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How New Technology Makes Pet Parenting Easier

By JAG3 on Feb. 3, 2017

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As long as I can remember, I’ve always had at least one dog in the house. Back when I was growing up, my two younger brothers and two younger sisters would help take care of the family pets. Back in those days, everything had to be done manually, so having a lot of helping hands was great. But today, technology has evolved not just to make life easier for humans, but also to help our four-legged friends live healthier and safer lives.

There’s been a wave on tech startups like Petnet, Petcube, WonderWoof, Pet Acoustics, Play Date, Petkit and Podtrackers that have entered the market. Silicon Valley is filled with entrepreneurs who love their best friends. I used to live in San Francisco and many game studios and tech startups encourage employees to bring their pets to work.

But not everyone has that option, which means pets are often left on their own at home. Our home in North Carolina has been retro-fitted for our five dogs (Friday, Zoo, Syfy, Parnell and Ella), so we have a dog door to go to the sunroom and another dog door built into the sliding glass doors to allow them access to the acre of fenced-in yard. We also run a non-profit dog rescue, Soundpet Animal Rescue, which means we always have extra dogs around. We currently have two fosters (Moe and Posey) that we’re watching over until they find their forever homes.

Fortunately, one of us is usually home to watch over the pack, but if we’re traveling or even just out and about, technology has changed the way we can ensure that our dogs are safe.

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Web Cameras

Beyond the blanket coverage of a home security system, we can turn on our Petcube web camera remotely from our Samsung Galaxy S7 or S6 phones and see what the dogs are up to in the main living room area. It’s cool to be able to check in on home any time—even though we always have a pet sitter if we’re out of town. It’s an instant connection with the members of your family who are experiencing a “staycation” while we’re out of town.

According to Dr. Lisa Mendise of Care First Animal Hospital in Raleigh, NC, “As technology for our pets improves, so does our bond to our pets—whether it’s taking the chore out of feeding our pet with an automatic feeder or allowing us to watch our pet via video camera during the day—our relationship with our pets is deepening and creating a stronger bond.”

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Smart Feeders

While we have too many pets for an automatic feeder like the veterinarian mentioned, homes that have just a couple of pets can benefit from something like the Petnet Smartfeeder. This $150 device is best used for one pet, but it’s completely programmable via an app on your smartphone. Enter the breed, size, age and weight of your dog or cat and the correct portions will automatically be dispensed at the times you select. You can also manually feed your pet anytime using the app. The smartfeeder even notifies you when you’re running low on food.

I think one of the key points about the smartfeeder is that it does get the exact portions right. It’s often hard to know exactly how much your dog is eating, especially when you have multiple dogs and they all like to graze from bowl to bowl (like ours do). We have some dogs (Syfy, Zoo and Ella) who are very active, and others who like to guard the sofa or chair all day long. Technology now allows us to track the daily activity of our pets, so we know just how healthy they are.

Activity Trackers

The FitBit-led human activity tracker craze quickly migrated to our four-legged friends. And once again, there are tons of options out there from companies like FitBark, Whistle, WonderWoof and Voyce. We use a WonderWoof tracker on one of our most active—and also newest—dogs, Syfy. (He was rescued from quarantine in a shelter in North Carolina while we were at San Diego Comic Con doing interviews with actors from the upcoming Syfy series, Van Helsing, and when we were asked for a name via text, a huge Syfy sign was right in front of us so we went with that.)

The tracker looks like a bowtie, so it’s fashionable (especially for pet parents who like to dress up their pets). Once you enter the breed, size and age of your dog through the smartphone app, you’ll begin receiving real-time updates on whether your dog is running, walking, playing or sleeping. The app also connects with other WonderWoof pet tracker parents in the area, so you can meet new pet friends (if you want). That’s not something we’ve done, but we always have new dogs coming in and out for our pack to play with.

Pet technology is innovating in new ways at a rapid pace, which is how tech always advances. Have a dog who doesn’t like thunderstorms (like Friday and Ella from our pack)? Now there’s an option outside of the Thundershirt. Pet Tunes is a four-inch mobile Bluetooth speaker that plays special-frequency original music composed by researcher Janet Marlow that calms dogs. Basically, if there’s an issue in the pet industry, there’s an app or gadget for it.

According to the American Pet Products Association, pets live in six out of every 10 American households. And technology is one reason Americans spent a record $60.28 billion on their pets last year. That number is expected to approach $63 billion this year. While more than a third of this budget accounts for food (which is getting healthier these days), an increasing portion is being spent on wearables, gadgets and new technology.

At the end of the day, all this tech doesn’t take away from the reason we all have pets. They provide unconditional love and companionship. And we—as tech-savvy guardians—are always looking out for the best way to ensure they’re happy and healthy.

Do you have any of these pet tech products? Tell us more in the comments below.

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