Know someone who loves dogs? And technology? Here are 10 great gift ideas for the dog lover with a touch of technology geek. And if that description fits you, consider giving one of these to yourself this holiday season.
It’s Sunday evening, and your dog just barfed. Twice. You’re worried because he seemed a little “off” during the day. Your vet’s office isn’t open, and you don’t really think it’s worth a trip to the emergency clinic. You could try Dr. Google, but can you really trust everything you read on the Internet? You know the answer to that one.
Instead, try Kuddly, an app that connects you to on-call licensed veterinarians 24-7, around the world, through live chat and emails. You search for vets by price, language, and specialty. While Kuddly is not a substitute for an in-office exam, and the on-call vets cannot provide a diagnosis or prescribe medications, they can give you professional advice when you need it. Then you can schedule an appointment with your veterinarian or contact your local veterinarian hospital if your pet needs urgent care.
Sometimes my dogs keep me company in my home office; other times they’re downstairs standing guard at the windows, letting me know every time someone walks down the sidewalk, and offering me a play-by-play description of his progress. “There’s a guy! He’s walking by the mailbox. Now he’s in front of the fence. Now he’s by the driveway. Now he’s by the neighbor’s yard. I can’t see him, but I think he’s still out there.” Silence. “Ooh, wait, I think he’s coming back.”
Wouldn’t it be great if I could reward my dogs when I’m upstairs and they’re downstairs? Or better yet, if there was a system that automatically rewarded the quiet? Pet Tutor is a great positive training solution. The device holds kibble, which can be dispensed manually or automatically, based on sensors that detect sound and motion — or lack thereof. The training possibilities are unlimited, from encouraging Fido to engage his brain and work for his food, to reducing Fifi’s separation anxiety. Maybe I won’t have to know about every squirrel, bird, deer, jogger, bicyclist, or mail carrier who walks down my street.
When I first saw the iFetch automatic ball launcher, my first thought was, “Tucker!” He’s my ball-obsessed terrier. He’s learned to place his ball — his Precious — into a bucket, a bowl, a thrower; he’ll put it anywhere if it means someone will throw the ball. Unfortunately, the iFetch only tosses mini tennis balls, and while Tucker will chase nearly anything that’s thrown, those balls are just too small for him. Tucker needs a regular-sized ball and lots of wide open space to run. So when I heard that the makers of the original iFetch had created the iFetch Too automatic ball launcher for medium and large dogs, I was thrilled.
The device works indoors or outdoors, and launches the ball 10, 25, or 40 feet; you can switch among those distances or choose a variable setting. It comes with custom Tuff balls, which are felted and about the same size as your average tennis ball, but they’re designed to be non-abrasive on doggy teeth. Still, you could use any ball about the same size.
Does your dog like to chase critters? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could direct that energy so your pup could chase something you could control? Go-Go Dog Pal is an R/C dog toy the comes in several shapes, like Evil Squirrels or Raccoons Who Must Be Chased. The remote control works from as far away as 350 feet, with a simple-to-use trigger button and a small steering wheel. Powered by a Ni-Cd battery that can be recharged, each Go-Go Dog Pal can zoom over nearly any surface your dog might run on, and can move as fast as 22 mph. Your dog gets the joy of the chase, while you can sit back in your chair, have a beer, and enjoy the fun. Everyone wins, including the real squirrels, who are probably sitting up in their oak trees heaving collective sighs of relief.
A bored dog is often a dog most likely to get in trouble. My Pasha used to empty all of our trash cans when we left him alone. Mostly he didn’t eat or even chew on anything; he just scattered snotty tissues, soggy cotton balls, and other disgusting items about the house. If one of us forgot to close a bathroom door, we’d come home to a rather irritating kind of treasure hunt and a dog claiming complete innocence. You can’t really blame him. Most behaviorists agree that puzzle toys are great tools to keep dogs thinking, engaged, and out of trouble. Studies show that dogs, like other animals — and humans — are happier when they work for their food. The Foobler combines the best ideas of an automatic feeder and a food puzzle toy; set the timer to offer your pup food and treats at defined intervals over the course of up to nine hours. A bell lets your dog know it’s playtime/food time.
Sometimes you just can’t be home to take your dog for her daily romp. You get tied up at work, a project runs late, you’re stuck in a traffic jam, and you’re sitting there imagining your little fur-face waiting by the door and really having to go … and you’re not there. Wag may be just the thing. It’s an on-demand dog-walking service; think Uber for dog walking.
