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JoAnna Lou
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High Tech Dog Gadgets
Smart collar tracks our pets' behavior for improved health
There are all sorts of high tech pet gadgets out these days, many which seem a little unnecessary.  Do we really need a QR code or USB stick identification tag?  Beyond the novelty factor, they're a little impractical in an actual emergency, unless used in conjunction with a more traditional method.
 
At first I thought the same about the new "smart collars" on the market, but the more I read about them, the more I can see how the technology could provide valuable information on our pets' health.  
 
Whistle just launched a dog collar that wirelessly tracks data about your dog's activity throughout the day.  It uses an accelerometer to determine if your dog is being active (walking or playing), resting, or sleeping.  The information can then be viewed with a smartphone or web app to see the length of time your pup spends engaged in each of these behaviors.  The app also features charts that let you look at behavior change over time and allow you to compare your dog's statistics to their breed average.  The data can be used for everything from identifying deviations to monitoring effects of a new food or medication.  I think that the collar is particularly handy for identifying changes in behavior during peiods of time when you're not home or in the middle of the night.
 
Whistle was inspired by founder Ben Jacobs' childhood German Shepherd.  When Ben was eight years old, the dog unexpectedly died from an intestinal problem that the family didn't know about.  Since then, Ben has been focused on getting better care for pets.    
 
Being familiar with your dog's normal behavior, and when they deviate from that baseline, is indispensable for early detection of health problems.  Animals are very good at hiding illnesses, so it's up to us to notice small changes in behavior.  Veterinarians rely  on us to describe the symptoms we're observing on a day-to-day basis to help make an accurate diagnosis.
 
Last year my dog, Nemo, started refusing certain foods and was slightly more lethargic than normal.  I brought him to the emergency room because I knew he wasn't acting like his usual self.  The emergency room vet said it was probably an upset stomach and sent us home with some medicine.  I knew it couldn't just be an upset stomach--Nemo would enthusiastically eat dirt if you offered it to him--so I brought him to another vet who ended up finding pieces of a leash stuck in his intestine.  If I hadn't known what was normal behavior for Nemo, I might not have gotten a second opinion and might have even waited until it developed into a much more serious condition.
 
So if the Whistle collar encourages more people to pay closer attention to their dog's behavior, it's definitely a good thing.  Even if people don't end up buying the collar, just reading about the functionality may inspire someone to be more observant.
 
The collar is certainly very cool, but for now I think I'm going to spend my $100 on more treats and tug toys to play with my pups!
 
Are you using any high tech gadgets for your crew?
 

 

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Whistle.

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