Buyers guide to pet tech

Let’s face it, pets can be problematic. But there’s some really great gadgetry available to take the burden out of the beast. Animal lover PAT PILCHER outlines the goodness.

 

There’s an incredible amount of tech aimed at pets. While some of it is a solution looking for a problem, there are also real gems that can make life easier for you and your pet. Here are our top picks.

A GPS dog tracker can be a lifesaver for those troublesome wanderers

GPS Dog Trackers

Anyone who has experienced the stress and dread of a lost pet will know what a godsend a GPS tracker collar can be. Suppose your pet wanders off and they’re equipped with a GPS tracking collar. Their location (down to 2m) is tracked by orbiting satellites and transmitted back to an app on your smartphone so you can get real-time updates on where they are.

Most apps allow you to draw a virtual boundary around your house so your smartphone can let you know instantly if your pet escapes. Equally useful, most trackers will also show you your pet’s daily wanderings so you can get a feel for their favourite hangouts.

 

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As cool as GPS pet trackers are, there are gotchas. There are lots of pet tracker GPS collars available, and not all of them are created equally. Cheaper GPS trackers often use Bluetooth, which only has a range of around 100 metres. So soon as your pet is outside of the Bluetooth range of your phone, there’s no way of determining their location. Because of this, look for pet GPS trackers that use mobile networks to send your pet’s location back to your phone. A hidden gotcha is that 2G isn’t in use in New Zealand anymore, so you’ll need to make sure your GPS tracker at least supports 4G. You’ll also need to kit out a Mobile Network capable GPS tracker with a prepaid SIM card which will typically cost around $20 a year. A good GPS tracker should also have an IP rating which determines its ability to survive a dunking in water or dirt and dust. Another key spec to look for is their battery life.

Petrek’s 3G GPS tracker has an IP67 water resistance rating and is splash-proof (Petrek say pet owners should rinse, clean, and dry it after beach runs). The 3G tracker will also run for up to four days when in power-saving mode and has a silicon collar adaptor that will mount onto most dog collars. Petrek’s 3G GPS tracker is designed for medium to large dogs and weighs 30 grams.

Here’s a clever way to make sure that only your animal will get the food

Microchip Feeding Bowls

If your neighbour’s cat is raiding your moggy’s food, don’t sweat it, we’ve got the answer! A Microchip Pet Feeder might just be what the vet ordered. A smart covered feeding bowl will only open for a particular pet’s implanted identification microchip (or collar tag for pets that are not microchipped). If the neighbour’s moggy makes a b-line for your pet’s food bowl, it won’t open for them, and eventually, they’ll give up and look elsewhere for a second feed. If your pet approaches the feeder, it’ll recognise their microchip and will only open for them. Equally handy, it automatically closes when they move away.

The other benefit of a microchip feeder is that it will help ensure that any prescription or allergy food is consumed by the right pet. It’ll also make a real difference for pets on weight management diets. However, a microchip feeder is only going to be useful if it can hold enough food for your pet. Most microchip feeder bowls are battery-powered, and battery life should be measured in months. That said, it is worth keeping an eye on battery levels to make you’re your pet doesn’t go hungry.

Surefeed’s microchip feeder can store 32 separate pet chip identities and its batteries will last around 6 months. With its feeder bowl sized at 105mm(W) x 160mm(H) x 30mm(D), it is also suitable for cats of all sizes.

With a ball launcher you can sit back and watch pooch play

Ball Launchers

If your pup is easily bored, the iFetch Too Ball Launcher could be just the answer to what ails them. The iFtech Too Ball launcher is intended for medium and larger dogs looking to go nuts chasing balls around. It can launch large tennis balls at three different distances ranging from 3, 7 or 13 meters. It also has a random function to ensure your dog doesn’t get bored. Powered by rechargeable batteries, it’ll last up to 300 throws.

Balls load at the top of the unit. You can train your dog to drop the ball back into the machine, so they’ll be able to play fetch as long as they (and the batteries) hold out. Ball launchers are a great way to add some excitement into your dog’s life but be careful not to exhaust your dog (especially in hot, dry weather). When using it indoors, be cautious as flying tennis balls can break things.

Video games for dogs? It’s all about rewards

Video Games For Your Dog

Yes, you read that right. There is a video game for dogs. It takes the form of a canine-friendly version of the early video game, Simon. Called the CleverPet Hub, the device works when a soft rubbery sensor lights up, and your dog taps it with their paw or nose. When another sensor lights up, they hit it. When a third sensor lights up, and they hit it, they get a reward.

The CleverPet Hub uses coloured light and sound games that are designed to both entertain and challenge dogs. When your dog gets the paw or nose presses right, the CleverPet Hub dispenses treats. The games start out easy and progress in difficulty to ensure that your dog doesn’t get bored. The CleverPet Hub is also designed so that no bored dogs can break into it to get food. Because it dispenses a single treat at a time, your dog won’t end up as a video game addicted blimp either. You can also track your dog’s progress to see how gameplay is going over time using the CleverPet smartphone app (IOS/Android).

Keep an eye on your pet remotely with a pet camera

Pet Cams

Ever wondered what your pets get up to once you’ve left for work? I’d wondered for ages just what my greyhound did when he had the place to himself (turns out it was sleep – and lots of it). Finding out wasn’t hard thanks to D-Link’s Wi-Fi home security camera, the DCS-8526LH. It is a bit of a smarty (and a smoking hot accompaniment to any existing home security set-up). I say this because it is packed with enough onboard processing power to tell people from objects, alerting you via a phone app when a person comes into view.

Keeping an eye on your pets with the camera is dead easy, thanks to D-Link’s mobile app (Android/IOS). With it, I could tilt and pan the camera by swiping my phone’s screen, view its video in full-screen mode and pinch to zoom for more detail. Hitting a small Mic icon allowed me to talk, transforming the camera into an intercom. (My greyhound looked more than a little baffled by this).

The pan/tilt capabilities provide a 360-degree field of view to check out the entire room. It can also automatically pan and tilt to track any people it spots in its field of view. I must admit that I found this feature unnerving as the camera tilted and moved with no one controlling it. I’d forgotten that I’d enabled the auto-tracking setting and thought I’d fallen victim to shady hackers – DOH! Footage can also be saved to a microSD card, or if you want to pay a monthly fee, footage can be stored remotely on a D-Link cloud service.

 

 

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