Currently serving Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, and Seattle, Wag is a community of neighborhood certified dog lovers who have signed up to walk dogs in your neighborhood. (Sounds like a dream job for me.) All walkers are rigorously screened/vetted, Wag! certified, insured, and bonded. Use the Wag app to browse profiles of walkers in your areas, which include reviews, videos, bios, backgrounds, and certifications. You can set up recurring walks or just choose a walker for those few times when you really need someone. Plus, you can track your dog’s walk live on Wag’s GPS map — while your boss thinks you’re checking email. And you get a full report card after the walk, which includes a photo or video from the walk, distance walked, duration of the walk, and the ever-critical bit of information about whether poop (or pee) happened.
What does your dog do all day? Ever wonder what’s it like to go through life just a foot off the ground, nose to the grass, searching for squirrels, blazing trails through fields, looking up at the turkey on the counter that’s so close but so far? You can buy a GoPro and outfit your pup with a harness to capture life as a dog, or you can buy a Narrative Clip, a small wearable camera just a tiny bit bigger than an iPod Shuffle. Weighing less than an ounce, the Narrative Clip attaches easily to your dog’s collar. Its 5MP camera takes two pictures every minute, storing up to 8,000 photos. Imagine the photos your dog — or the lucky dog who gets this as a gift — would take at the dog park or on a hike through the woods. (Of course, knowing dogs, there would be a significant number of pictures featuring the hindquarters of other dogs, but you can sort through those on Clip’s companion smartphone app.) Look for the Narrative Clip 2, due out in January, featuring an 8MP camera that captures still and video footage.
If you’re like me, you have more pictures of your dog on your cell phone than of your human family. There are probably one or two or 17 that you think are just plain awesome — so good, they should be printed and framed. A gifted artist could paint a masterpiece based on one of them, don’t you think? What if that artiste is you?
What, you say? You couldn’t paint your way out of a paper bag? Well, thanks to newfangled technology developed at Paintapic, you can upload your favorite photo of your pup and have it turned into an old-fashioned paint-by-numbers canvas. Paintapic will send you the canvas or artboard, guide, brushes, and paints to create that one-of-a-kind museum-quality treasure; all you have to do is paint, sign it, and frame it — and then give it as a gift if you so choose. Do you think it will look best over the fireplace or in the living room over the sofa? Decisions, decisions.
It’s one of your worst nightmares: Your escape-artist dog jumps the fence in pursuit of a squirrel and disappears in a flash. She can’t hear you (or is purposefully ignoring you), even though you thought you had trained her to come when called. Your brain goes through a thousand awful scenarios, none of which have a happy ending. But then you remember: Just the other day, you attached the Whistle GPS Pet Tracker to her collar, and all you have to do is open Whistle’s app on your phone to know exactly where she is, pinpointing her location on the Whistle map.
Better yet, if she ever sneaks out again when you’re not looking (or one of the kids forgets to close the gate), you’ll know immediately because you’ve defined a home zone; Whistle will text or email you the instant she leaves that area. (Hmm, maybe attaching one to your kid isn’t a bad idea either …) Waterproof and durable, Whistle GPS also boasts a battery that can last up to 10 days between charges. Whistle also lets you monitor your dog’s activity level and keep track of meals to help her stay healthy. You can even set medication reminders so all of her caretakers know when she was last fed and will know not to believe her “hungry face.” This also makes an excellent gift for a friend or family member with an escape artist dog.
You wear a Fitbit to keep track of your activity level; why shouldn’t your dog be able to take advantage of the same technology? The Voyce Health Monitor is a collar outfitted with patented technology and sensors that gather vital health information about your dog. Metrics show whether your dog has been a couch potato or a peripatetic pup. By tracking resting heart and respiratory rates, you’ll have baseline data that will provide your vet with valuable information about your pet’s health. The collar is lightweight, durable, and waterproof. Now both you and your dog can be all self-righteous when you boast about your daily 10,000 steps.
Read about more of our holiday obsessions:
About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found at Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with three dogs and four cats (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans–all of whom provide inspiration for her work. Refusing to take sides in the interweb’s dogs vs. cats debate, Susan enjoys observing the interspecies interaction among the varied inhabitants of her home–like living in a reality TV show, only furrier. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™, Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting.