Podcast Host: Lorien Clemens
Transcript written by Casey DeArmon
00:00 Lorien Clemens
Hey pet lovers, welcome to Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub. I'm Lorien Clemens and today's episode is all about "competibility". You know here at PetHub a big part of our mission is about helping pet parents prevent their first kids from getting lost, and if they ever do go missing, giving pet parents the best possible chance to get those kiddos home. So an important aspect of returning loss pets home quickly is understanding their motivations and perceptions so that you can best predict where your furry little friend has wandered off to, and why they might have got lost in the first place. Our guest today cofounded how I met my dog, and is a nationally recognized dog trainer who has devoted her life to developing the human and canine bond. Her name is Jodi Anderson and we're super excited to have her with us today. So stick around through our short break so that after you can learn all about who our dogs are, and how to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship. We're also going to learn about Jodi's service, which is super duper cool, and you have to check it out. Hang tight.
01:28 Lorien Clemens
Welcome to Pet Lover Geek Jodi, super excited to have you on today.
01:31 Jodi Anderson
Thank you, I'm really glad to be here.
01:33 Lorien Clemens
We're gonna jump in and we're gonna learn more about HowIMetMyDog.com, but before we even get there, I want you to give our listeners just a history of you and who you are. Let's get to know you so that they see you and understand like, what an expert you are and how lucky we are to have you on the show. So tell us a little bit about where you got started in the pet industry and what brought you here where we are now.
01:53 Jodi Anderson
So 35 years ago, I decided that I wanted to -- I was in public relations on Madison Avenue -- and I decided that what I really wanted to do was to train dogs. So I got very involved -- sort of dove right in, in those days you didn't have to have any letters after your last name, you just, you know, as you said trial by fire. We went out and we did whatever it was that we needed to do to gain that street cred, and I lived in Manhattan, and for many years I just sort of volunteered to help people train their dogs and then one day, my vet, when I was there with my dog said do you think I could start referring people to you, I have a lot of families that really need help with their relationships and I love how you work and I get all kinds of great feedback from the people that you will, you know, helping now, and to be honest, that was the birth of Jodi Anderson as a dog trainer and I really dove in headfirst and learned as I went along and had a lot of amazing clients, and ended up writing a book about dog behavior. Much more of a why we need to train our dogs than how we train and one of my clients 20 years ago, had a dog that was not a great fit for her family and I helped them with how to manage this dog's happiness and their happiness, and that dog lived a very long and full life, and about 10 years ago, I got a phone call from that person who said that dog had passed on and they had just gotten two new dogs and she had this great idea. She said for all the time that has passed, and now we've got eHarmony, we've got match.com. People are meeting their human soulmates online, why is there nothing but still this random way that we choose dogs? We bring them home if they don't work, we give them back. So she came up with this great idea for How I Met My Dog, which was, could we possibly come up with a real meaningful way to match rescue dogs with the right people?
04:08 Lorien Clemens
04:09 Jodi Anderson
So with all of my experience for the previous years, being in people's living rooms and helping them with their relationships, How I Met My Dog was born out of how do we decipher what questions we need to ask and have the information when it comes to people? And how can we get the shelters and the rescues to give us enough information on their dogs so that we can do basically an eHarmony for dogs and people.
04:36 Lorien Clemens
I mentioned this in the intro but one of PetHub's big missions is about keeping families intact and you know we help reunite thousands of lost pets with their families and a key part that we always talk about with lost pet prevention is really knowing your dog and really understanding your dog because it's a big part of prevention is setting up your lifestyle and their situations to not put them in a situation where they're likely to bolt or whatever, but then even more than that, it's like once you try to find them, it's really important that you understand who they are. So beside from the lost pet stuff, which of course is near and dear to our heart, it's also just critical that, like you said, we don't have animals getting taken back to the shelter, or worse, you know, re-homed on Facebook or Craigslist or something, those are super duper dangerous. Also having a situation where it's an uncomfortable, you keep the dog for whatever reason, but it's really not a good situation for the whole family which can lead to dangerous situations and I mean the list goes on and on. So I love the fact that this site has been developed by you guys and I love the fact that you're basically using data and science and really coming at it from this really analytical approach, which of course, appeals to my geekiness. So I'd love it if you could talk about your algorithm and how it works. What does it do? You talk about this set of questions, and then what that leads to as far as choices as far as matches for dogs. So talk to us a little bit about that.
