Episode Rewind: Monitoring & Entertaining Your Pet From Afar

Checkout the podcast: https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/97476/distant-pet-monitoring-and-interacting-with-your-pet-from-afar

This episode focused on tech that helps you keep tabs on your pets when you are away from them.  Tech advances such as Bluetooth, remote sound and video and even the ability to tie into local WiFi and cell services, is really opening up lots of new avenues in the pet industry. On the show, I talked to three innovative companies with innovative new tools to help us keep connected when we are apart from our dogs and cats.

IMyK9 

imyk9 

Karen Orr, founder of P.A.W.S. by O-no, introduced us to the IMyK9. The IMyK9 is a monitor device to keep your pet safe inside a car while you’re running an errand. It can allow you to see, hear, and talk to your pet while you’re shopping. The monitor is portable and cellular based and will connect to your phone via an app. If you happen to run a quick errand on a warm day it will warn you if the car is getting to a dangerous temperature level as well as keep sending you notifications if the temperature has reached the danger level and your dog needs to cool down immediately. Karen states, she created the IMyK9 because she wanted to “decrease the number of dogs dying from heat stroke.”

Here’s the thing, folks — just leave your dog at home unless you are expressly taking him somewhere, like the vet, or with you on vacation or something.  Just throwing Fido in the back when you go run errands is taking a needless risk. When you leave a pet unattended in a car, in addition to heat/cold issues, you also run the risk of creating anxiety — which believe me, can result in damage to your car (personal experience here) or emotional/physical damage to your pet.  Plus, let’s face it, there are jerks out there, and you are risking possibility of your pet becoming harassed or, even worse, stolen by said jerks. You may think you’re just buying a couple of items in the store and you will be out in eight minutes but that may not be the case. You may find it difficult locating those items, you may require an employee to check the back for those items, an unexpected sale may catch your attention, and the checkout line might be long and slow. Suddenly a simple eight-minute errand turned into a thirty-five-minute errand (the Target black hole is a real thing, folks). Karen’s device could potentially help you stay more aware of your pet when running errands, but it may just be wise to leave your pet at home when you do that.

PetChatz

petchatz-dog

We’ve shared the Petchatz before on the show, and this blog. It’s a device that allows you to see, hear, talk, and interact with your pet while you’re away from them. It has has two-way audio so you and your pet can talk to each other as well as allow you to both see each other. Plus, it can be easily installed into any outlet and contains no visible wires to tempt your chew-happy pet.  On the show, I learned all about the newest add-on to the PetChatz system, the PawCall, which allows your pet to press a button to connect with you. This accessory can be programmed to limit the number of calls and when your pet will be able to call you, so your chatty Lassie will be denied if she calls too often or at a bad time.  If you know you will not be able to chat with your pet that day you can set the PetChatz to “game mode” which will cause the PetChatz to blink and require your pet to hit the PawCall to receive a treat. It’s a great way to keep encouraging your pet to use the PetChatz as well as keep them stimulate as they wait for you to come home from work.

On the show, Joe Meyer, PetChatz Director of Marketing, offered everyone a coupon code: PETPARENT which deducts $38 from the total, which is su-paw awesome, because, my friend, this isn’t an inexpensive toy.  You’ll lay out $379.99, and this doesn’t include the PawCall accessory product (or any other add-ons). Joe also confirmed this product requires high-speed internet to maintain a strong connection — which explains the occasional really cranky review. If you don’t have top-shelf internet at your home, I wouldn’t waste my money because folks report the connections are spotty at best. Another concern of mine (which I brought up on the show): the possibility of your pet trying to destroy it to get the treats. The company states the device can withstand the pressure of a big dog jumping on the device as it mounts to the outlet which is known to withstand 150 psi (pounds per square inch). Most dogs (they claim) can’t come close to applying that amount of pressure with their paws trying to take down the uni — but I am more concerned with the JAWS trying to chew it off — and most dogs have over a 300 psi bite. And while they may not have that kind of strength in their legs/paws, I still imagine my treat-crazy mutt would potentially scratch the living hell out of the device and damage the screen, or worse, the camera. To PetChatz’ credit, they did create a plastic see through guard to prevent the device itself from receiving scratches (but yes, the guard on its own costs another $60).

I’m not saying to not get it because it’s too expensive — far from it.  It is a wicked cool device and I WANT one myself.  However, I advise that before you settle on purchasing something like the PetChatz, that you take into account your pet’s behavior and the features you value. If your pet behaves destructively with toys and sometimes furniture, you may not want to invest $400 on the device that may meet a similar fate. Maybe the only feature you like is seeing your dog while away and you really don’t care if your dog can see you. The market offers similar products that may just support that feature allowing you to save money. Here are a few to consider: Petzi, PawBo, Furbo, and PetCube.  And always…read the online reviews!!

Puppod

puppod-open

Last, but not least, the Puppod makes a return to the show. The Puppod toy looks and behaves similar to a classic Kong toy, however, it offers your pet more challenges and the treats are rewarded outside the toy. The technology inside the toy includes two motion sensors, accelerometer, Bluetooth, speaker, and LED lights (look at that picture of the guts inside — LOVE that they show the inner workings, it makes my geek heart happy!). The toy cannot withstand being submerged in water (so if you have a dog like mine that likes to give her toys “drinks” in the water bowl — it might not be the best choice), however, it can endure slobber (cuz clearly, a dog toy associated with treats is gonna meet a ton of drool).

Erick Eidus, the CEO and co-founder of Puppod, shared with us some of the programed challenges your dog will face with Puppod. The first challenge is figuring out that Puppod = treats. Whenever your dog gets close to the toy, the app will instruct you to give a treat or a treat dispenser running on Bluetooth will dispense a treat when paired with the toy. Once your dog starts to associate treats with Puppod, the challenges will get more difficult. The second challenge will be for the pet to touch the Puppod. And still another challenge is to touch the Puppod while music is playing and then so on…challenges get harder to keep your pet engaged. For deaf and hearing impaired dogs, the Puppod can be set to ignore the audio challenges and use its LED lights that flash colors for visually based challenges.  I’ve mentioned before how much I love the approach Eidus has taken with Puppod — not only for how great this toy is for dogs, but also how exciting the future integrations with the system are.  Highly recommend!

Something to keep mind when buying new pet tech products are reviews and how the company handles negative feedback. Reviews can indicate if the product really is what it claims to be, as well as, any glaring issues it might have. Note if all the glowing reviews are from “verified buyers” or not (scummy as it is, companies will flood a new product with good reviews that are not real customers), and note if the praise being poured on matches the marketing copy you see on the site — clear indications of fake reviews. Watch, too, how the company responds to negative feedback on places like Amazon. If they acknowledge and assist their customers with the issues they’re experiencing, then the company will likely do the same for you. If the company doesn’t address negative feedback but seems to only acknowledge positive feedback, then the company may likely blow you off if you find an issue. Worst case, and I cringe when I see this, if a company pushes back and basically tells customers off or is condescending in their responses…run for the hills and don’t buy. None of us have time for that poopy attitude. Believe me, with every new, innovative tech product on the market there will always be some kind of issues, even if they’re small — don’t be one of those cranky people that expects a new innovation to be a perfect “Version 1.”  You are always going to take a risk by being an “early adopter” — and that’s part of the great fun of trying out new tech!

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