Mobile App for Dog Training
Sniffy Labs offers professional dog training and support on-demand.
Using its mobile app, dog owners can create customized plans to train their pets. These plans offer access to lessons and daily workouts. Users can even consult with professional trainers through video calls.
Dog training is a big business. In the U.S., more than 54 million households have a dog. Factoring in homes with multiple pets means there are nearly 90 million dogs owned in America.
But about 3 million dogs are abandoned each year. And 47% of them are abandoned because of behavioral issues.
Training can solve and prevent most of these issues. But 75% of dogs never receive proper training, despite the fact that 30% of dog-owned households actively seek out training assistance.
Why is this the case? The team behind Sniffy Labs set out to find the answer.
It met with more than 400 dog owners and trainers to find the reasons behind these training challenges. As it turns out, there are a few key reasons why owners fail to properly train their pets:
• Owners have demanding schedules and can’t attend training classes.
• Online resources aren’t well-structured and can be overwhelming.
• Owners use improper methods that aren’t scientific or, at times, even humane.
• Group training classes are distracting and aren’t tailored to the needs of each individual dog.
Sniffy Labs' platform solves these problems. It makes training dogs easy, convenient, and effective.
Perhaps ironically, the inspiration to create a platform for training dogs all started with a stray cat.
In 2014, Sniffy Labs President Howard Shyng noticed an injured cat on the side of the road. He stopped to take it to the vet and eventually adopted it. This sparked his desire to create a business that could help animals.
After moving to the U.S., Howard earned a Master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Here, he and his eventual co-founder, Ting Zhu, decided to build a mobile app aimed at making dog-walking a more enjoyable experience.
They developed a prototype, graduated from two RIT student accelerators, and enrolled in the RIT Venture Creations Incubator. It was during this incubator that they decided to pivot their idea to an app aimed at helping users train their dogs.
Finally, they collaborated with certified canine behaviorists and trainers to create their professional dog training and management app.
Both Howard and Ting have extensive technical experience. Howard spent time as a software front-end developer, and Ting was a user experience designer at RIT’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She also worked as a usability analyst with Bosch, an engineering and technology company.
However, to create its platform, Howard and Ting hired staff with experience developing mobile apps. Developer Allen Cheng was a software engineer with Hewlett Packard, and is an experienced Android software developer. Larry Lai, the company’s back-end developer, has six years of full-stack software development experience.
Sniffy Labs launched a beta version of its app in December 2019. It worked with 50 dog owners, and achieved a 78% conversion rate to its paid product.
Said one owner of the experience, “I didn’t know I was training [my dog] totally wrong until I watched your videos!”
With a successful beta test accomplished, Sniffy Labs is partnering with two dog breeders, each of which reaches 4,000 owners. It’s also partnering with animal shelters that interact with hundreds of adopters annually, and events like the American Kennel Club’s “Meet the Breeds.”
To complement these marketing channels, the company is marketing via ads through Facebook and Google.
Once on the market, Sniffy Labs will charge users monthly or annual subscriptions. Users will pay $20 per month or $120 per year to access the app. Consultation sessions with trainers will be available for $60 per hour.
Down the road, additional revenue could come from collaborations with pet stores. Sniffy Labs aims to run ads from these businesses, and also sell data collected from the app to pet care and insurance companies.
With funds raised from this round, Sniffy Labs will increase its digital and channel marketing efforts, further develop its app, and upload additional training content.
Ting began her career as a software development intern with Neusoft, an IT services company. From there, she was a usability analyst with Bosch, an engineering and technology company.
More recently, she was a teaching assistant at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), where she helped teach graduate students in the basics of human-computer interactions. She then became a user experience designer at the RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Ting holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Software Engineering from Sichuan University and a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction from RIT. She also attended the National University of Singapore for one summer to study mobile app development.
Larry was a senior full stack engineer with Aspeed Technology, a tech company based in Taiwan.
Before that, he was a front-end engineer with Ponddy Education, an e-learning company. He began his career as a software engineer at the National Taiwan University Hospital.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Taipei, a Master’s degree in Computer Science from National Taipei University, and a Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from National Taiwan University.
Prior to starting Sniffy Labs, Howard was a research assistant in the software engineering department of RIT. Before that, he held the same position at an architecture library in Taiwan.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the National Tsing Hua University and a Master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction from RIT.
Allen has experience designing and building mobile apps.
He spent four years as a senior Android developer for Travelstart, a travel services company. Before that, he held the same position with VocabuLazy, a platform to help users learn different languages.
Earlier in his career, Allen was a software engineer intern with Hewlett Packard, and served in his local government in Taiwan.
Allen earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from National Tsing Hua University and a Master’s degree in Information Systems from Nanyang Technological University.
Before joining Sniffy Labs, Chen was a back-end developer with Jkopay, an internet services company.
Prior to that, he spent nearly three years as a software engineer with Garmin, a consumer electronics company.
Earlier, he was an assistant at the National Center for High-Performance Computing in Taiwan, and started as an assistant at the National Tsing Hua University.
Chen holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science.