Every morning, my husband shares with me how well he slept the night before and how many steps he needs to take to break his daily record. He checks his fitness tracker at least three times a day to see how he’s doing compared to his buddies at work, who all also wear them. With wearable activity trackers bringing in 19 billion dollars annually, it’s no surprise that pet owners are also eager to embrace technology to enhance the lives of their furry friends.
In the past five years, I’ve seen multiple brands come and go, as the market determines what pet owners want and need. If you can dream it, someone can make it happen; we have technology that locates lost pets in real-time, feeds your pet remotely with a tap on the phone, shoots tennis balls via an app. But what are people buying?
Pet trackers have sorted themselves into three general categories depending on a family’s lifestyle and needs.
I once had a neighbor whose Labrador could scale their six foot fence, despite being a good 10 pounds overweight. He did this whenever he had the opportunity. This neighbor spent hours driving around the neighborhood until someone either called her, or she found him lounging on a lawn a mile from the house.
Her problems would be solved by today’s GPS pet trackers, which use existing cellular infrastructure and GPS satellites to keep tabs on your pet via a device attached to the collar. Most allow you to set a geo-fence using an app to send you an instant notification if your pet leaves the established boundary, and track them in real time. Tractive, Whistle, and PawTracker are just some of the most popular devices. Non-pet-specific devices such as Tile are also used by some owners.
Wondering if the dog walker is actually doing his job? Want to know if your pet’s allergy meds are working? Activity monitors go one step beyond basic location tracking, collecting a variety of biometric data points such as respiratory rate, temperature, pulse, scratching activity, or calories burned. While your average pet owner may not need something this detailed, these types of trackers can be very valuable for pets with medical conditions where the veterinarian needs to monitor exercise, heart rate, seizure activity, or pain. PetPace, FitBark, and Vetrax are some of the devices that fall in this category.
Perhaps you have a dog who routinely gets the pantry door open when you’re at work. Or you have a dog with separation anxiety and you want to know how long he barks after you leave, or how he manages to get that basket off the counter. Simple webcam platforms can help owners monitor specific behaviors and even talk to their pets from the office or the road, interrupting unwanted behaviors. Dropcam, Nest, and a variety of baby monitors on the market can all serve this purpose. After using one in the kitchen, I learned that it wasn’t my Golden Retriever but my Labrador who was opening the pantry door and scrounging for carbs.
Technology is making our lives better in so many ways, and that includes our life with our pets. As devices get smaller and smarter, expect to see the offerings for pet tech to only get better moving forward!