From phone apps to household gadgets, technology is making life easier and more enjoyable for you and your dogs.
By Taylor Ham
Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, and savvy developers are constantly creating new tools that make our lives easier in the ways that matter most to us—including catering to our pets. With over 160 million pet-owning households in the U.S., it’s no wonder that the tech industry has realized that the way to our hearts (and wallets!) is often through our furry family members.
From smartphone apps that can recognize a dog’s unique facial features to high tech home security systems that monitor and protect pets at home, we’ve put together some of the newest and coolest tech tools and apps that will bring you and your dog into the modern day and looking toward the future.
Plan and Get Organized. Smartphones have truly transformed the way we plan, organize and remember the important details of our lives. Now, several companies are empowering pet parents to get organized by providing apps that help track and store important pet care information in an easily accessible format. Many of these apps sync with your calendar so you can set up reminders about upcoming vet visits or health needs like administering flea medication or heartworm preventative. Try Pet Phone or MyPetMinder (both available on iOS) or My Pet Record (available on Android).
Thinking of bringing a new puppy home? The Puppy Paws app gives you a leg up by providing a platform to save and share information about the puppies on your “shortlist.” Once you choose your puppy and set a coming home date, a countdown feature with checklists is activated to help ensure that you and your home are ready for the new arrival. Once settled in, you might also want to check out Puppy Coach 101—a user-friendly app that helps you start the training process with more than 30 video clips covering crate training, grooming, teaching basic obedience, dealing with behavioral issues and more.
Take Care. If the Internet puts the world at your fingertips, these next pet-friendly apps are like putting a veterinarian in your pocket. And while your smartphone should never take the place of a veterinarian’s care or advice, these apps may help keep you and your pooch safe until you can get to one.
If you’ve ever worried after catching your dog scarfing down something he shouldn’t, the Pet Poison Helpline has an app for you. When you download Pet Poison Help you get a portable, searchable database of hundreds of toxic household products and plants. The app includes full-color pictures, detailed descriptions of symptoms and one-touch direct dialing to the Pet Poison Helpline.
Pet First Aid from the American Red Cross is another lifesaver of an app that helps you prepare for and handle emergency situations with step-by-step instructions, illustrations and how-to videos on everything from bandaging to administering medications to performing emergency CPR. It also allows you to store vital information about your pet’s health and medical history and email a summary to anyone who may need it. Not quite sure what’s wrong with your best bud? The petMD Symptom Checker app will walk you through a set of questions about your pet’s symptoms and generate a list of articles to help clue you in to potential problems. Both of these handy apps also allow you to quickly search for nearby veterinarians in case you’re far from home.
Stay Healthy. Exercise and good nutrition are important for both the two-legged and four. With MapMyDogWalk, you can combine your fitness goals with those of your favorite activity partner by using your phone to calculate your route, duration, pace, elevation and calories burned. Or, let your dog do the tracking with FitBark, an activity monitor that is set to hit the market later this summer. FitBark works like a pedometer that attaches to your dog’s collar and tracks active and rest time to tally “BarkPoints” that can be measured against daily, weekly and monthly goals.
The SmartFeeder, currently in development by Petnet, is a new gadget that takes the guesswork out of pet nutrition by allowing you to monitor your dog’s caloric intake and compare it to other dogs of similar breed, age, weight and level of activity. You can manage portion sizes, eating speed and feeding times from your laptop or smartphone. The software alerts you when you are running low on food, and even tells you how many feedings you have before the supply runs out.
And while you’re out exercising with your dogs, remember to clean up after them. The auggiedog automatic pooper-scooper is one gadget you will not want to leave home without, especially if you are prone to run out of (or forget!) your plastic bags. The auggiedog is like a walking stick that vacuums up poop—just push a button to collect the waste and another to release it where you want. Not only is it environmentally friendly, you’ll never have to stoop to pick up poop again!
Keep Tabs. Seeing the same Lost Dog poster at the local park week after week is enough to strike fear in the heart of any dog owner. Fortunately, advances in technology and the rise of social networks have made it easier than ever to prevent dogs from going astray, and to quickly bring them back if they do.
