Can Dog Activity Monitors Help You Both Get Fit? We Put Four to the Test
Have you gotten in your 10,000 steps today? What’s your average heart rate? How are you sleeping? If you’re one of the 19 million or so people wearing a fitness tracker (like the Fitbit Charge, Garmin Vivosmart or Jawbone UP24, to name just a few), you can probably rattle off those answers with ease. If you haven’t started tracking, you probably will. According to recent data from Juniper Research, the number of units in use is set to triple over the next three years, reaching around 57 million in 2018, according to VentureBeat.
But if you are like many of us, you may put off doing things that are good for your own health but will make sure your pooch is OK. And that’s where a dog activity tracker could come in handy. This tech, which looks to be the next big trend, can be a fantastic tool for tracking your dog’s activity trends and provide tremendous motivation to get a bit more fit with your four-legged workout buddy this year. Plus, keeping an eye on that data can give you some helpful information to discuss with your vet, especially if your dog is one of the many who could stand to lose a couple of pounds.
A Few Reasons to Monitor Your Dog
Like with fitness trackers designed for humans, dog activity trackers can be used for a variety of purposes. The most common are:
- monitoring activity to analyze trends and be more aware of changes in activity that could provide clues regarding changes in health
- setting activity goals and using the feedback provided to modify daily activity to meet those goals
- using the tracker’s notifications as a reminder for different activities, like getting up and moving, drinking water or taking medication
- in some cases, using the identification or location tracking functionality as a safety feature
But here’s where it’s special for dogs. If you’re away from your pet for a substantial portion of the day Monday through Friday, there’s no way for you to know whether your dog sleeps from the time you leave until you come home or if she’s doing the Bichon blitz and running around the house like a nut. An activity tracker gives you that data, which gives you a more accurate idea of just how active your pup is.
What’s the Best Activity Monitor for Your Dog?
Before you put your dog on a new exercise routine, be sure to check with your vet to be sure that your plan is right for your pet. Also, if you have two dogs and they like to roughhouse and chew on each other’s collars, putting a small electronic device on those collars isn’t such a great idea.
If your vet gives you the go ahead, you still have to find the right tracker. We spent some time researching several new and popular models to see which ones are the best, and one thing became clear very quickly: no single tracker is the right choice for every dog and his owner. They each offer something a bit different, and where as one might have GPS tracking, another might provide a variety of visual alerts, and yet another might come with its own supportive community of active dog lovers for you to join.
To help you find the best fit for you and your pup, we checked out the Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker, StarWalk by Dogtra, Whistle Activity Monitor and FitBark, looking at everything from price to battery life to whether it can be used internationally and more. All units reviewed are small enough to easily fit on a collar, waterproof, and have free mobile apps that work on both iOS and Android platforms, which can be accessed by multiple mobile devices for the same dog.
1. Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker
Notable features: The Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker stands out because of its GPS technology. It’s slightly larger than the other monitors on this list, but it’s still small and light enough to be worn by small dogs. Like the original Tagg that came out in 2012, the new version tracks both activity and location, so while on a typical day you can see how much time your dog has spent resting, moving around and playing hard, should she happen to get loose, you could track her. In fact, you can even set a "home" area and be alerted if your dog wanders outside that boundary.
Additional features worthy of note are an ambient temperature sensor and an upcoming partnership between Tagg and Alarm.com, which will provide pet owners with a way to keep tabs on their pets’ activity with real-time notifications and video.
In addition to the mobile app, Tagg offers a Web-based app, both of which can track multiple dogs (both activity and location) and be accessed by multiple people (the dog walker, other family members, etc.) who have the login information. The app allows owners to customize each profile with animal type, name, gender, birthday, weight, breed, color, height and photo. Sharing directly to Facebook from the app is available.
Price: It’s currently on sale for $99.95 (down from $119.95 until January 15), available for preorder now and shipping in February. A unit comes with two months of free service, but runs from $7.95 (if you buy 12 months at a time) to $9.95 per month after that. This is the only device listed that has a monthly fee, but it’s also the only one that uses GPS.
Size: The unit itself is about a .75-inch-by-1.5-inch-by-1.5-inch rectangle, the wings (which go on the collar) are 4.25 inches long, and the weight is 1.3 ounces.
Can it be used internationally? No.
