, PAWLS — Shriya Hardikar


Ubiquitous computing coursework project

1 Minute Project Summary

What is PAWLS

Solution to decrease behavioral issues in dogs using ubiquitous computing

What did I do?

Conducted user research to build a prototype of a ubiquitous computing solution and designed a prototype. The solution was a physical PAWLS device + PAWLS app


What roadblocks did I face?

- Crate focused product only (dog needs to be crate trained)
- Prioritization of issues through multiple dog issues
- Solution focus of trigger nullifying VS long time behavioral change
- Product automation VS owner control

Team size



Skills & Tools


Sept - Dec 2019

UX Researcher & Designer

Literature review, Contextual Inquiry, Ideation, Survey, Diary Studies, Affinity Map, User enactments, Prototyping, Interaction Prototype, Arduino

Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Rasbian OS, Motion Camera Software


PAWLS is essentially a smart crate system that decreases disruptive barking in dogs using positive reinforcement and stimulus masking methods. It can collect data about a dog’s barking, collect information about what triggered the barking, and is capable of coming up with personalized recommendations for users detailing steps that the owner can take to aid the training. There are two components to Pawls, the physical crate that uses pervasive technology and the mobile app which gives users the power to access all the collected data in digestible form and it also allows them to control the crate.
PAWLS could be called a comprehensive training solution that guides new dog owners through the training process and facilitates the development of healthy behaviors and a strong bond between owner and companion.

Process flow



Each year, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the US. Less than half of these animals are adopted. One of the main reason why animals are returned is behavioral issues. In order to address this issue of pet homelessness, we decided to explore how ubiquitous computing can do two things: decrease the number of dogs being given up by their previous owners to shelters and ensure that adopted dogs stay adopted and remain in their new homes.
Our preliminary goal was to build a system that assists owners in training their dogs, and a systems that mitigates behavioral issues like barking.In order to narrow the scope of our project, we elected to focus our efforts on newly adopted dogs and their owners.

Design problem

How can ubiquitous computing assist in training and mitigating behavioral issues like barking in adopted dogs?


Using semi-structured interviews, literature reviews, and informal observations, we developed the following key findings:

Behavioral issues are both the number one complaint of new pet owners, and the number one reason animals are returned to shelters.

New pet owners, while often excited about their new companions, often experience behavioral issues in the time period following the adoption process. Some of the most prominent behavioral issues were related to aggression and fearfulness.Crate training was cited as a possible solution, but interviewees seemed interested in augmenting this solution further.

There are some solutions that have been proven to work, but could potentially be augmented further.

In terms of processes, a consistent routine and the consistent applications of clear boundaries are critical for dogs when they are first introduced to a new home. Reducing sensory overload by blocking the view in windows, providing busy toys, white noise machines, pheromone treatments can assist in establishing and reinforcing good behavior. Research indicating that pet owners who ask for help before returning an animal are more likely to keep the pet than others who did not seek advice, so access to a pet sitter, dog walker, trainer, or other animal behavior specialist are also important existing solutions.

New pet owners are willing to invest in solutions, but affordability and effectiveness are key considerations for them.

New pet owners were eager to talk about potential technology solutions to the behavioral issues they experienced with their pets. They specifically cited things that would calm the dogs and assist them in monitoring their mood, or opportunities to decrease triggers in their environment.


Our study was designed so we could help answer the following key research questions that will help us further re-define our concepts to address the actual problems many dog owners face:

1. What kind of behavioral issues do dog owners typically deal with?

2. What typically triggers a behavioral issue with the dog?

3. Have dog owners conducted any training or coaching with their dog?

4. How do dog owners address behavioral issues?

5. Where do dogs normally feel safe?


For our survey, we tried to get an idea of how we can further define our scope and concepts by focusing on what specific behavioral issues dog owners are dealing with, and how common they occur. The survey was distributed through various channels, including various UMSI e-mail groups, along with Reddit and Facebook groups related to dog ownership and training. Most of the survey comprised of questions related to dog owner’s experiences with their dog, what kind of behavioral issues have occurred, if they’ve gotten dog coaching or training, and what owners do to help mitigate the dog’s behavior. We also asked users what kind of activities tend to trigger behavioral issues with their dog.

Survey analysis


For our diary study, our goal was to understand how dog owners addressed behavioral issues right as they’re occurring, along with their frequency. Participants were recruited through our survey responses of owners who specifically adopted their dogs. For five days, 2 participants recorded dozens of entries in a behavioral log every time a dog experienced any emotional distress.
The first part of the diary study allowed us to better understand each dog’s unique history and temperament. We asked their owners to give us general information about their adopted dog, including name, age, breed, past training, favorite treats and toys, and where the dog normally feels safest.
In the second part of the diary study, participants were tasked with keeping a behavioral log of every instance of their dog experiencing any distress, when and where it occurred, what triggered the dog’s response, how serious the dog’s response was, and what the owner’s did about the dog’s distress. These behavioral logs helped us better understand how dog owners react to their dog’s emotional distress and whether or not one of our three concepts might provide a better solution.

Diary study analysis

The diary study was analyzed by breaking down every component of the behavioral log, including each specific trigger, location, the dog’s response, and how the owner responded to the dog’s inappropriate behavior. We used Trello to create an affinity board to help organize common themes between the participants and their dogs. Participants recorded a wide range of behavioral issues related to their dogs, including instances of their dogs begging for food, responding to abrupt noises, responding to other people, and responding to other dogs.