05:55 Jodi Anderson
So this is the thing that we're most proud of, we call this our "competibility" algorithm and our goal was to bring to the surface, what would make one dog a better lifestyle and behavior match for one specific person? And when we were doing that, we consulted with veterinarians, Nicholas Dodman, for one, and he is now the CEO of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, and we went to shelters and rescues and to see what information they had on dogs, as they were, you know, a dog that they needed to give us answers to questions on intake, how much could they answer, we wanted to make sure that the algorithm didn't ask anyone to evaluate behavior, just simply answer our multiple choice questions. And we had a data set for humans. And we had a data set for dogs. And the algorithm takes that information and believe it or not, when someone comes to our site and wants to adopt a dog, we asked 56 questions about their lifestyle and behavior and we do not ask what breed of dog they think they want. This doesn't have anything to do with breed. It's all about you as an individual, or your family, and this dog as an individual. And so we take the data set of the people, and then we get the data set from the shelters and rescues, we also have a re-homing portion of our site. So if you have a dog that needs to be re-homed, rather than as you said, go to Craigslist or Facebook, we want you just to answer our questions and then we will put that data set on that dog into our database, every single person and every dog in our database has a unique PET profile and PET stands for personality expectations, and training style, and, again, applies to humans and applies to dogs. The algorithm then takes these data sets and brings to the surface what would make a good match, or the odds that this match will be successful based on what the dog needs, who the dog is, what you're looking for as a person, and who you are and how you live.
08:05 Lorien Clemens
I love it. Now, there's all kinds of questions going on in my head right now. So I'm just gonna start shooting them up and I hope we get to all of them. So you come to the site looking for a dog to adopt, I assume that is through relationships you have with shelters and rescues. Can you talk a little bit about like, where's that pool coming from of these adoptable dogs?
08:24 Jodi Anderson
Absolutely, so we started out door to door. We started out in New England because there are three founders and we all live in the New England or metro area. So we're New York, Connecticut, and I'm in Rhode Island and we said, okay, the toughest Department of Agriculture laws are in New England, right? So Massachusetts, for one, if we could go door to door in Massachusetts, and start to ask the questions of these shelters who don't really need us, by the way, if we could get them to use How I Met My Dog, then we could go to the rest of the country, Texas, Florida, California, where they really do need help. And so we started out door to door, and then we would be introduced to different consortiums, the Massachusetts Animal Coalition for one. Every shelter we spoke to that liked what we were doing. We asked if they could refer us to another shelter and we launched in 2017, sort of release this to the wild to a few shelters and by 2019 we were 140,000 registered adopters who had filled out this 56 question survey, matching in 39 states and had over 400 shelter and rescue partners. So we started door to door and then we ended up being referred and we went to all the national rescue shows. So before COVID when we could all actually stand in front of each other and explain what we were doing. We were really sort of on fire and doing a great job. We decided when COVID hit that we had to add something to this matching rescue dogs platform, because so many people as you know stepped up to foster and adopt dogs. Many of the rescues that were our partners, there were no dogs, and so there was less need and there was certainly need in certain parts of the country, but the transports were all canceled. So the dogs that needed us in the south that otherwise would have been transported to the north, were no longer there, everyone was sort of in lockdown and we said, okay, how do we take the same algorithm that brings to the surface what a good match looks like, and bring to the surface, those people that now have dogs? That already live with dogs. Where in their relationship are the strengths? And where could they use a little help?
10:42 Lorien Clemens
10:44 Jodi Anderson
And this is the competibility part of our program that we have just launched, we're in the process of -- in the next four weeks, we'll have a new site, a sister site to How I Met My Dog. Now you can go on and there's a live link that says, already living with a dog, take our compatibility quiz, and what that does now is if you have a dog, we're going to ask you a series of questions about you as a pet parent, and then we're going to show you your own pet profile through the eyes of your dog.
