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Social Networking for Dog Owners

Faye DesPres
Jan. 27, 2009

Where to find virtual pet friends for dog owners.

Next time you decide to log on to Facebook, watch out -- Fido might beat you to it. Dogs (actually their "people" writing in for their pooches) from across the U.S. and around the world have been jamming the servers at DoggySpace.com to do a little social networking of their own.

"Hi my name is Dottie," writes one canine whose current mood is listed as "excited."?? "I am 2 yrs. old. I am a mixed breed I am mixed with shepherd and husky. I love to play with my sister Fiona and our 11 brothers and sisters that are cats. I love to play in the yard and go for walks. I love kids and other animals. I am very lovable and affectionate." DoggySpace was launched in July after the staff at a Virginia company called Mad Frog Productions came up with the idea on a lark. That lark turned into a website that has caught on with dog owners in the U.S., England and as far off as New Zealand. It helped, says CEO Levi Thornton, when the Associated Press featured the site in an article.

"In the last two days we have had almost 70,000 people visit the website. Within that time, over 7,310 people have created an account," Thornton says, noting that new members are signing up at a rate of 100-400 accounts per hour, depending on the time of day.

Why are so many dog owners signing-up for this very niche social networking site?

"You can come online at the end of the day, and instead of going onto MySpace and being yourself, you can sort of role play as your dog," Thornton said.?? "You can write, 'my mom and dad had a rough day at work.' People are really enjoying that role-playing perspective."

Thornton says DoggySpace differs from other popular pet sites, such as Dogster and Catster, because although those sites allow members to sign up and post pictures of their pets, they are highly content-driven. Both Dogster and Catster provide a wide range of articles and information on everything from pet breeds to medical conditions or adoption advice. "We are a pure social network," Thornton says. "All the content you see is from our users.?? We only provide the technology and the method to get there."

Between 70 and 80 percent of DoggySpace members are women, according to Thornton. Members can create a profile by uploading a picture and a blurb about their pet, adding video and starting a network of "friends." The site will soon offer a journal feature so the "dogs" can write regular updates about their lives. Other upcoming features will include forums and groups. "You can make a group just for Yorkies, for example," Thornton said, "and as a user you would moderate that group."

Professional dog sitters could benefit from membership by creating groups and interacting with members in their communities, Thornton adds. "We already have quite a few professionals on the site...there is a lot of opportunity to share information. You can also meet local businesses and local individuals on a more personal basis than you would through a business ad, get more insight," he says.

Is KittySpace coming next? "No, no Catspace or Kittyspace is coming. I'm a hard core believer that you should focus on the product that you want to do, and our core product is dogs," Thornton says. Visit DoggySpace and see how canine socializing can work for you.

Faye Rapoport DesPres is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times as well as a variety of other publications on pet care, family and outdoor activities. She lives with her husband and five cats, and has a website at OurPlaceToPaws.com.

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