If you know me at all, your may have trouble believing that I knew nothing about Dogster before this week. I probably landed on one of its Training and Behavior pages a few times in the past, when I was searching for background on terms like “separation anxiety” and “coprophagia.” I probably jumped off that page as fast as possible, instinctively distrusting anything I found there.
How could a person who teaches Canine Behavior and Psychology not like a site like Dogster? Would you believe me if I told you that my dog’s photos are not posted along with their stories, and that I don’t play dog games there or check out the great dog product deals? What’s wrong with this picture?
Dogster was founded in 2004 and grew slowly and steadily until 2006, when they got a $1 million angel investment from three venture capital firms.
(Aspan) (ChubbyBrain alpha) It is considered a vertical social network, described as “… an amalgam of 600,000 people built around their love of canines. Stephen Reading, co-founder and head of biz development at Dogster, said the site has drawn an audience that is 80 percent female, well-educated and average about $70,000 a year in income.” (Wasserman)
The two biggest competitors are Mydogspace and Pets.com. Mydogspace is very limited in scope and Pets.com is a sub-site for Petsmart, and only Petsmart products are advertised on it.
(AppAppeal) So for the present, Dogster is heads, paws and tails above the competition. Its biggest strengths appear to be the thousands and thousands of photos and the special interest groups that members can join. Groups range from “Snoop Dog Beagleys” (for Beagle owners) and “Rotties Rule,” to “Dog Sports” and “Home Cooked Food”, as well as hundreds more. Recently, BarkingDeals.com partnered with Dogster to offer members special discounts on dog products.
So why don’t I have an account there, and why don’t I refer my students to their Behavior and Training articles?
First, there is not enough depth in the content to interest me. None of the articles are bylined, so we don’t know the author’s credentials and although the content is not contentious, it is also tentative and unsubstantial. Often, complex matters are tossed off with a statement such as “Be sure to seek out a professional trainer to help you with this.”
The section titled “Dogs 101” should be titled “Dogs 001.” All right, maybe that’s too unkind. Maybe it should be “Dogs 050.” After all, how much research does it take to cover a topic such as how to pick the right bed for your dog? Search the site for special topics, and you’re just as likely to find the community forum where members talk about their experiences and give advice to one another. It’s a nice way to build community, but the information isn’t always valid or might even be dangerous.
Second, I am not happy about promoting the idea of dogs as furry kids, which is where this site is headed. I think this does a disservice to both species. While I am firmly attached to my canine family members, I respect and honor them for their unique qualities as dogs. There is a difference, and when people start blurring the distinction between people and other species it leads to unsatisfactory results for both.
And finally, the last reason I don’t have an account or use the site is that although I am well-educated and more than 80 percent female, I don’t make $70,000 a year with enough spare time to play at this.
AppAppeal. Dogster Review. 2011. 4 March 2011 <http://www.appappeal.com/app/dogster/>.
Aspan, M. "Media Talk: It's Dogster, for when family pets network." New York Times 18 September 2006: 6.
ChubbyBrain alpha. Dogster - Investors and Funding History. 2011. 4 March 2011 <http://www.chubbybrain.com/companies/dogster/investors-funding-history#axzz1Fg8Oyq1Z>.
Wasserman, T. "Smaller Social Networks Seen as Next Big Thing." Brandweek 2 October 2006: 15.