Wearable fitness devices are becoming enormously popular, and now they have grown to include the canine population. This week the big news in doggy fitness devices is that the Whistle activity monitor, a sort of “Fitbit for dogs,” is newly available for sale at PetSmart retailers, after a start up period when it was available only on-line.
So far Petsmart is the exclusive retailer for Whistle, but, depending on how well it sells, the device could be available at other pet retailers later this year.
Launching last June, Whistle has branded itself as a company that is devoted to helping pets live longer, healthier lives. The device is a wearable activity tracker that attaches to the dog’s collar. As with human wireless activity trackers, the Fitbit for dogs includes both Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities, and records location-based movement statistics that are transmitted to the Whistle dashboard. Owners can access the dashboard either through the Web or a smart phone app.
The Whistle activity monitor provides feedback on how much a dog is playing, walking, or sleeping. The dog’s person can then use an app to find out if their dog is sleeping too much, getting enough activity during the day, or even playing too much. The device has a 10-day rechargeable battery, is waterproof, and has automatic wireless data syncing.
Data from the dog’s activity levels are tracked against averages for the breed, age, and size of dog. The data is then available to the owner and even the veterinarian. The theory is that when an owner is familiar with the typical daily activities of their pet, they can spot changes and pinpoint potential issues before they come up, such as if the dog has stopped eating.
Whistle has developed relationships with several academic institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center. They have also established an advisory council of veterinarians across the country.
Whistle is becoming more popular with researchers who have been using it not just as a “Fitbit for dogs” but in chronic pain studies, cases involving diseases such as bone cancer or arthritis. Researchers track the dogs while they do various activities to help understand how to make them most comfortable. For example, dogs with bone cancer may move around a lot at night, so understanding how active they are, and when, can help indicate pain.
Tracking epilepsy or allergies may also be possible, as could be determining how much food a dog should be given based on breed, size, and activity level.
Whistle can be used to track a dog’s medications, log what they have eaten, or take notes about important events or reminders. Activity goals can be set. Photos can even be added.
The idea for pet tracking devices is not new. Dogvacy connects dog sitters and owners, and uses the activity monitor Tagg to let owners track their pets’ activity. But Whistle has set itself apart from competitors with their emphasis on improving a dog’s health.
With the Whistle “Fitbit for dogs” becoming increasingly popular, a collar sensor for cats is likely coming soon. Also coming may be gadgets like food bowls that will monitor a pet’s eating habits.
By Beth A. Balen