11:15 Lorien Clemens
That's exciting, and there's a lot of different ways that you can go with that. Let's put a pin in that part, because I'm still on the adoption part and I have a couple other questions that I want to make sure I don't lose sight of. So I'm assuming now though, that things have slowed down with COVID, and everything like that you've got the wider pool, and we're hearing unfortunately, that some dogs are going back to shelters as people realize, ah, I'm no longer home all the time. This isn't a good lifestyle choice for me, which is really unfortunate but somewhat predictable I think. When I go on, if I go on and use a participating shelter, am I basically going to be matched with one dog or several dogs? And the reason I'm asking this question is because you mentioned you know, you don't even look at the breed. You don't even look at the way they look. It's just about the personality, but if I'm talking about match.com, which, by the way, I met my husband on match.com.
11:59 Jodi Anderson
I met mine online too.
12:00 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, so I mean, I'm a big one on these kind of things, but I'm here to tell you like, though we like match personality wise, it was one look at his smile, and I was like, Oh, I need to meet that guy. So you do have that kind of like, if I was only was given like, this is your dog, I might be like, what if I don't like the way he looks or something?
12:19 Jodi Anderson
I mean it's such a good question because what we do, is we match you until you adopt a dog. So just like when you're looking for your human soulmate, if they come on, and you don't love that smile, keep going. Every single day, every single dog in our database has new adopters that fit their criteria, and vice versa, every single day, dogs come into our database that could essentially match you. So if you come on and you do your profile with us, and we say to you, you have one match, and that dog is not appealing to you. The thing that's so great is that we don't show you our whole pool and let you look for that smile. That's the problem with how we choose dogs. We bring them home because of what they look like and we try them on, and if they don't meet our expectations, they go back.
13:12 Lorien Clemens
That's much like dating men actually by the way.
13:15 Jodi Anderson
Yes, except for they don't go back to a shelter they just go back home.
13:20 Lorien Clemens
Right, yeah they just go back out looking for other people to date. Yeah totally. Keep going.
13:23 Jodi Anderson
So the good news is your profile lives -- Oh my goodness, hi!
13:31 Lorien Clemens
For our listeners, my Boston Terrier puppy Hedy just jumped onto my lap and decided to be part of the interview. So keep going.
13:38 Jodi Anderson
Okay, and I sent my dog for a long walk. Right? So he wasn't on my lap, he's a bit bigger. So essentially what happens is your profile lives in our database until you tell us you don't want it to anymore and every time a dog comes into our system, if it matches your criteria, you then get an email that says you have a new dog that wants to meet you.
14:02 Lorien Clemens
That's awesome. So you can do the swipe left, swipe right?
14:05 Jodi Anderson
14:06 Lorien Clemens
I love it. Next question I have is so what then is the match process look like after your like, Oh, I like that dog smile. I want to meet that dog. So like do you go on a date? How does it work from there?
14:18 Jodi Anderson
So how it works from there is we turn it over to the shelters because this matching process is on mission. So we do not take any money for this. The shelters do not pay for this. What we're trying to do is help them make the best matches so that these dogs stay in the homes that they initially go to. So the moment you get matched, we asked you do you want to favorite this dog? Are you not interested in this dog? Or would you like to send an application, and one of the things that we found while we were building How I Met My Dog was that a lot of adopters were really coming up against the paperwork for every single shelter, and they were getting tired of it and a couple of them actually said things like this, you know, "I didn't want to fill out another application at another shelter so I thought it would be easier just to give my credit card to a pet shop, and they're just going to run it through and give me a dog". So we thought, okay, how can we make it easier not just on the shelters and help them with better matches? But how do we make this even better for the adopter? So we created sort of an amalgam of applications from different shelters and rescues all over the country, and we created what we call our common application. So you fill it out once, and it includes references, and anytime you apply for a dog from How I Met My Dog, that goes directly to that shelter, your application, and then they get an email saying, there's an application for this particular dog. Some shelters have very specific rules and need other questions answered, we say go ahead and answer them. You know, ask them and you'll get the answers. We just ask that they don't have adopters fill out an entire application again. You know they're all -- they operate individually.
