needed standardized repetition.

After a few years of dedicated attention to the development of his new treating device, Wes asked me to help him with the development of training and behavior modification protocols and to write a blog. His main focus: providing a reliable, quiet and versatile tool to assist owners and trainers with their pet. The goal was also to offer alternatives to punishment for treating common behavior issues such as barking. When I realized the potential this device could offer, I enthusiastically joined his efforts. Today, the majority of Smart Animal Training Systems’ team come from backgrounds in working with the training of service dogs so the standards of what an animal can learn are very high.

So what is Pet Tutor®? It is not quite ready for purchase yet, but let me give you a sneak peak. Designed to offer trainers and owners ways to apply positive reinforcement when training or working through behavior problems, Pet Tutor® is an incredibly versatile and reliable treat dispensing device. In other words, if you can think of a situation where you would need to either remotely or automatically dispense treats to a dog, chances are, Pet Tutor® can do it. The design goals for this smart device were to:

Pet Tutor1)    Dispense treats reliably, in other words to deliver only one to a few treats at a time. It was important to avoid any jamming that would make the training session frustrating and ineffective. The patent pending treat dispensing technology Wes and his engineering team have developed is truly creative and makes it very hard to jam;

2)    Assure treat distribution as quietly as possible. If a system is too loud, some dogs may get scared, turning positive reinforcement into positive punishment so much effort was put into the noise this device would produce. As a result, Pet Tutor® is completely silent and all you’ll be able to hear is the sound of the treat as it falls into the cup or onto the floor.

3)    Make it small enough to work in different settings. Pet Tutor® can operate while set on a floor base, mounted on a crate or even hung up out of reach. It can be filled with 4 cups of food yet its simple and small shape makes it easy to fit in all sorts of spaces.

4)    Give it expandable capability through wireless technology. Pet Tutor® will be able to be activated via smart phones and computers. There will be an app to use with it, but trainers and pet owners will be able to create their own app, to customize it even further depending on their own needs.

It’s hardly possible to cover all that Pet Tutor® can be used for, but here are the main categories where this device can be of assistance:

TRAIN: Pet Tutor® comes with a smart remote or can be set up to work automatically. We can reward the dog for staying on his bed, for instance or for being silent. The remote itself also has the ability to be triggered by sound so we can play certain sounds, like thunder, baby’s cries or the doorbell and let Pet Tutor deliver treats every time the sound is played. While gradually increasing the volume, thus the system can truly help in sound desensitization protocols. We can also set it up so that Pet Tutor® starts delivering food after several seconds of silence, so we now have the option to automatically reward the dog for silent and calm behavior, assisting in separation anxiety or attention barking protocols.

FEED: Pet Tutor® can be used as a feeder. Just like other feeders, it can be set up to dispense a whole meal. The big difference is that it won’t dispense all the food at once, but instead will slow down feeding and increase the time it takes the dog to eat by delivering the food little by little. When turned around on its base, the kibble will shoot out on the floor, turning feeding into a game. This way of feeding provides the animal with more activity during the day and we all know that many behavior issues come from a lack of things to do. Instead of eating in just a minute and building up energy, our pets get to anticipate and chase after the food. They are predators after all and if they lived in the wild, they would spend most of their day looking for food instead of simply eating out of a bowl.

PLAY: Pet Tutor®’s remote also has a motion sensor. We’re used to putting treats in different toys, but what if we could place the remote inside one of these toys? Every time the dog moves the toy, it delivers a treats. The toy can then gradually be moved further and further away from the food source, getting the dog (or the cat, the ferret, …) to run back and forth between the two and expanding the ways we can provide enrichment opportunities for our pets.

Pet Tutor® was designed and tested by dog trainers for trainers and pet guardians who want the best for their pet. These are just a few examples of course of how the system could be applied and we’re all excited to see how it will be used by others to either increase their training possibilities, or help their pets with dealing with anxieties or fears or other problematic behaviors. At Smart Animal Training Systems, we’re all committed to supporting positive reinforcement through smart technology and information on our website, Youtube channel and of course, on our blog. We’re also really interested in hearing from you and getting your thoughts about this product as well as hearing about your particular needs. We’ve just launched our brand new website ‘SmartAnimalTraining.com’ where more information will be posted about Pet Tutor® as well as other products that we develop and/or support.

To see Pet Tutor® in action, check out the video below.

 

Jennifer Cattet Ph.D.

 

Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. has been working with dogs for almost 30 years, as an ethologist with the University of Geneva (Switzerland), a trainer and a behaviorist (in both Europe and the US). She has helped hundreds of owners develop a more fulfilling relationship with a special emphasis on improving the dog/human bond (http://MindfulGuardians.com/). As Director of Training for a service dog organization in the U.S, she supervised and taught over 150 offenders in the training of about 100 service dogs in 5 different prisons. She was also part of a research team who proved the ability of dogs to detect changes in blood glucose levels through scent. She now uses that extensive knowledge to train Diabetes Alert Dogs (http://www.medicalmutts.com/). Today, Jennifer Cattet also works with Smart Animal Training System on the promotion of reward based training and the development of technology to support it (http://www.smartanimaltraining.com/).

