Dog Monitor on Phone?

A tale of the data dog…tail wagging data.

A dog holding a picture of himself on a phone screen. Cute! From petmagazine. Would a dog monitor on phone be useful?
A Dog Monitor on Phone?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: During the pandemic I was able to work from home and I got the love of my life, a four-footed stray called Bella. She is half Shepherd and half Retriever. Now I have to go back to the City and can’t take her with me.  I miss her and wonder what she does all day. So I installed a web-cam and now I am thinking of adding a next step, a dog monitor on my phone. It attaches to her collar and sends. Then I will know if she is keeping active during the day, not just when I drop in with the camera. My mother who lives a few blocks away thinks that this is crazy. Cade, Napa

Dear Cade: I surely appreciate that your generation is finding new and creative opportunities for tech.  Yet I don’t see the need for either the camera or the dog monitor on phone. For thousands of years  pets have survived without digital tools, and it’s not clear that they are going to survive better with them!

The web cam seems harmless for Bella but I wonder what it is doing for you. When you are at work and you check  back home you are dividing your attention. Phone distraction is subtle. This well cited , but now pop-science study says that an interruption may set you back  twenty plus minutes before you can fully return to your original task. Furthermore, looking at Bella remotely could be emotionally unsettling.  You may feel a loss since you cannot continue the quality time you spent together during the pandemic.

Bella’s P.O.V:

Now consider it from Bella’s perspective. She has no idea that she is being watched on a web cam so it does not improve her situation at all. And, while the tracking device will report how much she exercised, ate, and drank, you can do some of that measurement when you get home from work. Did she empty the bowl? Record this on your own. There is also, I suppose, a tech element to consider. An electronic device fitted to her collar might feel strange to her and the little colored buttons may start blinking for a battery recharge. They could be bothersome.

These dog monitoring devices are fairly new. One I found online said that, “it collects and shares over 150 samples of your pet’s movement every second.” The app promises to tell whether the pet’s behavior is changing after it establishes a baseline. I am not sure how that data will improve the quality of life for either you or Bella. On the back end of this app, I would check out the privacy statement. Since they will be collecting mounds of data, do they sell Bella’s vitals to an outside company or compile a salable list of high tech pet owners?

Seek In-Person First:

If you seek wellness care, say  Bella is doing excessive licking or scratching it’s best if you try to get some face to face information here, not just online. You might find help at a local pet store (usually very informed) or at the dog park with other owners. And, you might want to look into pet insurance for those emergency, last-minute trips to the vet. Ultimately, that might be a better long-term investment than the tracking device. 

Your question is really one about technology. It reminds me that In the 1990’s the Japanese invented a “virtual” pet called Tamaguchi. It was popular with tweens everywhere. The pet owner received ongoing messages throughout the day (via email?) that reminded them to feed their pet, take it out for “exercise”and clean up the poop. Today virtual pets are far more sophisticated.

Artificial Intelligence has tried to capture the companionship of household pets for lonely people or those with memory-loss issues, often seniors. Virtual dogs (and cats) are placed in nursing homes for residents who need emotional connections. Since you lucky enough to have the real thing, but might be short on time, consider some alternatives. Leave the pet with your Mom during the day, drop her off at pet daycare, or simply accept that Bella will be OK. There’s no doubt that some version of this product, say to measure your own wellness and activity, is high on the list for the quantified culture.

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