Dan Knudsen, Ph.D. ’ 13
Co-founder of CleverPet
Leo Trottier, M.S. ’07
Co-founder of CleverPet
EVEN THE MOST WELL-BEHAVED DOG
can get into trouble when left unattended.
With most American households abandoned for
the workday, man’s best friend is often left
alone—bored, anxious and likely to wreak
havoc on a favorite pair of sneakers (or worse).
Leave it to Tritons to find the solution—one
that goes beyond curing boredom and preventing
messes, and uses research to revolutionize our
pets’ lives. Such was the goal of Leo Trottier, M.S.
’07, and Dan Knudsen, Ph.D. ’ 13, two UC San
Diego graduates who saw the unique opportunity
to apply their scientific skills to a market that has
been historically dry of new technology.
The pair co-founded the company CleverPet,
whose first offering is the Hub, an interactive and
adaptive tool that engages dogs in automated
activities using food to incentivize successful
completion of various learning games. Via three
touch pads, an array of lights and the ability to
record an owner’s voice, the Hub cognitively
stimulates dogs while keeping them happily busy
and curious. Drawing upon Trottier and Knud-
sen’s background in research science, the console
was designed to constantly adjust its difficulty
level and interaction patterns according to data
sets that are analyzed over the device’s cloud
connection. Wi-Fi connectivity and a mobile app
also allows owners to monitor their pups via live
updates, set a schedule, and manage food intake.
The roots of CleverPet can be directly traced
back to Trottier and Knudsen’s graduate studies
at UC San Diego. Though neither studied animal
cognition specifically, Trottier’s cognitive science
and Knudsen’s neuroscience education greatly
influenced the research-based origins of
CleverPet. “Brains are way more similar than they
are different from each other,” Trottier explains.
“Emotions like anger and fear, those things are
preserved across species. You look at the way
learning works—that is preserved across species.
If you look at the way social interaction works,
certainly among other social animals, there’s a lot
Marrying technology and behavioral research
proved to be a popular concept with the public,
who gave the Triton duo their start. The potential
of CleverPet was realized in spring 2014 with a
crowdfunding campaign in which more than
1,000 backers helped raise $180,000 in funding,
nearly double the original goal.
Isn’t it time dogs benefited from cognitive
and neurological science?
BY BRANDON YU, MUIR ’ 16