by Meg McIntire
I have a confession to make. I am a cable TV addict.
I don’t actually have cable in my current apartment, but when I’m on vacation or house sitting or visiting family and I get my hands on the remote, I channel surf like it’s an Olympic sport. What inevitably ends up happening though is that I start losing faith in society after watching one too many episodes of “Lockup” or “Let’s Make a Deal” and look for a nature show to bring me to a happy place.
Recently I found myself intrigued by something called “Soothing Park Sounds,” and after clicking on it, I realized I’d stumbled across DogTV. Yep. It’s exactly what it sounds like. An entire channel dedicated to sights and sounds that dogs find appealing.
Admittedly, the shows the channel airs aren’t as gripping as the latest season of “Game of Thrones,” but they’re not half bad either. And besides, I’m not the target audience here, the whole channel revolves around canines. The length of each episode on DogTV is around the average length of a dog’s attention span—three to five minutes—and gets broken up into genres of stimulation, relaxation and exposure.
For the most part, dogs are just watching other dogs.
“Dogs are proven to like to see other dogs on screen,” says Ron Levi, the creator of the channel. What dogs don’t like, though, are other barking dogs. After monitoring dogs’ reactions to their shows, Levi and his team found that the dogs “weren’t too happy about the barking sounds.”
To remedy this, the soundtrack to every short vignette is soothing classical music. But DogTV is just the tip of the pet entertainment industry iceberg. There are techie toys and products for just about every single cat or dog personality on the market these days and pet owners are buying them up.
Large pet stores even have “Pet Tech” sections now where you can peruse every battery-operated toy, camera and treat tosser known to humankind. Is your dog a fitness buff? Is Princess getting a little too plump? If you have the money but no extra time, DogTread supposedly keeps Rover in shape.
These dog-sized treadmills come in three different sizes for small, medium and large dogs. And cat toys have moved way, way beyond your typical laser pointer. Now, there’s something on the market called the “Petcube.” Petcube allows you to monitor, talk and play with your pet through your smartphone.
The metal cube contains a wide-angle camera, low-intensity laser, microphone and speakers, and it’s activated by a mobile app. It lets you tease your kitten with a laser while talking to them and then watch the results in HD video.
There’s even a version of PetCube that allows you to dispense treats to your cat or dog by clicking a button in the app. While these virtual ways to engage pets could never replace taking quality time out of your day to connect with pets and assess their needs, it is exciting that strides are being made in the tech industry that aim to improve pets’ health and safety overall.
Take, for example, Whistle. Whistle makes a lightweight waterproof tracker that attaches to your pet’s collar and uses Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular technology to track a pet’s movements. Whistle’s tracker also has an accelerometer that can measure your pet’s activity levels, and it can even notify you if your pet leaves an area you’ve programmed in the app as “home.”
“We had this concept, as pet owners ourselves, that we could use technology to improve pets’ lives and really enable a smarter era of pet care where we wouldn’t be flying blind to things like losing our pets or keeping them active and healthy throughout the day,” said Ben Jacobs, CEO of Whistle.
OurPet’s is another manufacturer that has harnessed the power of technology to make pet ownership easier than ever while allowing people the ability to monitor the health of their pets. While the company offers a plethora of products, one noteworthy high-tech item is its Wonder Bowl selective feeder.
The Wonder Bowl is designed for one- or multiple-pet households and is especially beneficial for those pets with special dietary needs. An owner fills the bowl with food and shuts the lid. The pet has a special tag on its collar, which, through infrared technology, opens the bowl when that specific pet is near. This eliminates other pets or intruders from munching on someone else’s food.
At Friends of Animals, we are all for improving the health and comfort of our four-legged friends with innovative products and ones that provide fun, rewarding mental and physical challenges. And while we are sure the bond between pets and their humans does not need technology to thrive—we don’t mind sharing the remote once in a while…if it makes our furry friends happy.
Social Media Editor Meg McIntire is also a contributing writer for Action Line. Meg is a news junkie and loves writing about politics, tech trends, rescue stories and pet parenthood.