16:05 Lorien Clemens
Oh we're aware. We work with a lot of shelters with PetHub and for various really solid reasons, have all kinds of different systems that don't always operate in a standard way.
16:15 Jodi Anderson
The municipalities have no choice. You know they say you have to fill this out for us.
16:19 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, totally. Another question I have too is then like, so what's the success rate? Like how's it working?
16:27 Jodi Anderson
So the great thing is for us, we had a -- I think it was in the beginning, in the very beginning, there were no returns, I think we have a 10% recidivism rate where the shelters have like a 30. So it's amazing and the few that have been returned. One was very interesting because of a son filled it out for his mother and he said the dog was ideal for me, but it just had too much energy for my mother and we thought okay.
16:55 Lorien Clemens
Yeah that right there is an issue.
16:58 Jodi Anderson
That's an issue, but we did our job, you know, so we do ask that the person who's going to be the primary caretaker of the dog fill out our.
17:07 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, that makes sense, yeah.
17:08 Jodi Anderson
Then we can make the right match.
17:10 Lorien Clemens
So I'd love it if we could kind of dig into some of your discoveries that you've found, about you know, when you're looking at your algorithm and how it's matched people, like you mentioned earlier about finding the one, the match, the you know, what's that spark that's there between that perfect human and perfect dog match?
17:28 Jodi Anderson
The real magic, is that there is no perfect dog and there is no perfect human, the real magic is, are we perfect for each other.
17:36 Lorien Clemens
17:37 Jodi Anderson
And what I have discovered from a lot of the feedback that we get is, I chose a dog that I never would have chosen on first sight, but because you gave me the confidence that there was a deeper meaning to this relationship, we were matched for a reason. I wanted to hang in, and hanging in showed me that I got what I wanted and that dog got what they needed, and when I say that Lorien, I get chill bumps, because that's the whole -- that's it, that's the full Monty right there. You should stop looking for -- my girls grew up riding and we have this expression in the horse world, pretty is as pretty does, you know everybody wants that really fancy horse until they kick you, and you have to really understand that. If you over face yourself, or that dog, the odds are that relationship is going to fail and the only one who pays the price is the dog. So what we said is, how are we going to take these creatures who have this incredible, uber intuitive sense of energy, and let them find their own adopters.
18:53 Lorien Clemens
18:54 Jodi Anderson
Because there is no perfect human and there is no perfect dog, but if we could let dogs be a little bit more part of the equation and have a voice in who they go home with, the odds are that you're going to end up with the perfect dog.
19:10 Lorien Clemens
Yeah I love that, letting the dogs have a voice, and that kind of brings me into -- so the second part of what you're doing now, which is established pet parents with their dogs, you know, what are you discovering now that are those things that people need to do? Or they need to maybe listen to the dog a little bit more and make sure that they're giving their dog what they can to give them their best life. So can you give me some examples about you know, what is your algorithm finding now with what are those things that people can do to improve their life?
19:40 Jodi Anderson
So this is something that's not a surprise to me, because in all the years that I spent in people's living rooms and diving into their relationships with their dogs, the one thing for me that always stood out was the single factor that breaks a relationship between a dog and a person, or a person and a person, is expectations. If I want a cuddler, and you're cute, and I bring you home and you're aloof, we're not going to work. If I want a running partner, and you have breathing issues, we're just not going to make it. So if we could take those expectations and bring them to the surface first. So I might have a dog that -- here I'll give you an example, I have a dog that I matched with on How I Met My Dog, and he's a Weimaraner, and again, didn't choose breed, I had already rescued a Weimaraner, but he happened to come up on my matches. So I applied for him and went to the shelter and adopted him. I am 63 years old. I don't have the energy that he has. So I walk him and exercise with him as much as I can and then I supplement because I know who he is, I know that he has expectations daily of burning that energy, and I know what will happen because I'm a professional, if I don't burn his energy, it'll come out in behavior. So on those days where I can't supplement his energy, outside aerobically, we play mind games, I hide something and say find it and he spends 25 minutes looking for it and he's exhausting himself, and I'm sitting on the couch, and I'm getting my work done. So what happens with this new competibility portion of How I Met My Dog, is we're trying to say to people, this relationship you're having with your dog, we can help you with these great sound bites of "aha" moments. Don't talk to the back of your dog's head. If you have a dog that if you're very focused, and your dog is just a scatterbrain, it's okay, do this, this and this and it will help your dog become more focused, and it will help you relax. So what we're trying to do is we call them competibility tips. In addition to giving you this wonderful payoff of custom advice, this is who you are, this is who your dog is, do this, this and this, and it'll make your dog happy, and it'll make you happy. So really what we're trying to do is in these sound bytes of information, we're trying to give you ways, sort of little magic pieces of information that are just going to take your relationship from good to great, and we also listen to the dog.