The Tagg pet tracker system is a handy gadget and app that uses GPS technology to allow you to keep tabs on your dog at all times. Simply attach the tracker to your dog’s collar, download the Tagg app on your smartphone and set a “home zone.” If your dog wanders out of bounds, you will receive an immediate alert and can log on to see his exact whereabouts.
Even high-tech collars aren’t fail-proof, however, so you might want to back this plan up by registering your dog with Finding Rover—an application that uses innovative facial recognition technology to help lost dogs reunite with their owners. When you register and snap a photo of your dog’s face, it’s stored in Finding Rover’s database along with your contact information. If you report your dog missing, his unique facial features are instantly matched with those of photos of lost dogs taken by a growing network of shelters, veterinarians and fellow dog lovers.
Quests & Rewards is an application that is using the power of social networks to help people locate missing property, pets and even people after a manmade or natural disaster. The app operates like an electronic bulletin board, allowing anyone to post a reward for missing property or pets. The real-time map with colored flags identifying missing items and information is constantly updated to give local sleuths vital information that helps them in their quest to help you.
Secure Your Home. Gone are the days of leaving your pup out of sight at home, thanks to the development of cloud surveillance technology and advanced home security systems. iCam is an inexpensive iPhone application that pet owners are using to monitor multiple live video and audio webcam feeds from a phone or tablet. More sophisticated cloud cameras on the market offer greater flexibility of placement as well as night vision and motion-detection alert features so you can catch your dog being naughty or napping, day or night.
For even more control, you can upgrade to an advanced system like XFINITY Home by Comcast. XFINITY Home is a 24/7 home security and environmental monitoring system that pet owners can customize to meet their unique needs. Chad McCauley, Comcast’s regional director of product management and marketing operations, says that many dog parents use the specialized features, including motion sensors that are calibrated to a dog’s size and weight to prevent inadvertent tripping of the security alarm, as well as indoor and outdoor security cameras that keep track of pet activities. McCauley uses the system in his own home to check in on Tahoe, his 16-year-old Golden Retriever who has developed occasional seizures. “It gives my family a lot of peace of mind to be able to log in and see him resting comfortably at any time of the day,” McCauley says. Personalized codes can be set up for pet caretakers to access the house in your absence, and surveillance cameras with time-stamp technology can alert you if sitters or walkers don’t show up when they say they will. In addition, environmental controls like Internet-connected light switches and thermostat settings that can be adjusted remotely allow you keep your home safe and comfortable, even when you can’t be there.
Connect. If your Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of adorable pet photos, you are not alone. Dog lovers enjoy nothing more than showing off their best friends and connecting with others who share their passion. Dog Land is one of the many emerging social networking apps made just for people like you. It combines the best features of social media sites like Yelp, Facebook and Instagram to connect dog owners and the places they love. Users can create personalized profiles, follow other users, “mark their territory” (check-in), and search for and vote on nearby dog parks, pet stores, veterinarians and dog-friendly businesses. See something that catches your eye? In Dog Land, you don’t just like something—you “dig it.”
Another new photo- and video-sharing mobile app for dogs and their people is pupthat! “Not only do I enjoy posting pictures of my Miniature Pinscher constantly to my social media channels, I am also very entertained by photos and videos that other owners post of their own dogs,” says Washington, D.C. resident Erika Gutierrez, who co-founded the app with her brother Carlos. And if you’re a diehard Facebook fan, check out PawsNPost, another brand new social network meant to connect pets and their parents around the world.
Just For Fun. Technology can be just as fun as it is functional. Who hasn’t imagined what our dogs would say to us if they could speak? According to Puppy Tweets, all they need is a platform! A motion-sensor tag attached to your dog’s collar will pick up on what he’s up to and send out one of hundreds of humorous and heartwarming tweets throughout the day. And if you need a good party trick, download the My Talking Pet app and bring your pet’s photos to life.
Sure, all you need to feel happy is a good snuggle with the dog and maybe a nice walk together. But a little technology can help make your pet relationships safer, more organized, and maybe a little more fun as well.
Taylor Ham is a freelance writer from Ithaca, NY. She currently lives in Alexandria, VA, with her husband Stephen and two dogs, Samson and TJ.