Grand Theft PAW-to! Start-up develops video games for DOGS to help ageing canine brains

  • Joipaw is a start-up developing a special video games console for pooches
  • Its co-founder was inspired when his dog got separation anxiety when he left
  • The console is a lick-resistant touchscreen and can be controlled by snout
  • Games include whack-a-mole and pinball and may help prevent canine dementia

If your pooch has grown tired of fetch and tug-of-war, perhaps they might be more interested in a doggy video game.

Joipaw, a start-up based in Hong Kong, has developed a series of touchscreen games designed to keep our furry friends’ minds active.

These include a whack-a-mole style game that the player can tap with their snout, and a counting test where they choose which side of the screen has more bubbles.

The company’s founders hope the video games will bring more long-term stimulation to dogs, and could help stave off a type of dementia known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.

Joipaw, a start-up based in Hong Kong, is in the process of developing a series of touchscreen games designed to keep dogs’ minds active

 Source: Companion Care

The games are still in the prototype stage, but are designed to be played on a lick-resistant touchscreen.

The Joipaw team claims that dogs can initially be trained to touch the screen by smearing on some peanut butter, and then gradually reducing it.

Co-founder Dersim Avdar told Axios that, while testing the games with nearly two dozen dogs, ‘the most difficult step’ was phasing out the spread to get them to play on their own.

But, when they finally get it, there is a ‘magic moment where you see the light in their eyes’, he explained. 

Further treats are dispensed from the console when the dog wins a game, to keep them hooked on getting to the next level.

The team has also developed a motion-sensitive tracker for collars that records the dog’s physical activity, and hope it will provide an alternative control method to the touchscreen in the future. 

Mr Avdar was inspired to create dog video games by his own mixed-breed pooch Kawet, who he adopted with his wife in May 2021.

The active dog quickly lost interest in puzzle games and toys filled with treats and became restless, tearing up its owners’ furniture and shoes and going to the toilet on the floor.

The couple quickly realised these were all symptoms of separation anxiety, and that Kawet needed further stimulation when they left the house.

The video games include a whack-a-mole style game that the player can tap with their snout, and a test where they choose which side of the screen has more bubbles

Mr Avdar was inspired to create dog video games by his own mixed-breed pooch Kawet (pictured), who he adopted in May 2021. The active dog quickly lost interest in puzzle games and toys filled with treats, and became restless, tearing up furniture and shoes

Mr Avdar read a study from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna which claimed that having elderly dogs play games on a touchscreen might stave off cognitive decline.

The study explained: ‘Unlike puppies or young dogs, old dogs are almost never trained or challenged mentally.

‘In addition, due to their increasing physical limitations, we usually spare old dogs the sort of training we might expect from young animals.

‘This restricts the opportunities to create positive mental experiences for the animals, which remain capable of learning even in old age.

‘As is the case with people, dopamine production in dogs also falls in old age, leading to a decline in memory and motivational drive.

‘But this natural mental deterioration can be countered with the specific training of cognitive skills.’

The games start off simply, with just one mole appearing on the screen at a time, but gradually increase in difficulty to ensure the dog doesn’t get bored of the challenge

Armed with this knowledge, Mr Avdar began looking into creating a dog-tailored console that could act as a tool in preventative canine health care.

On the Joipaw website, it reads: ‘We care for Kawet and want him to live a long, healthy and happy life. 

‘We also want him to be busy and properly stimulated when we can’t be there with him. 

‘These are the two main reasons why we decided to start Joipaw.’

The whack-a-mole starts off simply, with just one mole appearing on the screen at a time, but gradually increases in difficulty to ensure the dog doesn’t get bored of the challenge.

This results in a mental workout  that can last up to half an hour, and offers more stimulation than puzzle toys, according to Mr Avdar. 

‘I haven’t yet encountered a dog that didn’t happily sleep for multiple hours after playing with the console,’ he said. 

Joipaw also comes with a camera and a microphone for worried owners to keep an eye on their pet when they’re out the house. 


The team has also developed a motion-sensitive tracker for collars that records the dog’s physical activity, but hope it will provide an alternative control method to the touchscreen in the future

The games are able to alert the owner if any abnormal behaviour is detected during play, and this can be shared with vets to enable earlier diagnosis of cognitive decline. Data like this will be visible on a Joipaw online platform, along with statistics about their game play 

Joipaw hopes the games can be used to stimulate shelter dogs who don’t get to go out as much, as well as those suffering from dementia.

The games alert the owner if any abnormal behaviour is detected during play, and this can be shared with vets to enable earlier diagnosis of cognitive decline. 

Data like this will be visible on a Joipaw online platform, along with statistics about the dog’s game play and high scores. 

Joipaw is also hoping to incorporate games where dogs can play against their owners, and create a leader board comparing different puppy players.

According to Joipaw, there is not a definite timeline for the video games’ release or a retail price currently.

However, a console and collar tracker can be reserved online for $50 HKD (£5 or $6 USD), and will be shipped when ‘inventory is available’.

Joipaw is also working on a subscription service where customers can download new games for their console as they are released.

Doggy dementia risk increases by 52% each year after the age of 10, study claims 

The risk of dogs developing a neurodegernative condition similar to dementia increases by 52 per cent every year after they turn ten, a new study has found.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) is associated with the ageing of a dog’s brain, that manifests as reduced awareness, memory and ability to learn.

However, the researchers from University of Washington have found that active pooches have much lower chances of developing the syndrome.

Inactive dogs have a 6.5 times greater risk of CCD than those that get regular exercise.

These findings could help inform vets about when it is appropriate to start screening pets for CCD. 

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