I’ve always prided myself on keeping my dogs, Rudi and Hollie, fit. I take them for walks and runs and monitor what they eat. So you can imagine how surprised I was to learn a few months ago at their semiannual checkup that they’d both put on a few pounds since their last appointment. I mean, I had noticed they were a little less lean, but was shocked to see just how much.

We’d changed foods and I hadn’t realized that the serving sizes were considerably different than their old food, so that was an easy thing to fix. Still, I wanted to make sure I was getting them back down to their normal weights (60 for Rudi, 37 for Hollie) just as quickly as possible, especially for Hollie who has hip issues that make extra weight an even more critical problem.

Testing the Tagg System

Fortunately, right around this same time, I met some folks from Tagg The Pet Tracker, who explained how the Tagg GPS tracker had a new functionality that could help me make sure my dogs were getting enough activity each day. I received two units for review (one for each dog), and began monitoring their activity.

Here’s the scoop: Tagg has become well-known for its GPS tracking. You place a small device on your dog’s collar, and if she leaves the designated area, you receive a notification and can track where exactly your pup has gone. It’s a great feature for escape artists, but that’s not really a problem with my pets (knock on wood).

The activity tracking function is fairly new and definitely a helpful feature for anyone trying to gauge how active their pet is on a daily basis. It uses the same small device on the dog’s collar and sorts her activity into four categories: resting, lightly active, moderately active and highly active.

The dog earns points for activity, and the device tracks when said activity takes place. So, if you’re gone all day, you can see that your dog paces for 20 minutes when you leave, sleeps for three hours, goes nuts for a few minutes when the UPS guy stops by, walks around for another half hour, then sleeps off and on until you get home and take her for a walk. Then, as you try different activities (morning walks, food puzzles, trips to the park), you can see how those activities affect your dog’s daily points. Owners can view the points on Tagg’s website or by using the smartphone app.

The Tagg website gives several easy-to-read ways to see how active (or inactive) your dog is.

In addition to viewing how active your pet was during the day, you can also determine which hours his activity took place.

Want to know exactly how long your dog was active each day? That's covered too.

While it’s really designed to compare pets’ day-to-day activity and help owners identify changes or trends in their pets’ activity (which may lead to a discussion with their vet or a change in their exercise routine), Tagg does have some average daily point ranges: Higher energy dogs who get regular, vigorous exercise averaged between 350 and 550 daily points, medium energy dogs who got moderate exercise were between 225 and 350 points, and lower energy pups generally earned between 125 and 225 points each day.

Since I work from home, I thought I had a good handle on their activity. As it turns out, though, there were still a couple of surprises. I hadn’t realized quite how much of their day was spent snoozing, for one thing. And while I knew Hollie was definitely the more hyper, I was surprised to see how much higher her daily points were than Rudi’s.

The other surprise was that they earned similar points on days when I walked or ran with them as on days when I didn’t, which means our indoor games and the playtime in the backyard give them a good bit of exercise.

After a couple of months of focusing on portion sizes and tracking the dogs’ activity, I’m happy to report that they’re both back to healthy weights.

Now, Tagg was a good fit for my family, but at $99.99 for the first unit (with three months of service) and $89.99 for the second, it might not be for everybody. Fortunately, anyone with a smartphone has access to some free apps designed to help pets lose weight.


Petmobi is a free app (yes, really) that’s a social network as well as a health and fitness tracker for your pet. Tracking calories is super simple because the app has a comprehensive database with thousands of foods, and you can customize the amount you feed your pup down to 1/8 of a cup. And watching your progress is easy with the app’s progress chart.

Exercise tracking is also a piece of cake, considering the activity selections include everything from fetch to jogging to skijoring. Trust me, you’ll find all the activities you’re into and several you’ve never even heard of.

The social networking aspect is great for those of us who like to share (and look at) pet pictures. Aside from the fun factor, it’s also pretty motivational to see your friends and their pets being healthy and active, and just think: You could inspire your friends and their pets to be more active too.

Additionally, there’s a points system for various achievements (like visiting daily and tracking nutrition and exercise) through which you can earn real-world rewards (like gift cards to stores). Even if you don’t think you need free gift cards, your favorite animal charity could use them, right?

The Fat Dog Diet

The Fat Dog Diet app, which is also free of cost, was created by a veterinarian (our very own Dr. Patty Khuly, as a matter of fact) as a way to help pet owners work with their veterinarians to create a weight loss plan for their hefty pets.

Using this app, you customize a weight loss plan based on your veterinarian’s recommendations for diet and exercise. Like Petmobi, The Fat Dog Diet makes it easy to track food and activity for multiple pets, and has an easy social sharing element (although this app is not itself a social network). You can either set a specific weight goal based on your vet’s recommendation, or use the app’s Body Condition Score option to get a ballpark idea on your own.

One thing worthy of note is that this app is not only designed to help you, but also to help veterinarians determine how useful a tool like this can be. Dr. Khuly is working with board-certified vet nutritionists, veterinary surgeons and pet rehabilitation specialists to gather data on whether an app like this is more beneficial to pet weight loss than traditional methods. So by using the app, you’re actually helping with research. Cool, right?

The Fat Dog Diet is a bit more limited in some ways. You can only choose one type of food and treat, for example, and the current options are not as extensive as Petmobi, although there are ways to work around it and submit missing foods.

What other pet fitness and weight loss apps are out there? Have you used one? Did it help you reach your goals?