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Posted in Bob Bailey, Dog training, Positive Animal Training, Technology, Training tools
22 comments on “Pet Tutor® – Smart Technology for Positive Training
  1. This is just a new name for Dr. Sophia Yin’s MANNERS MINDER.
    An excellent tool but it already exists.

    • Have you used the manners minder… Just my opinion but I can’t get through a five minute training session without a jam. I haven’t used mine in years. Also really like the fact that it can be used online and via app. Seems to have a lot more applications then the manners minder to me.

    • It seems to have quite a few more features than the Manner Minder or the Treat and Praise though.

  2. diananic says:

    When will the Pet Tutor be available? This looks like a really great product!

  3. Angie says:

    The “Pet Tutor” is completely different than the Manners Minder. For one, it will not jam, which the MM is well-known for doing. Second, the Pet Tutor is programmable via remote, apps, etc. That was in the post. Is the MM that versatile? No. Third, the Pet Tutor is not being sold (when it goes on the market) by Premier…a company that also sells aversive training tools such as spray collars. The list goes on and on. The MM may have been the first product out on the market, but like everything else, something better and higher quality comes along to take its place. Just a suggestion Heather, but you may want to re-read the post and then really compare the two. :)

    • Subsequent re-inventions are not always superior…I’m thinking of pressure wraps and the original patented Anxiety Wrap vs. the knockout, the Thundershirt introduced 8 years later. However, I like the fact that this product has a marker signal – I don’t know if the Manners Minder does — and I will be interested to know what the price is – if it’s more affordable than the Manners Minder.

  4. Sounds promising. I could sure use something like this with my shelter/rescue pup. After nearly a year of staying quietly in her crate in the morning, she has started barking to be let out at the slightest hint that we might be awake. It doesn’t help that my impatient husband refuses to wait for her to be quiet for a few minutes before letting her out. Grrrr! If I had something like this, though, I could remotely reward her the moment she quiets down, and she would get the connection fairly quickly.

  5. Cathy says:

    Can we be put on a list to be notified when it’ll be available?

  6. Karen Tonge says:

    All very encouraging – now I have to hope it is a reasonable price?

  7. Hi Jennifer,
    I am eager to try this new product and I currently use and recommend the Manors Minder to clients. Do you have a price point yet and do you offer whole sale discounts?

    Warm regards
    Russell Hartstein Funpawcare.com

  8. WOOF says:

    I agree that it’s a similar concept as the Manners Minder or Treat n Train, but it’s got a lot more features from the looks of things. Personally I’ve been searching around for a treat dispensing product that could be tripped by a laser beam for when I’m not at home and my dogs may see someone walk past the house or the fence. I’d love to have the person trigger the dispenser to dispense food by tripping the beam so that my dogs can learn to associate people walking by the house or fence predicting positive things, rather then something they are concerned about which manifests in barking. Yes, I can and do block their vision when I can but that’s just management. I want to change their emotional state to address the barking and believe it could be aided with the use of a tool like this. The fact that this has collars that pick up the silence after barking and rewards may be what I need. I’d love therefore to have one for each dog (I have two). The only thing I would be concerned about with the collar is that the dog figures out that they need to bark, wait, then get rewarded and that they learn the behavior chain of that and therefore when they want food, they bark and then wait to get rewarded. Maybe I’m thinking too much into that. There’s always the argument that with the laser idea I have that dogs will still bark but if they are attention seeking or excited barking because they see a person, that’s fine by me as that’s a completely different state of mind. I think with a laser then there will be a stage where they will not bark and still get rewarded and they will learn it’s not the barking that works, it’s the people passing by. Anyway, I know the laser is not a feature on this product yet, but if it’s not yet in production maybe there’s a chance to incorporate that idea or for anyone else knows of one that already exists please tell me about it as I’ve not found one yet!

  9. cbletters says:

    I am wondering, how do I keep this from becoming a giant chew toy? Once my dogs know there are treats inside and it’s on the floor, it would be game over.

    • Wes Anderson says:

      Great question! Our team collectively has trained hundreds of pet dogs and service dogs so we understand the challenges of making a product that will stand up to a hungry dog. Let me start by saying our product has been “lab” tested;-) Our design begins with the construction of the main feeder which is durable polycarbonite that is food safe and dishwasher safe. The cylindrical shape also makes it difficult to get a bite. The next way we have addressed this issue is to give you more options for how you mount or use the unit. It can be mounted on the outside of a crate(see video), placed on a high shelf to deliver to the floor or even hung by the stainless steel handle out of reach. And finally our floor mount offers a novel “chase delivery” option which will shoot the kibble across the floor and away from the feeder. Thanks for visiting our site! -Wes

  10. De says:

    OH, please, I would love to field try this device! Not only do i have a service dog, but two pet dogs. One of our pets I inherited from a family member when they went to a nursing home. The dog was adversely trained to crates being kept in them for days at a time with a litter box and multi-day food and water canisters. It’s fine here at home – we have a yard fenced in for him to roam but soon we’re going to be on a road trip in our motor home and he needs to be crated when I drive, and in a very small area (it’s only 30 feet long, 8 feet wide). He will also be sharing the space with a cat as well as the dogs, and he would love to chase and bark at the cat…So much, MUCH room for improvement. Please, could I field-test a unit for you? If not, where and when can we get them? Thanks a bunch! Blessings!

  11. This was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

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