Nor Cal Explorer: Josh Pitts

 

I met Josh the other day when he favorited some Nor Cal media I shared about Chico on Twitter. Taking a look into the guy and his projects was a pleasant surprise, and a few quick emails later we were talking shop. Of all the things that impressed me about Josh and what he is doing, I have to say that I bet much of it has to do with being a military veteran much like myself.

 

An idea guy, Josh is dynamic and has an industriousness to him that any classical entrepreneur could appreciate. You might say even more so given the context of modern challenges and how Josh has adapted to be at the forefront of many progressive movements.

 

Overall, he brings great credit on what’s going on in my home town of Chico, California. A student at Chico State looking to expand his capabilities, Josh has brought his experience as a local business owner for the benefit of his classmates, and serves as a teacher assistant helping many students launch their own startups. He brings to the table a wealth of web design skills, coaches others on how to develop website businesses, and is a proponent of the Lean startup methodologies being popularized in Silicon Valley.

 

At the end of the day though, what I like best about him is how he brings it all back around to being a dog guy. He works as a dog trainer, and you might even see him around town working with some of his clients.

 

 

Josh is a dog trainer which I find to be a profoundly interesting profession, but he’s also pushing the innovation envelope for the dog training field itself, and active in pursuing social change that is needed in the industry.

 

My father was a horseman when I was growing up, so I got an early exposure to the particular dynamics of animal behavior, and perhaps more importantly how significant it was for the animal handler to have the right training. I have always found it interesting how this crosses over to other animals – including but not limited to dogs. However, since dogs are more common as pets, I think this is also where you find more cases of what you might say are the consequences of behavioral neglect.

 

Anyone can go pick up a puppy, but that does not necessarily mean they come automatically equipped with all the knowledge and skill they need to develop a healthy relationship. In fact, often times this is the underlying problem behind animal abuse, neglect, owner stress, and sometimes rejection to the shelter.

 

The solutions can defy what may be accepted as "traditional wisdom", but are easily found by picking up the services of a professional trainer. It’s generally well worth the nominal cost, and what you are likely to end up with are vibrantly healthy pets and deliriously happy pet owners. Here is some insight into the difference between old school vs. new school thinking on dog training.

 

 

I think it’s interesting to see how advances in research, education, and even media programming are making the issues more accessible to people. Reading up on Josh’s thirst for continuing education, I think I noticed he is very much into the behavioral science of dog training.

 

What I see from watching videos like this is there is quite a lot to know about training dogs, it’s not surprising how most people probably have little idea about what they are doing with their pets, but also how simple and effective the solutions can be once they are discovered and properly implemented.

 

Actually, some of the bigger problems out there have to do with people improperly training. Sometimes it’s hard for people to draw the line between right and wrong when working with a leash or using body contact.

 

Fortunately, there are methods of training that focus on positive reinforcement of good behaviors, and consequently offer more humane options for both trainer and pet. Josh is a proponent of a method known as click training. Here, check out a video that demonstrates this approach in action.

 

 

Most people have probably heard of Pavlov’s Dogs and his Theory of Classical Conditioning. This is actually something I am immensely interested in when it comes to sports science, which can be a challenge to talk to people about, but conditioning is well explained by the simple idea of sounding a click at a desired behavior and immediately following it up with a reward.

 

I think, especially today, the advances being made in cognitive and neurological sciences makes this even more profound and exciting. There is actually a lot of technology being developed around these ideas. Josh happens to be right there involved in developing better dog training tools. Check this video out.

 

 

Not to say Josh is developing Google Glass for dogs, lol! I did find one case where Josh was trying to crowd fund a project where he could use Google Glass to create and deliver a new kind of dog training experience. The funny dog video is a spoof, but it actually does invite consideration to the possibilities.

 

Even if you are talking about the device for a person’s use, showing someone how to train their dog is one thing, but maybe you could do so more effectively if they can see what you are doing and how you are relating to the animal from your direct perspective.

 

Perhaps you could extend that to a training client who might document what they are doing as media the trainer can evaluate and critique. Maybe the trainer could do evaluation real time while the client is with their dog, perhaps even at some other remote location. Josh might be out walking his dogs, but a tool like this could enable him to interact with a client real time, and of course his hands and attention would still be free to deal with the dogs he has in hand.

 

These things might simply not be practical with a GoPro camera or Smart Phone. So this is what makes the technology exciting, not so much the technology itself, but the applications for what it makes possible toward improving our lives. I think this idea was pretty interesting, but probably not properly recognized by people. I’ll have to ask Josh if he had any success with funding this project, what he intended to do, and what he still has in mind given the right opportunity.

 

Josh is in fact developing a dog training product, and this is a project I loved discovering because it kind of brings together so many aspects of this modern professional. Taking a look at this very nice website, I have to say I am impressed with the work. However, it’s the product itself that really caught my interest.

 

 

The ClickerPlus is a complement to the click training method Josh promotes, which is to say it supports the humane method of training animals, and incorporates some of the more intriguing science behind behavior conditioning. You can go pick up any number of clickers at your pet store, but they are usually just hand held boxes that represent one more thing to hold and fidget with.

 

The standard devices lack the functional engineering insight to accommodate the realities of their application – when you are training your dog, what you do with your hands is critical, hands are usually full between leashes and treats, so having to mess around with a clicker turns out to be impractical.

 

One of the more exciting fields of development today is human centered design – and what Josh has done is design a clicker into a ring that not only does a better job of supporting click training, but becomes more of a natural part of the hand itself. It may not be high tech, but the principles it is incorporating are really at the forefront of technology design.

 

Along the same lines, you can see how Josh is building out the idea from the concept of lean startup ideologies and Minimum Viable Products. If you check out the blog on his site, you can see a couple videos where he covers the story of taking this idea through to materialization, through CAD virtualizations to prototyping, developing through incremental stages, and involving his initial market of end-users throughout the process. I think he's even producing the items with 3D printing technology!

 

 

You can also see how he is crowd funding this project as well, and from his experience working with a number of crowd funding platforms such as GoFundMe and Indiegogo, he’s now taking it to the next level by developing a crowd funding application specific to his local community called Chico Crowd.

 

So just too much cool stuff! Great job Josh and keep up the great work!

 

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