New dog training software to hit app stores
Sniffy can help! That’s the idea behind this dog training app, created by Howard Shyng and Ting Zhu.
The initial idea for Sniffy came when the two were classmates at Rochester Institute of Technology—they developed the app together and incorporated it in September 2019.
When researching the possibilities, they found an important fact.
“About 47 percent of dogs in shelters were abandoned because of not behaving well,” said Shyng, co-founder and president. “As a result, we envisioned the idea of making professional dog training resources easy and accessible to every dog owner and providing tailored plans to fit into their needs and a dog’s learning curve.”
Using the resources at RIT helped get this product off the ground. The two founders took National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps Short Course, graduated from two RIT student accelerators, and finally got into the RIT Venture Creations Incubator.
The goal was simple.
“We wanted people to be able to train their dogs more easily,” says Zhu, co-founder and vice president. “With our app, we can change the way owners train their dogs and prevent dogs from being turned into shelters because of behavioral issues.”
Today, apps are primarily developed for humans instead of animals. The dog training market is still focused on onsite classes, lacking technology-driven innovations.
Sniffy eliminates this problem by raising awareness of the importance of dog training. Sniffy uses real trainers with training videos, where competing programs use illustrations and text. Initially, revenue will be generated by having customers subscribe to Sniffy monthly or annually.
“Now, more people are staying home and spending time with their pets. I think it’s a good time and opportunity to bond with their dogs,” Zhu says.
Initially, the team created a Beta version of the software. After getting extensive feedback from people using the program, Shyng and Zhu enhanced Sniffy. They found 50 people to try the application for two weeks. Of that group, 39 of the owners wanted to continue on with the program. For those who will be using the program in the future, the fee will be $30 per month.
Shyng and Zhu have partnered with two state-licensed breeders and the Genesee County Animal Shelter, who are promoting the app with clients. Initial customers appreciate that they can train dogs scientifically and effectively at their own pace.
Next month, a new iteration will be released on the App Store and Google Play. When it launches, the team plans to invest in digital marketing. At first, the focus will be on the Rochester area. Eventually, they hope to expand to Toronto and beyond.
“Our objective is to improve relations between dog owners and pets,” Shyng says. “In five years, we aim to be the leader in the pet training market – the first place everyone thinks of when people need pet training.”
In the future, Shyng and Zhu plan to collaborate with pet stores. Once they have a larger customer base, the plan is to sell data collected from the app to pet care and insurance companies. Eventually, they plan to sell the product in China, where there are lots of dog owners and very few professional trainers.