Adults wear them. Kids wear them. We, as a society, love our fitness trackers. The explosive growth of wearable devices shows no sign of slowing down, with sales nearly tripling from 2014 to a projected $5.4 billion by the end of 2016. But do you know what we REALLY love? Dogs, dogs and more dogs. In fact, a record 96% of us view our dogs as members of the family, according to a 2015 Harris poll. Our canine clothing, organic dog food and birthday purchases certainly prove it, with pet product sales expected to top $62 billion this year. Combine those two loves, and is it any surprise then that activity trackers have gone to the dogs?
In my creative role at Intouch, I’ve spent years focused on helping people with chronic conditions learn to make healthy lifestyle choices. We serve animal health clients, too, so this dog mom decided it was my duty to put one of the wearable devices to the test as a service to pooch parents everywhere.
Eagerly assisting in my research was my yellow Labrador pup Angus. I chose the Whistle activity monitor, attached it to his collar, downloaded the Whistle app and set his activity goal to 150 minutes a day. He had the boundless energy of a six-month-old, after all!
I made six key observations during our yearlong research and share them now for those of you who may be shopping for an activity tracker for your dog this holiday season:
1. What features matter to you?
For dogs that set off on grand adventures on their own, several trackers monitor location using GPS, in addition to activity. Some monitor the amount of rest based on inactivity; others claim to assess the pooch’s quality of sleep. Both may be helpful since changes in activity or sleep could signal that your dog is sick or in pain. Voyce calls itself a health monitor, capturing resting heart and respiratory rates, in addition to activity and sleep.
2. How much are you willing to spend?
Prices for activity trackers start at around $60 and run as high as $199. Keep in mind that those with GPS locators also require a service fee of anywhere from $7 – $15 per month. Thankfully, I was able to opt for the straight-up activity monitor since Angus never wanders far from the person who feeds him.
3. How will the form factor work for your dog?
Here’s where you’ll want to take your pal’s size into consideration. Straight-up fitness trackers tend to be fairly compact and attach to a collar so they’re more likely to be comfortable for small as well as big dogs. Expected battery life can be a week or two, so recharging is required to ensure your device records every day’s activity. Most alert you through the app if battery power is getting low.
The added sensors needed for GPS trackers naturally make these wearables larger, and many are designed as collars. If style is important to you and your buddy, the LINK AKC is the first smart collar to be designed in classic leather.
4. Is a social component important to you?
One of the things I like most about the Whistle app is the community aspect, where you can share your four-legged baby’s activity achievements and photos as well as like or comment on posts by other fanatical dog lovers. Other trackers offer similar features.
5. Whose behavior do you want to change?
I started using the fitness tracker on Angus to make sure he was getting plenty of exercise. It soon became just shy of an obsession for me. I’d even take him outside to play ball before bedtime if he hadn’t yet met his daily goal. One night it dawned on me: I was standing in one place throwing his ball while he got all the exercise!
FitBark is the first dog fitness tracker app I’ve found that also links data from some of the most common human activity trackers so you can see your progress right beside your canine buddy’s. Now that’s motivation to move together!
6. Looking for a fun way to show more love to your dog?
Building a stronger bond with your best bud is one of the biggest benefits of using any of the dog fitness trackers. If you’re like me, you’ll carve more time out of your day to get outside and move together. You’ll tweet the news with pride when he sets a daily record and fill your phone with photos of the experiences you share. So while you may be focused on his health, you’ll really be sharing the love. To a dog, could there be anything better?