Battery information: There’s a big range here. Each unit comes with a docking station, which is where the unit charges; however, the docking station also maximizes battery life by reducing drain on the battery when it’s within range. It can theoretically last as long as 20 to 30 days if the dog is always at home near the docking station, or as little as three or four days if the dog is always farther from the docking station or the docking station is not powered. For most users, the answer falls somewhere in between.
StarWalk, by Dogtra
Notable features: StarWalk uses Bluetooth technology to sync data from the device with your phone, which means that in order for the data to update on your app, you (or someone else whose phone is connected to your dog’s device) need to be within range — about 33 feet.
What’s noticeably different about StarWalk is that it uses an LED light to provide the owner with visual notifications, both to show how close to the daily goal the dog is (one of six lights shines for every one-sixth of the goal completed) and as a flashing reminder, telling you it’s time to move if the dog has been resting for a set amount of time during waking hours or that it’s time to give your dog medications, go to the vet, or play fetch.
The light is also a safety feature at night, and if you have multiple dogs, you can set the light to be a different color for each — helpful if you’re trying to figure out which of your two black Labrador Retrievers is in your backyard at 11 p.m.
In addition to tracking activity by using an advanced accelerometer to measure steps and distance traveled, the StarWalk also tracks ambient temperature and calories burned.
The mobile app can customize your dog’s profile with name, gender, birthday, weight, breed, height, location, photo and daily goals. Though multiple people can log in to the same account to keep track of one dog, if you have multiple dogs with their own units, you’ll have to have a separate log in for each dog. The app uses the information you provide to give you a comparison of how active other, similar dogs are. Of course, every dog is different, and you should let your vet guide you in what is the best activity level for your pet.
Price: It’s available now for $99.95.
Size: Approximately 1.5 inches wide and .5 inch thick, and weighs .6 ounce.
Can it be used internationally? Yes.
Battery information: Up to four days before it needs to be charged using the USB charging cable.
Whistle Activity Monitor
Notable features: Whistle, which may have the most attractive and easy-to-use mobile app interface of the ones reviewed here, also uses Bluetooth technology to sync data from the device with your phone, which means it has the same restrictions as StarWalk when it comes to the app updating when you’re away.
Whistle tracks levels of activity (walk, play, active, rest) as well as goals. The app also gives you the ability to add photos, food details, medical information and journal entries, making it a great choice for dogs with multiple caretakers. However, it’s not just your dog’s caretakers who can view your pup’s stats — you have the option to add other owners using Whistle and interact, share pictures, comment on one another’s activities and more.
The mobile app can customize your dog’s profile with name, gender, birthday, weight, breed, height, location, photo and daily goal. Multiple dog profiles can be stored and viewed on the app, and multiple people can easily view profiles shared with them. You can share to Facebook and Twitter directly from the app.
Price: It’s available now for $99.
Size: Approximately 1.5 inches wide, .4 inch thick, and weighs .6 ounce.
Can it be used internationally? Yes.
Battery information: Good about 10 days before you’ll need to charge it using the USB charging dock.
Notable features: FitBark is both the newest and smallest of the bunch we’re reviewing — in fact, we got one of the demo models before shipping even began. It also uses Bluetooth technology, but an optional base station can be left in your home in order to allow your pet’s data to update on your app even when you’re away. FitBark tracks activity (rest, active and play time) and where your dog is in relation to a daily goal.
The mobile app can customize your dog’s profile with name, gender, age, weight, breed, height, location, intact status, medical conditions checklist, photo and daily goal. Multiple dog profiles can be stored and viewed on the app, and multiple caretakers can track and share information on each dog. And just yesterday at CES, FitBark announced the launch of a new Web app (aimed primarily at pet care professionals), which we are excited to check out.
Price: It can be preordered now for $69 online (but will cost $99 retail) and is shipping soon. There is a discount for multiple units — two for $129 ($169 retail). The optional Wi-Fi base station is $109 (and comes with an activity monitor) and can be used with multiple FitBark units.
Size: Approximately 1.5 inches by 1 inch by .5 inch, and weighs .3 ounce.
Can it be used internationally? Yes.
Battery information: Lasts up to 14 days before recharging using the USB cable.
Of course, an activity tracker, whether it’s on you or your dog, won’t help you get fit unless you put in the work. All the data in the world won’t do a thing unless you use it as motivation to get active, so be sure to check with your vet, set manageable goals for you and your dog, and then use this cool tech to track your progress!