For our furry friends: safety, tranquility and brainpower through digital technology

Earlier this week, news articles began to surface rapidly about the chilling robbery of Lady Gaga’s two french bulldogs, with their beloved dog walker shot four times during the incident.  Shortly after the event, Lady Gaga pled to their captors on national news outlets to safely return her pets, offering an outrageous monetary reward to ensure their return.  I couldn’t help but be a little bit surprised that a pet owner with seemingly endless resources wouldn’t already utilize some sort of location tracking device for their pet.  While GPS technologies for pets are becoming increasingly widespread, there is a whole other realm of digital tools and technological advancements in the pet industry.  Here are some thoughts on the latest and greatest technologies for our furry friends.

Wagz is a wearable smart dog collar integrated with a mobile application to benefit both dogs and their owners.  Think of it like a fitbit or apple watch for your dog!  First, the technology is comprised of GPS location tracking, as well as shock free geofence technology sothat owners can create virtual fences to keep their dog away from unsafe areas.  Another feature includes the ability to track your pet’s activity and temperature, even providing the opportunity to correct a pet’s behavior if they are acting out or barking incessantly.  I think this is a great product, and the user reviews are quite strong.  The ability to create a virtual “fence” or keep your pet in and out of certain locations provides piece of mind to owners when dogs are off leash.  In addition to tons of outdoor uses, I can only imagine how helpful this technology could be with kids at home.  If a child is eating or playing in a certain room, and you need to keep your pet out of reach – the ability to quickly barrier your pet could be really helpful. 

Another new digital technology is PetChatz, a digital daycare for your dog!  This new technology doubles as both a two-way video communication device for pets and their owners, as well as a treat dispenser.  The unique thing about this device, is that your pet can actually call YOU using a little paw button, an atypical aspect of this device vs. the typical pet cameras on the market.  One major benefit of PetChatz is that it helps to alleviate stress and anxiety that pets might feel from being at home alone.  It even streams ‘DogTV’ and diffuses aromatherapy to help ease your pet’s mood and anxiety.  While these tactics might be super useful for an owner with an anxious pet, in the current COVID environment, a ‘facetime-esk’ device seems a bit unnecessary.  Furthermore, I see one fundamental issue with this technology…most pets can’t recognize us on tablets or screens!  Rover stated in an article that most pets have a hard time recognizing people on videos due to flicker sensitivity.  They can make out people and animals when still in photographs, but it’s very difficult in video.  

Possibly the most surprising new digital technology for pets is CleverPet, a gaming console for dogs (photo in bottom left).  This gaming hub mission is to not only capture your dog’s attention while their owner is at work, but also to harness the full potential of animals and enrich their lives through gaming and puzzles.  The hub will challenge your dog’s mind with a focus on the science of animal behavior.  They use three principles described in the image below: associative learning, the law of effect and adaptive training.  This technology is quite unique – my dog is highly food motivated, and I can see Milo picking this up quickly if there are treats involved.  In reading on the company website, one other part of their mission is to allow for better communication and understanding between humans and animals.  They believe digital technology can help to make our bond stronger – which is a quite humanizing outcome of this technology!

It’s worth noting that sales in the overall pet industry has grown rapidly, both in typical offerings (i.e. food, accessories, vet care, etc,) and in the tech space through the advancement of digital technology.  The rise in pet ownership has been driven by the millennial population, with three of every four millennials owning a pet in the US.  My hypothesis is that this growth in millennial ownership is also a key driver of the digital evolution that we’re seeing in the pet industry.

In researching, I do think there’s one very obvious offering missing in the pet digital technology space.  There’s very little evidence of social integration across wearable devices and applications in the current wearable options (i.e. Wagz).  For example, I was surprised to find that none of the devices noted above allow for networking between pet owners in their area.  I would have thought such functionality would be a ‘no brainer’, as the Wagz wearable device already collects GPS and activity details for all pets that are utilizing their device.  This information could be used to connect pet owners in similar areas that might be interesting in meeting up for a playdate.  The application could also use data on each pet’s typical walk schedule to match dogs of similar sizes and walk schedules.  I’m sure there are some privacy implications with this added functionality, but I’d imagine it’s relatively easy for users to opt in/out of such a program.

