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Ex-NASA Physicist Launches School to Teach Dogs How to Take Selfies

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech
March 21, 2014

Ex-NASA Physicist Launches School to Teach Dogs How to Take Selfies

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech
March 21, 2014

Puggin’ for the camera. (Photo courtesy of City Dog)

Give a dog a bone, and he’ll be happy for a day. But give a dog an iPad, and he’ll take a sassy picture of himself.

Or at least that’s what London-based business City Dog is hoping. The training center offers classes that teach dogs how to take selfies on iPads.

As chronicled in a report by Guardian reporter Shiona Tregaskis, the “iDog clinic” is part of a new series of master classes that includes dog skateboarding lessons and parkour. The 90-minute training session maintains a strict 1:1 dog-to-staff ratio to ensure “plenty of support” and costs £150 (about $247) per session.

Nicole Scott, a former NASA physicist who opened City Dog in 2007, says she hopes the class will provide an easy way for owners to engage their pets in their own interests.

“For centuries man has been engaging dog in what he was interested in,” Scott told Yahoo Tech. “Man taught dog to become integrated into his hunt; man used dog to guard his children. So you know what, if what man’s into right now is his device, let’s get the dog interested in the device.” 

Scott brought over her childhood friend Anna Jane Grossman, who is a dog trainer in New York, to lead the 90-minute training session.

In the class, each owner/dog pair is provided a set of learning tools: a clicker, a wooden iPhone, a rubber stand, and “high value” treats like liver, chicken, and hot dogs. They’re required to bring their own iPads.

The pup begins with a simple task: poking his owner’s hand with his nose. Every time the dog does it, he’s given a treat and the owner clicks her clicker. Once a canine has mastered this method (known as targeting), he knows that clicks mean treats. That’s when owners can bust out the iPad and open one of many dog-learning apps. For selfies, the class recommends Big Camera Button, which allows pooches to take a photo by touching any part of the screen with their noses. The better a pup gets at consistently touching the same spot on the screen, the more—wait for it—fetching the selfie will be.

A Shiba Inu selfie. (Photo courtesy of City Dog)

The class doesn’t stop at selfies. Dogs were also encouraged to channel their inner Jackson Pollock by nuzzling up to the device while using a Puppy Painting app.

Call the MOMA; this stuff is provocative. (Photo courtesy of City Dog)

Others learned to recognize the shape of specific commands like “sit” or “down” using the Big Words app. After a few run-throughs, an owner can simply show the command on her iPad and the dog will obey, as if he were reading cue cards. 

According to Scott, the mental work behind these problem-solving exercises wears the dogs out—a helpful trick for any city folk who might need to forgo an evening walk in a snowstorm

“Everyone says the same thing,” Scott said. “After an hour and a half of doing this, even though their dog hasn’t moved more than two feet, everyone’s dog goes home and passes out for hours.” 

This dog can read, NBD. (Photo courtesy of City Dog)

No matter how innovative City Dog’s class may seem, it’s not necessarily new. New York dogs have apparently been taking selfies at School for the Dogs for months now. “Old news,” said a New York dog when asked about selfies. He then proceeded to put out a cigarette with his paw and hail a taxi.

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