22:38 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, I love that part about the whole listening to their dog because I think that is as my dog is kissing me right now. I think that really...
22:47 Jodi Anderson
How old is he?
22:48 Lorien Clemens
She is seven and a half months?
22:51 Jodi Anderson
Oh my gosh.
22:53 Lorien Clemens
22:54 Jodi Anderson
But I mean look at that smile.
22:57 Lorien Clemens
She is a doll, and you know, believe it or not, she's a great match for our family. Now, we don't have a lot of time left but I would love it if you could spend just talking about some of those examples of of how the algorithm really helps find that soul pet, like examples, you mentioned already about like the exercising thing or like you want a dog to maybe can hike with you. Getting a dog that doesn't breathe well is not necessarily a good idea, or has arthritic issues or whatever. So can you talk a little bit about like, maybe some actual examples of some matches that were just, we nailed it.
23:30 Jodi Anderson
So we've had quite a few of those and sometimes when I talk about them, it almost seems uncanny. It's almost otherworldly because we had one gentleman who had a Kerry Blue Terrier, and here I am again with this, you know, breed specific and we do not match by breed, and he had lost his dog 12 weeks prior and he was devastated and he was a friend of my son in law, and my son in law mentioned to him, why don't you go on How I Met My Dog, they just launched. I mean we were literally three weeks old, and we had very few dogs in the system and he said, go on How I Met My Dog and just fill out their quiz and see if they can find you a dog and he said, "well, they'll never find me what I'm looking for, because this is all I want". And he said I'll try it. He went on, he filled out our 56 question quiz. We said we have no matches for you and we just didn't have any dogs in the system, and about two hours later, he was on the cape, and a woman came into a shelter in Medfield Mass with an 18 month old Kerry Blue Terrier that was not getting along with her other dog, and she said I love this dog. This dog is my world and I want him to have the best life. So is there any way that you can help me re-home him and that was a shelter we had just signed up with and the director, the director said, You know what, go How I Met My Dog and fill out their quiz and see if they can match you and that man and that dog were a match.
25:11 Lorien Clemens
That is uncanny. It is actually kind of -- I love stories like that, but you hear them all the time and I love that now we have a system like HowIMetMyDog.com to help those magical things happen over and over again. So unfortunately, that's really all the time we have, but I want to thank you so much. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap this up? My dog is eating the mic.
25:34 Jodi Anderson
It was wonderful to meet you. The only thing that I want to say is our sister site is not yet up. So anyone who wants to find out what kind of pet parent their dog thinks they are, if they really know their dog, and to get all this wonderful advice, go on HowIMetMyDog.com, there's a live link on the right hand side of the homepage that says already living with a dog. Take our competibility quiz. We can help you if you already have a dog, and if you're looking for your canine soulmate, we can help you with that too.
26:01 Lorien Clemens
Oh that's exciting. That's awesome stuff. Well thank you so much for coming on the show Jodi it was really wonderful. Remember, if you are interested in learning more about Jodi and what she does, make sure you head on over to HowIMetMyDog.com. Thanks for listening everybody! This has been Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub, and I'm Lorien Clemens. Until next time