Creating an Amazon “Alexa Skill” to assist with Pet Sitting for our Pup!

Bowie Survival Guide

Using Amazon’s “Alexa Skill Blueprints” to build a way to communicate with our dog sitter when we may be out of reach, within a device already in our home… How I created “Bowie Survival Guide”.

What is an Alexa Skill?

“The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) is a software development framework that enables you to create content, called skills. Skills are like apps for Alexa. With an interactive voice interface, Alexa gives users a hands-free way to interact with your skill. Users can use their voice to perform everyday tasks like checking the news, listening to music, or playing a game. Users can also use their voice to control cloud-connected devices. For example, users can ask Alexa to turn on lights or change the thermostat. Skills are available on Alexa-enabled devices, such as Amazon Echo and Amazon Fire TV, and on Alexa-enabled devices built by other manufacturers.” (Alvarez, 1987)

A brief introduction to the skill I created…

The Alexa skill I created was for the use of Dog care as it pertains to my personal puppy Bowie. The skill aims to aid and answer basic questions associated with daily pet care.

How I created the skill. (Not just that I used blueprints, but what was the design of the speech patterns/tree like? How did I refine it? How was I sure I was done?)

Creating this skill seemed fairly simple at first but eventually evolved to a much more detailed process. I say this because initially I wanted to just program a speech that hit on all the basic functions of daily pet care with menial wording. I quickly realized the task was creating roots and each one needed its own development to be of service to the skill as  a whole. This is to say that I ended up branching out to several tasks within the daily routine. For example, I could not just tell the sitter to feed Bowie 2 cups a day without identifying the following: where the food is, how much in each serving and where the bowl is located. Another example would be how the skill informs the sitter to walk Bowie but needs to be asked where the leash/harness is, how to put on the leash/harness and what times to walk him. I also found that by using a lot of different ways of saying the same thing, Alexa was able to learn how to decipher the task much easier. The tricky part was knowing when I was really done, but I think it was when I felt as though the Skills “live test results” reflected a level that satisfied caring for my pup adequately.

Video demonstration of MY SKILL

Usability study analysis

What were you trying to learn? I was basically trying to learn how to use a voice command system like “Alexa” to its potential in order to explore its productivity and see whether or not it is worth investing in. 

Qualitative analysis

I experienced viewing the test users either succeed or fail to get the information they were looking for based mostly on language. I gained most knowledge by listening to the test subject attempt to ask a question but not use the required prefix of “where is the” or “how do I”. This failure showed me that I needed to train my assistant to begin to learn more ways people might ask the same question by inputting more variations of the command/ask.  Once Alexa understood there are multiple “asks” that can be made in a few ways, the communication seemed to repair itself.   

Quantitative analysis

Specific numerical values did not really teach me much in my research. The number of times things were asked and outcomes were not as relevant as the observed data in this case. Although,  when teaching the skill to recognize things, repetition was important. 

Improvements to implement in the future

For my Alexa Skill specifically, I believe improvements lie in the details and how much I can train my assistant to recognize so that the user does not abandon the task in the belief that it must not work properly.

Video from my usability study/test


Project reflections (aka retrospective)

What was difficult about this project?

I found a portion of this project more difficult than the rest but ultimately what I found most difficult was detailing out the task into subtasks that were necessary. 

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the way the tasks within the Skill flow now that I have the sub tasks built in.


Alvarez, R.-A. S. (1987). Nombres en -eús y nombres en -us, -u en micénico: Contribución al Estudio del Origen del Sufijo -eús. Amazon. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from,to%20control%20cloud%2Dconnected%20devices.



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