Monday, February 1, 2010

Social Media for Dogs?

There are numerous social media tools out there for human beings to communicate with one another through language, whether it's written language using forums such as email, blogging, or twittering or spoken language using such forums as podcasts or YouTube. Having never been interested in having the world know my opinions, I'm trying to catch up and learn all the different ways to use social media both personally and professionally. I knew I was lagging behind friends in this area; what I didn't know is that I was lagging behind all my friends and their pets. Yes, a language-based medium has found a way to open the door and capitalize on people's love for and humanization of their animal companions.

I was first clued into this when I saw an article about a new device created by Mattel called Puppy Tweets. Puppy Tweets, I thought incredulously. I read on, curious about what this product did. This device clips onto your dog's collar and tweets about his or her activites during the day by using sound and motion sensors. Based on your dog's noises and movements, pre-programmed tweets are sent to you to let you know what your dog may be doing. According to the article, "if [your dog] is running around [the owner] may get a tweet that says, 'I finally caught that tail I've been chasing and...OOUUUCHH!'" As much as I would love to know what my dog is doing all day, I'm pretty sure she mostly just sleeps, and I'm unwilling to spend $30.00 to get silly twitter updates on her snores.

Seeing this product made me wonder what else was out there for dogs so I googled "social media for dogs." I was amazed at the varied results I got. There are basically four categories of social media related to dogs: websites and social media designed to sell pet products, websites and social media designed for medical discussions about dogs, websites and social media for rescue sites and dog lovers, and websites and social media used by the owners as if they were the dog. Some offer a combination of all these categories such as

Looking at these, I realized that Puppy Tweets is at least unique. It's the only social media tool where the dog can commicate without a human intercepting and communicating on his or her behalf. In that respect, Puppy Tweets is innovative, and I imagine other products will soon follow in its footsteps.

Humanizing dogs and other pets is popular in the United States. As evidenced by the myriad businesses out there, people love their pets and love pampering their pets as they would a beloved human child. There are companies making a fortune on birthday parties and spa days for their pets, pet clothing lines, and doggy daycares. I, myself, love doggy daycares because dogs are social animals and need to play with other dogs. Now social media is using the internet to capitalize on this trend.

An article on small business trends in the pet industry for 2010 had a list of 11 items, three of which have to do with social media. #6 on the list showed the importance of social networking sites for pet businesses; #8 on the list discussed the growing business of review sites for pet products and services; and #10 on the list was about the growing influence of pet-related blogs. Another author in 2009 wrote an article about the top 10 businesses that humanized pets, and the #1 business was online dating for dogs. Who'd have thunk it? I have a hard enough time finding a date for myself!

In researching social media for dogs, I realized that as a dog owner and dog lover some of these appealed to me. It's nice to be able to read reviews about pet products or pet services I'm interested in; it's helpful to talk to other dog lovers if I want to make friends to do things with my dog and me; and it might be fun to brag about my dog or post pictures to show how cute she is. However, blogging or tweeting as my dog or trying to find my dog a date just seems like a waste of time.

Social media is for humans, not pets. There is no social benefit to my dog if I spend my time writing as her to another dog that, in theory, she would be friends with. I would be doing her more good taking her to a dog park so she could actually play with other dogs and jump excitedly on their owners. Social media fills a human need for interaction and communication. It does nothing for our pets. As long as we realize this, then blogging as if we were our dog will probably bring smiles to a few human faces, but our dogs will be more interested when we shut the computer off and give them a treat for indulging our strange, little whims.


  1. It's funny you should blog about this, because I've been seeing it a lot lately. An unnamed human recently started an unauthorized blog from the POV of the Obamas' dog, Bo at And Vanessa Knauf, former MAPW student, has a blog from the POV of her two dogs at

    There's a cat on Twitter (@sockington) that has over 1.5 million followers. We humans do indeed love to humanize our animals, and it appears that a lot of folks are very successful at it!

  2. Your post tickled my fancy, so I went to PuppyTweets to check it out. The fact that the Mattel Corporation was the driving force behind the development and marketing of this product escaped my notice when I first read your blog-maybe because I was expecting something else-but that was the first thing I noticed when I went to the website.

    This is actually a great example of a phenomenon we have not yet discussed much: corporate America capitalizing on the social media craze. This product was not developed by some young, hungry web entrepeneur. Mattel is the big cahuna of toy-making. They trade on the NASDAQ. They are the people who developed Barbie. You can bet they researched this product and plan to make plenty of money from it.

    There seems to be a good bit of idealism associated with the social media boom, probably with good reason. We are in a new and exciting time. But this blog post brings home the point that, more times than not, if you dig deep enough you will uncover the desire to make a buck.