Tech for pets – does your dog need a fitness tracker?

Daisy tries out fitness trackers

If you’re one of the millions of Brits who love their fitness tracker you’ll be well acquainted with exactly how many steps to take a day and how many hours you sleep at night.

Now you can do exactly the same – for your dog.

There’s a range of new gadgets on the market with Pit Pat Pet, one of the first, wowing the panel on Dragon’s Den last year. I reviewed it for the Sunday People newspaper too. 

But what is the benefit of scrutinising our dog’s sleep and how much they walk, run and play?

I trialled the new FitBark with my dog Daisy, who is a 12 year old terrier cross, and spoke to vet Dr Wayne Carter who helped develop the FitBark Tracker*.

What are the benefits of tracking activity with dogs?

“If you can collect information over months and eventually years you can establish a really good pattern as to how active your dog is.

“As they age, their activity levels can show whether they are developing arthritis or other health problems as you would see a decrease in their movement.

“If the dog did need medication it’s also a way for your vet to monitor a response to treatment.

“For example, if your dog had Arthritis they could put them on a diet to help, as there are nutrition products that can correct that.

“Alternatively, they could try different medication and see whether that’s having an impact on improving their activity.”

What do you think we can learn from monitoring their sleep?

“This is really important and something we’ve not been able to do before. It’s really valuable as we’ve never been able to monitor their ability to sleep through the night.

“Sleep can indicate how they are feeling like sleep for example, if they are moving around at night it may not be a healthy sign.

“If they can’t get comfortable, it may indicate the onset of arthritis which means they can’t sleep through the night.

“In the short term, if an animal is ill we can see this by a change in their sleep pattern and if that continues for more than a couple of days, I would advise taking them to see a vet.”

Can it help with young dogs too?

“Yes, definitely. With pups, it can help housetrain as you know when they are waking up to go to the loo.

“I used this with my puppy and it meant we were able to find out her routine. We knew exactly when we needed to wake up so we could get her outside before she had an accident.

“This really helped us with the housetraining process and it helped her to develop a routine which improved as we were able to respond to her needs.”

So we know about the steps and activity, how does the health index work?

“It gives us a health score for our dog each day and this means we can take a more proactive and preventative approach to health.

“Before, pets have had unknown issues. They can’t tell us that something is wrong and they actually try to hide signs of being ill and it’s only when the situation becomes acute that we are able to react to it.

“But if they’re not sleeping and moving as much, it’s a sing that something is wrong as, just like us, these are the first things that change when they are unwell.

“How much the health score drops shows how significant the illness is. If it drops a lot that would say you should get them checked by a vet.

“In time vets will be able to download the information and rather than waiting until something major occurs with a dog, we can be proactive in monitoring their health and developing a solution to get them back to how they were.”

When you set up FitBark, you’re asked how old your dog is, their breed, and how much they weigh then they are given a Bark Point goal for each day. How does this work?

“This is really important as it’s about educating owners to the specific needs of their dog.

“People compare their dog to their neighbours dog without allowing for age, size or breed. A Boxer puppy for example would need a lot more exercise than an elderly terrier.

“Every dog eats differently, sleeps differently and has varying exercise needs and the Bark Points are scientifically tailored to each dog.

“When you can compare your to the same breed, age and weight, you have so much more solid data to compare to and can gain a real insight into the health of your pet.”

With human trackers, many of us use them to maintain weight and fitness. Can this work with our dogs too?

“Yes, the two work hand in hand. If you have a pet, you have a much better change of reaching a healthy weight and staying there.

“Studies have shown people who are overweight have a pet that’s overweight, they feed the pet too much, they don’t give it enough exercise.

“But people that have a pet and make a commitment to lose weight are much more likely to go on a walk for the health of their pet.

“They want to get the weight off themselves but because the pet is helping to improve their health and fitness it means that they are more likely to carry on being active and keep the weight off.

“With FitBark, this is another reason for them to be active. They feel a duty and responsibility to go for a walk so their pet can reach their goal.”

There’s a saying that if you let a dog run off a lead, it will go twice as far. Does FitBark data agree with this?

“I like to run with my dog and I use a FitBit to track my steps and distance. We have this data we never had before.

“If I run and my dog is off the leash I’ll run straight but she’ll be back and forth and when I track it at the end, she’s usually covered a lot more distance than I have!” 

So could the data help match the right breed to the right owner?

“Yes, it’s important that we choose the right breed to fit our lifestyle and it’s fascinating to look at the different activity levels of dogs.

“We know some dogs such a terriers need more exercise than others, but sleep is an indicator too, some breeds sleep well and some dogs don’t sleep that well.

“So if you’re an elderly person and aren’t out and about as much, you know you don’t want a really active dog.

“This seems like common sense but it’s important to look at how much each breed sleeps too, so you know you’re choosing the right breed.”

If you think a FitBark could help your pet, they cost £79.99 at Amazon.co.uk.

  • This post contains an affiliate link.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read Pets, technology and the future – six things I learned at Purina Better with Pets.

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