RICHARDSON, Texas — A couple years ago, at the same time Alexandra Smith was stuck at home with an illness, her dog was sick with cabin fever.
Wiggle, Smith’s 3-year-old poodle, loves taking walks, but was growing restless being stuck in the house.
“It made me feel real guilty like she deserved more,” Smith said.
Wiggle has an agility course inside the house, and every time she used it, she looked to Smith for a treat. Smith, tired from her illness, didn’t have the energy to get up and reward Wiggle repeatedly.
That’s when she came up with a way to cure Wiggle’s boredom.
“I called the patent attorney right away the minute I came up with it,” Smith said.
Smith’s idea was to create an obstacle course Wiggle can use on her own. With the help of students at UT Dallas’ design studio, Smith brought her vision to life. As part of their senior capstone project, students are given the chance to partner with business owners to bring a concept to fruition.
Smith built an initial prototype, but the students helped get it to the finish line.
Every time Wiggle clears a hurdle, she gets her favorite treat: Cheez It crackers and hot dogs.
At first, though, Wiggle outsmarted the machine.
“She stuck her nose over the hurdle and figured out how to get the treat without actually jumping over it,” said senior data science major Bradley McLaughlin.
McLaughlin and the other students quickly closed that loophole. While at work or sick, owners can use an app to give their dogs exercise, playtime or even training.
Smith’s company, Canine Innovation, hopes to soon make the product available to dog owners everywhere.
Since Wiggle started using it, she’s been more playful and it’s calmed her anxiety and Smith says it’s calmed hers, too.
“I feel a lot less guilty now knowing my dog has a way to be mentally and physically stimulated while I’m gone,” Smith said.
For dog lovers everywhere, that’s quite the treat.
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