From the diary studies, we learned that the most frustrating dog behaviors were aggression triggered by the presence of other animals and indoor barking triggered by an auditory stimulus. To narrow our scope, we elected to just focus on discouraging dogs’ disruptive indoor barking rather than try to target both behavioral issues since aggression involved more variables such as another animal. Using positive reinforcement and stimulus masking methods, we hope that our solution will train the dog when the owner is not home to provide the training themselves.
Additionally, we hope that owners, by seeing the Guardian in use, will develop a deeper understanding of what triggers and calms their dog’s barking. Our refined target audience includes newly adopted dog owners who spend more than an hour, on average, away per day from their barking-prone dogs.

1. Dog Oriented : PAWLS is a system meant to augment the house for dogs that are not kept in crates when the owner is not home.

2. Involves Positive Reinforcement: Rewards the dog’s good behavior. When the dog stops barking for a certain amount of time, a treat will be automatically distributed by the Guardian.

3. Effective: Is able to locate potential triggers before behavioral issues can arise using motion, light, and sound sensors and notifies the user through phone notifications and the central communication screen located near the home’s thermostat(s). When the dog barks, PAWLS will play a pre-recorded audio of the owner giving the dog commands.

4. Trigger Nullifying: PAWLS would allow the user to open and close doors and blinds, shut off lights, and decrease the sensory load on anxious, fearful, or aggressive dogs from their phone or compatible device. Can sense outside noise and play calming music to mask the auditory stimulus and to accommodate for instances when the stimulus is visual, the dog’s view will also be blocked off by automatically drawn curtains.

5. Behavior Change: As the dog’s barking frequency decreases, over a period of time the Dog House responses such as calming white noise playing and closing of blinds will also “weaken.” For example, the noise will be played quieter to not completely mask the auditory stimulus, lights will be dimmed not shut off, and the blinds will not completely block off view.

6. Well-being: The comfort of the dog is our highest priority. PAWLS does not confine the dog to a small space and rather allows the dog the freedom to roam throughout the house.


Our experience prototyping study involved conducting five user enactments with each of our five participants for a total of 25 user enactments to answer our four research questions. Through the user enactments, we wanted to understand users’ perception and the strengths and weaknesses of our product in varying scenarios. With our enactments, we wanted to answer the following questions:

Study Design

1. What smart crate features do users see themselves using at home versus when they are away from their home?

2. Does the smart crate feel invasive?

3. How much remote interactivity and automation do owners expect from their smart kennel?

4. What kind of information should be regularly available from their mobile devices?

Scenarios given to the users
Findings and Design Implications

While earlier research informed us about user’s general pain points, it was in this stage of our research that we were able to directly observe users interacting with our product in the way they would in their home. As a result, we were able to observe the user's authentic reaction to our suggested features, rather than our abstract ideas or hypotheticals. It was these reactions that helped us gain a more accurate understanding of if and how our ideas were addressing user needs and the pain points we had previously identified.

Finding 1: Owners would like to have more control over the system, and rely less on automation

Initial setup of system should include a process to learn user’s preferences for automated vs manual features System should use companion application to notify user when taking action, and give the owner the opportunity to stop or “snooze” the action if it’s not what they want Automated features should still be available for users that like them, but should not be the default

Finding 2: Being unable to react is just as bad as being uninformed

Notifications should be solution-oriented and give the owner a sense of agency System should have alternate means of communication with the owner, such as SMS, if the application isn’t working.

Finding 3: Data is king

Companion app should aggregate and display information in the form of graphs or other easy-to-read visualizations Companion app should make it easy for owners to identify patterns in order to adjust their training regimen Companion app should utilize data to show progress and aim to motivate the user The system, including the companion application, should be transparent about the data it collects and make it easy for the user to locate and use the data

Finding 4: The system should train the owner as much as it trains the dog

The system should have the ability to use the data it gathers to make recommendations to the owner The companion app should aim to educate the user when it makes a recommendation, rather than just supplying the recommendation The companion app should use user input and available data to show the user’s progress, as well as the dog’s


Storyboard 1
Storyboard 2


High Level Architecture
High level architecture of the proposed system

PAWLS is a solution which the owners has to use with the dog crate. PAWLS is comprised of features like video camera, speaker, sound sensor, video feed, crate door control, and blind control. PAWLS app is essentially used with the device. The app’s main purpose is to receive real time notifications from the device. It provides users with features such as real time interaction with the dog using camera and video feed, and control of crate doors and blinders. It helps set up the usage of PAWLS device.

Key Features
High level architecture of the proposed system
PAWLS Device Prototype

After researching various IoT microcontrollers, our group decided on utilizing a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ instead of an Arduino or Particle Board. The Raspberry Pi’s quad-core processor is best suited for processing and streaming high-definition video. The Raspberry Pi’s extensive DIY community helped guide our software implementation, which involved running open-source “Motion” software, which offers extensive options related to recording video streams. We also needed to identify a camera that could record the entire area within a kennel using a fish-eye style lens. Materials needed were Cardboard, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, Night Vision Fish-eye Camera Module, and Bluetooth Speaker. Software needed were Raspbian OS, and Motion Camera Software.

PAWLS App Prototype

Video camera will be used to record the dog behavior. Video camera is controlled using the PAWLS app. Owners will be able to talk to their dogs using the speakers. Sound sensors will essentially help the PAWLS detect when the dog is barking. With treat dispensor the owner can give treat to the dog anytime with just one click on the app. PAWLS app lets the owner controls blinds and crate door using the app. With visual video owner can video chats with their favorite pet!


Dogs might not be accustomed to crate training or worse, the crate can be a source of negative and hostile feelings for the dogs. When the owner is not home, PAWLS is most effective once the dog is lured into the crate, but is not effective when the dog is not. Trying to lure the dog into the crate might be more difficult in real life filled with many variables. Connect with sensors within and outside the home, rather than just solely rely on sensors within the smart crate.

Final Project Presentation
More information on project