I have two little, obnoxious dogs that I take everywhere with me, even to CES 2016 (though not to the show floor). So I'm naturally pretty interested in the latest developments in the world of pet technology. But most pet tech is superfluous at best—unless you've hired a dog-walker you don't trust, keeping track of the exact amount of exercise your dog gets each day is an example of paying too much attention to a less-than-crucial statistic.
Not all technology for pets is pointless, though. Here are seven new products that may actually have a place in your pet's life.
A couple of weeks after I brought home my first puppy, Blanka, I went to a wedding in Fresno, California, and had to leave him alone in my hotel room. I missed him, but I was mostly worried that he was destroying the hotel bathroom during the 5 hours I was away (he was). If I'd had something like the $199 Petcube--a 138-degree wide-angle camera housed in a 4-inch aluminum cube that connects to Wi-Fi and lets you check in on your pets while you're not there in person--I could've allayed my fears. Or, well, watched him destroy the bathroom.
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But Petcube is more than just a camera. This gadget also lets you interact with your pets remotely, though I'm pretty sure the interactive element is more for your benefit than it is for theirs. The Petcube has a speaker and a microphone built-in, so you can hear and talk to your buddy, plusa 5mW 3R class laser for some laser-pointing frustration fun.
I guess some dogs are geniuses (mine, thankfully, are not) that get bored sitting around all day, waiting for their owners to return. And bored pups = destruction. Enter the $299 CleverPet, an interactive dog toy that uses lights, sounds, and colors to occupy your dog's time—when it's not busy pursuing the latest advances in string theory on its own. This pricey toy has a hidden bowl that dispenses treats whenever your dog does something correctly, such as push a lit-up button. CleverPet has a few different games built in, including "catch the squirrel" (the lights flash back and forth and your dog is supposed to 'catch' the lit-up button) and "word learn" (the toy says "left" and your dog is supposed to press the left button).
To fit in with the quantified pet trend, CleverPet also offers an app that delivers minute-by-minute updates on how well your dog is doing--what levels it has reached, what games it's best at, and how many treats it has eaten. Assuming that your pup takes an interest, CleverPet is a great gadget for a bored Labrador Retriever that would otherwise be chewing through your sofa. My French Bulldog, on the other hand, is perfectly content to mitigate his ennui by sleeping 23 hours a day.
Dog wearables are all the rage, but most makers of these doodads have a tough time explaining why, exactly, you need to track the amount of exercise your dog gets. The $95 WonderWoof isn't just a regular activity tracker, though. This cute, bowtie-shaped collar accessory connects to an app built around a location-based social network, so you can find your puppy's playmates and schedule playdates.
For those of us who live in cities and have breeds that don't play well with others (French Bulldogs are often shunned by other breeds because they have fewer facial expressions and like to run into other dogs with their heads), WonderWoof's social network sounds awesome. I'd love to be friends with all the Frenchie owners in my neighborhood!
If you want to see the world through the eyes of your dog, you can strap a GoPro Fetch harness onto him, but this isn't a great solution. In the first place, you need a GoPro. And in the second, it's not exactly the most comfortable-looking wearable around. Is your dog really going to act the way he normally does when he's all trussed up like that?
Probably not, which is why the $100 PawsCam—a small, collar-dangling wearable camera that takes 6-second videos whenever it detects movement—is such an appealing alternative. The PawsCam video system uploads the resulting video clips directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi, where you can remotely access them from any device (the cloud storage service is reportedly free for life). The PawsCam is shock-proof and ruggedized, and its rechargeable battery is good for five days on a charge.
5. Petnet SmartBowl
Not sure if you're feeding your dog too much or too little? Instead of using the potentially error-laden, American Gothic-era method of scooping out dog food with a measuring cup, you can depend on Petnet's $49 SmartBowl to tell you when you've doled out the perfect amount of food for your pup. The SmartBowl, which will start shipping in April, connects to an app that lets you input your dog's breed, weight, and activity level and then calculates exactly how much food your dog needs (I assume it also takes the type/brand of food you're feeding Rover into account). You can also set up the app to automatically reorder food when you're supply is running low—a feature your pet will surely appreciate.
Several GPS tagging devices, including the new $100 TraxPlay, are designed to help you keep tabs on your furry friends. The TraxPlay is a small, lightweight GPS tracker that attaches to your pet's collar (it's also designed for collarless kids) and alerts you whenever they go beyond certain area boundaries (geo-fencing) or are traveling faster than a certain speed (e.g., if they've been dognapped and are speeding away in a car).
The companion app has a neat augmented reality feature: If your dog is hiding in the woods and you can't see him, just point your phone in the direction of his tracker and you'll see a pop-up with the distance to the tracker. The app enables you to track multiple trackers, and also lets you schedule geo-fences that generate alerts only on certain days or at certain times.
7. DOTT Dog Tag
If you live in a relatively dense, large city, you may not need an expensive GPS tracker to keep an eye on your roaming puppy. The $30 "set-and-forget" DOTT dog tag uses a community search feature, rather than GPS, to keep track of your pet. Here's how it works: When your dog gets lost (that is, leaves the vicinity of your smartphone), the DOTT tag sends out signals that reach anyone within a 350-foot radius. If someone with the DOTT app installed on their phone is within 350 feet of your pet, you'll get an alert that specifies your pet's last-known location.
The DOTT tag is inexpensive, and it has a battery life of up to six months. But it's only as good as the network: If you live in a rural area or a city with few fellow DOTT owners, it won't work as well as regular GPS does.