Keeping a dog can be very much a labor of love, and it's not without its challenges, especially if you're the kind of pet parent who's out at work all day and has to leave pooch home alone. A bored and lonely dog can cause all sorts of problems, whether it's howling all day and annoying the neighbors, or working out its separation anxiety by tearing up the furniture.
There's already a DogTV channel to entertain home-alone pets, but if that all feels a little passive, why not keep your dog entertained with video games? It sounds like a daft idea – especially as dogs can't use console controllers – but it works for cats; you can find any number of gaming apps for cats on tablets, where your kitty can bat on the touchscreen to kill exciting moving targets.
And a new startup is taking that idea and building it into a dedicated console for dogs, with some neat extra touches that mean it could keep your dog stimulated when you're not around to walk and play with it.
The Joipaw Console is an all-in-one device designed partly to keep dogs entertained when their owners are out and about; its touchscreen displays a number of simple games – think whack-a-mole and you're in the right ballpark – that dogs can play by touching the screen with their noses, and as an enticing extra there's a built-in treat dispenser that'll deliver a delicious snack every time your dog scores a point (hopefully you can limit the number of treats it'll dispense so you don't end up with an overweight dog).
Sounds like fun – if you're a dog at least – but there's more to the Joipaw than simply providing a bit of helpful canine entertainment. The team at Joipaw is also focused on creating a platform for staving off dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which affects around 35% of dogs over eight years of age. It can result in symptoms including confusion, anxiety, excessive licking, slowness to learn new tasks, changes in sleep patterns, decreased affection towards loved faces, abnormal barking and incontinence, seriously affecting your dog's quality of life.
While there's no cure for CCD, its similarity to Alzheimer's Disease got the Joipaw team thinking. Studies suggest that the best way to minimize the effects of both Alzheimer's and CCD is with a healthy lifestyle including good food, regular exercise and mental stimulation, and while there's been a shift towards healthier pet food and we're all aware of the importance of dog exercise, the mental stimulation bit's more tricky to accomplish.
That's where Joipaw can come in, by providing just the sort of mental stimulation that could help delay the onset of canine dementia, in a way that dogs enjoy; Joipaw's founder, Dersim Advar, notes that in testing, dogs carry on playing by themselves even when they're left alone with the console.
It all sounds intriguing and quite promising; the only downside is that the Joipaw isn't available just yet, although you can pay a $50 deposit to reserve yours right now. Alternatively, Joipaw says that it's always looking out for testers to provide feedback on the console, so if you'd like your pooch to be among the first doggy gamers (and maybe gain a bit of internet fame at the same time), get in touch with Joipaw for more details.
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Jim is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler based in Bath, who last year adopted a pair of sibling rescue cats who turned out to be effectively feral, and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get them accustomed to people (some success) and each other (ongoing project).