Puppy love -- at your fingertips

RALEIGH, North Carolina Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:56pm GMT

Dog trainer Cesar Millan poses with Lassie at 2008 Primetime Creative Arts Awards in Los Angeles September 13, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Dog trainer Cesar Millan poses with Lassie at 2008 Primetime Creative Arts Awards in Los Angeles September 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Sit, boy, and roll over -- all with the click of your thumb.

Dogs have not only had star billing in Hollywood recently due to string of canine movies like "Hotel for Dogs," Marley and Me," and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," but are also becoming more prevalent in videogames with a list of new doggy games.

Ubisoft has worked with dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan, host of National Geographic Channel's "The Dog Whisperer," on a new PC and Nintendo DS videogame that Millan hopes will launch an interactive franchise.

"I feel that we started with something very general like fear, separation anxiety, hyperactivity and obsession/fixation with this first game, but I would like to move into advanced games down the line once people understand more about animal behavior," said Millan.

"The Dog Whisperer" game features 40 'mild' cases that educate humans about training and understanding dogs.

One of the main points in the game is that animals recognize when someone is tense, angry or fearful, so it's important to remain calm and assertive.

Players take on the role of Millan's apprentice as they work through these virtual variations of real-life cases from the first three seasons of the hit TV series.

"Since I'm not there physically, games allow me to virtually help people around the world with their dogs," said Millan, who has watched his kids play videogames.

In fact, it was Nintendo game developer Shigeru Miyamoto's "Nintendogs" virtual puppy simulation for Nintendo DS a few years back that prompted Millan to enter the virtual world.

PUPPY LOVE AT THE PRESS OF A BUTTON

"My kids showed me "Nintendogs" and that's when I decided that videogames were something I wanted to get involved with," said Millan.

"That game was responsible and realistic. You don't get the coddling or the experience you'd get with a real dog, but you got the conditioning."

Miyamoto credits his "Nintendogs" creation to his own puppy.

That game, which remains a bestseller for Nintendo DS, allows gamers to choose a virtual breed that behaves like a real puppy.

Gameplay includes responsibilities like feeding, walking and nurturing the puppy, as well as teaching the dog new tricks.

Disney Interactive Studios' "Bolt" game, which is available for all consoles, allows gamers to play as the superhero K9 within the fictional TV universe from the recent movie.

That means this virtual dog has laser vision, a sonic bark and a ground pound attack to take out enemies.

Ubisoft's Wii game, "Petz Sports," lets gamers adopt a dog from 18 different breeds then train their virtual pets to compete in races and perform tricks like jumping rope and playing catch.

This June, Ubisoft plays dress up with "Petz: Fashion Dogz and Catz" for Nintendo DS.

Nintendo's upcoming Wii game, "Wii Sports Resort," will take advantage of some extra precision coming for its motion-sensor controllers with the mini-game "Disc Catch," which allows players to toss a Frisbee to their virtual pet.

When Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) releases its new free-to-play family-friendly massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, "Free Realms," this summer, one of the main components within the game is caring for a virtual dog.

"Videogames are part of the social world kids live in today," said Millan. "But I believe the right videogames can stimulate learning and creativity when balanced with Mother Nature."

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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