Thankfully, Lady Gaga’s two dogs were returned shortly after their capture, but I wonder if she’ll be adding a wearable security device to her pet’s collar to ensure they continue to remain safe.  After hearing about the tragic story, it’s something I am considering for my pet as well, and I am curious to know about fellow pet owners…

Additional sources (beyond hyperlinks above):


  1. ritellryan · ·

    As someone who never owned a pet before, I find this all very fascinating and learned a lot, especially regarding flicker sensitivity. I know pets can recognize voices and figured they could recognize video as well. While you mentioned that 75% of millennials own pets, and the chart referencing the spend on pets has shown exceptional growth the past couple of years. I wonder how much the quarantine has impacted that. Early on it felt like a lot of people I knew were getting new dogs, figuring that since they would be home they would have time to train them. Outside of the millennial age brackets, even my older colleagues got dogs to keep their kids busy so they could work at home. As people start to go back to the office, having a product to ease a dog who has separation anxiety (because their owner doesn’t leave throughout the day everyday for the past year) might be more valuable than we currently realize.

  2. Having not owned a dog myself, I felt that this article enlightened me to how pets can benefit from wearables as much as humans, I thought that the geofence technology was especially important as many dogs end up being cooped up all day in a city apartment or home and it would be nice to give the dog some freedom to roam naturally.

  3. shaneriley88 · ·

    I wish this post + innovative post existed in 2010/11! Around that time, I got a purebred Black Labrador Retriever puppy during my last undergrad semester. A device like Clever Pet would have been a game-changer, both for Maggie’s development and my checking account due to her voracious chewing habits. In the future, I’d wager we see more and more similar devices that increase the quality of life and help alleviate animal stress.

    Maybe a TV remote for dogs… Maggie is visually attentive to hockey games on TV and usually walks away when the news is on. It would be neat to give our pets a vote.

    Well done, and thanks for sharing.

  4. olivia_levy8 · ·

    As a pet owner this was a very informative post about the technologies out there to allow me to best care for my pet. For the holidays this year, I purchased a “Furbo” for one of my cousins who just became a dog owner and she loves it, it is similar to the PetChatz, in which the owner from an app on their mobile device, can launch treats while away, open up a live video to see their pet, and send voice messages to their pet. The videos I have received of her from the Furbo are precious.

    The increase in pet ownership among millennials is something I have definitely seen among family and friends, especially in the COVID-19 era. Many of my friends have either fostered or adopted dogs, therefore I agree this will bring a strong market of dog loving parents that will do anything to keep their pets safe. May even look into a GPS tracker for my little Havenese as well!

  5. therealerindee · ·

    Great post! It also surprised me that Lady Gaga didn’t have some sort of tracking device on her dogs, since it seems like a fairly inexpensive thing to have. My dog currently does not move or roam enough for me to see a great benefit from any sort of wearable. She’s much more of a couch pup, but I do see this technology being invested in and adopted more over time especially with the puppy boom that Covid brought. People are very willing to spend on items for their dogs as seen by Chewy’s quick rise to dominance, and I would be very interested to see how the tech evolves from where it currently is.

  6. Great post. One of the things I love about teaching this class is reading all the niche blogposts that I never would have thought of myself.

  7. Jie Zhao · ·

    Love this post, Abigail! Although I don’t currently personally own a dog, I would definitely consider using these when I do! That’s really interesting that dogs can hardly recognize their owner’s face on a screen, perhaps they can add functionality where the device can release a piece of clothing with the owner’s scent when the dog misses the owner. I really like your idea of creating communities for dog owners to connect with each other – may be grouped for certain breeds, age, location, etc. These companies can even partner with other companies for sponsorship opportunities! Thanks for the post!

  8. lisahersh · ·

    Excellent post, Abigail! I own a 1-year-old lab named Blu (one of the many COVID-puppies in my neighborhood) and a 7-year-old Shih Tzu named Cujo. What’s Milo’s breed and age? Blu is also heavily food motivated like Milo, so unless CleverPet has a wide variety and ever-changing collection of games/puzzles, I think it would only work on him for a short time (Cujo has zero interest in puzzles/games and sleeps 20 hrs a day).
    Both of my dogs have been microchipped, but to my knowledge, the microchips available on the market today only have ID information embedded in them. If a dog gets lost and is turned into a vet/shelter, the vet tech can scan the chip to contact the owner. I would LOVE to have a GPS tracker for my dogs! Cujo regularly tries to make a jailbreak and I’ve had to go hunt for him around the neighborhood more times than I’d like to admit as a pet parent. If there was a way to have a GPS microchipped into him like the ID I would be all for it. I tend to avoid having collars on my dogs when I’m not around as Cujo once got his collar stuck to a gate and was trapped standing there for a few hours while I was out running errands (I know how long because I am one of those pet cam people).

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