Have game-makers built a better dog?
The virtual dogs in Nintendo's new Nintendogs game have so many cool features that real dogs might be tempted to roll over and give up.
This popular game lets you choose, train and care for a pretend pooch that lives inside your Nintendo DS. The dogs are very realistic-looking and cute. (They stay puppies forever!) They can learn to catch a flying disc in just a few days -- unlike your dog, admit it. They respond to your voice. And they produce odorless, two-dimensional poop that is easily cleaned up by tapping the screen with a stylus.
Still, digital dogs can't give slobbery kisses or chase you around the yard. And -- since the worst thing that happens to neglected digital dogs is that they run away -- Nintendogs doesn't teach much about the serious side of caring for a living animal.
"Real dogs have real needs. You can't turn off the switch when they need a walk and it's raining," said Takoma Park dog trainer Elizabeth Marsden. "When kids don't take care of real dogs, they wind up in the shelter, where only about 25 percent of them will find a new home."
To help kids think through the pros and cons of dog ownership, KidsPost's Fern Shen compared a digi-dog with its low-tech canine cousin.
Alex Burness, 14, and his sister Molly, 12, of Chevy Chase talked to us about Mo, their brown-and-black, one-eyed pug. (An untreated infection caused Mo's eye problem, the Burnesses were told at the rescue shelter where they adopted Mo.)
Arthur Rogers III, 10, of Mitchellville talked to us about Lucky, his brown-and-white Chihuahua Nintendog. Arthur would like to have a real dog someday. His dad thinks that training Lucky is good practice for that bigger responsibility.
and Alex Burness, 12 and 14, play with Mo in their back yard.