iPads Go to the Dogs

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You may or may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can certainly try to get Fido to use an iPad.

New York dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman has done just that, with success -- although a lack of apps limits the possibilities.

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"It's a novelty. It's just sort of a fun thing to do," Grossman told AFP at School for the Dogs, the canine classroom she runs with partner Kate Senisi near Manhattan's Union Square. "There's not a huge amount of purpose to it -- but the way I see it, we're playing games all the time on our iPads anyway, so why not play games with our dogs?"

Grossman, a native New Yorker and lifelong dog lover who's also a freelance writer, was inspired by a fictional news article about a college applicant who instructs dogs on correct tablet technique. The original real-life iPad dog was Grossman's eight-year-old poodle-Yorkie mix Amos, whose rich repertoire of silly tricks such as rolling over dead upon hearing the words "bang bang."

In the interests of objectivity, AFP brought its own dog, a three-year-old dachshund mix, down to Grossman's place to see if she could turn him into a genuine geek on four legs. Starting off simply, Grossman got Bandit to touch her hand with his nose on command, in return for a tasty treat as a reward for correct behavior. From there she got the dog nudging a fly swatter, then a pad of Post It notes, occasionally using a smear of peanut butter to focus its attention.

Then came the iPhone and iPad -- no doubt Android devices work just as well -- with their touchscreens reacting instantly to the gentlest pressure from a wet canine nose. "We go through a lot of screen cleaner here," Grossman confessed.

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Within an hour, Bandit could take a self-portrait on command, using an app called Big Camera Button that triggers an iPhone camera shutter just by touching the screen. (The resulting image was an extreme close-up of his eyes and forehead.)

"What's nice about the iPad or iPhone or whatever you're using is that it registers that moment that (the dog) touches it," Grossman explained.

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