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Like many young Jack Russell Terriers, Loki has a lot of energy. Pet parent Anke Taylor has embraced technology not only to reinforce positive behavior but also to exercise his body and mind.
The device she uses the most: the Pet Tutor Smart Training Feeder. A wireless training and game system, it operates via Smart Clicker or Pet Tutor app, for both manual and programmable dispensing.
“We’ve used it mainly for crate training and to help him settle when he gets overly excited,” Anke says, adding that, “We have also started using the Pet Tutor in the yard to scatter treats, to prevent him from focusing on other dogs barking.”
Terrie Hayward, Karen Pryor Academy faculty member and certified training partner, and owner of PAW-Positive Animal Wellness in Rincon, Puerto Rico, introduced the family to the Pet Tutor. She also showed them how to pair it with the non-tech Kong Wobbler dispenser. Anke puts the Smart Clicker in the Wobbler, and Loki knows now to move it with his nose to activate the Smart Feeder.
“You have the Wobbler at one end of a hallway and the Pet Tutor at the other, so he has to run down there and knock it, and then run back to get the treat,” Terrie explains, pointing out that the combination allows for enrichment and exercise.
“We’re so lucky that we have the ability to use technology in this way,” she adds, also referring to the fact that she trains the Taylors via Zoom because they live more than 1,500 miles away in Maryland.
Many trainers and pet parents agree. In 2019, sales of “smart” pet products reached $491 million, according to a survey by market research firm Packaged Facts. It also found that these purchases were made for convenience, health and safety, and staying connected.
Among the many pet tech products that aim to make the lives of dogs and their humans easier are devices that feed, water and help with the results.
The PetSafe Smart Feed made the summer Ellen’s List, a product partnership between Ellen DeGeneres and Walmart. Pet parents program the feeder via their smartphone to schedule and dispense custom portions. It even has a low-food alert and integrates with Amazon Echo and Alexa to help ensure pups don’t miss a meal.
Running water attracts pets and encourages them to drink more, and the Fresco Smart Pet Fountain helps keep it healthy with three-stage filtration and purification. It holds 2 liters and alerts via app when water level is low, filter needs changing and pump needs cleaning.
And for potty time outside, pet parents can opt for a doggie doorbell like Paws2Go, which when tapped by a paw plays a prerecorded message — like “Good job!” or “Be right there!”— and sends an alert to their smartphone. Or they can train their pup to use an indoor potty system such as BrilliantPad Smart. Originally showcased on Shark Tank, it automatically advances pad rolls to clean waste after the dog steps off, after a set number of uses, on a custom schedule, or on demand via the app or machine controls. BrilliantPad SMART also sends waste notifications, with photos, that can be used to detect changes in frequency and health.
Pet product technology has advanced to include devices that not only track the wearer’s location but also monitor their health. Goober the black Lab from Houston, Texas, wears a Whistle Go Explore. Pet parent Emma Lewis attached it to his collar after he got spooked during a walk and ran off, dragging his leash.
“We were distraught and searched for hours, but could not find him. Eventually, after a few more tearful hours, Goober found his own way home. That was when we decided to get a tracker for him,” she says.
Emma also uses the device to monitor Goober’s allergy-induced licking and scratching. She sends the information to his vet, Dr. Julia Spade with Senior Paws, to see if his treatment needs adjusting.
“My patients who are using the collars will typically email me the info/data as needed,” the vet says. “I have another client who sends me updates every two weeks so we can track the amount of exercise the dog is doing, trying to trend if our therapies for his arthritis are working.”
Pet cameras also have evolved well beyond simple monitoring. With the PetChatz HDX device and app, pet parents call their dog for a video chat and dispense treats. And with the PawCall accessory, pups initiate the call themselves and play games. The device also dispenses calming aromatherapy and streams DOGTV, the latter with a subscription. The PetWatch feature, triggered by sound and motion, records video.
The PetCube Bites 2 offers HD video that covers 160 degrees, plus four times zoom and night vision. Pet parents can talk with their dogs through two-way audio, and also dispense treats via the app or in autoplay mode. Notifications alert to barking as well as human voices, and motion and sound also trigger recording. The device also has Alexa built in.
Of course, these are just a small sample of the many pet tech products available to pet lovers, and more are launched all the time. With so much of this technology, especially in the training and toy categories, Terrie stresses the importance of using it to enhance — not replace — the human animal bond.
“The more we can improve the ability to communicate with animals using positive reinforcement, the better that bond is going to be,” she says.