Activity trackers for dogs
Photo courtesy of Whistle.

Is your dog “getting her steps in”? Find out how canine activity trackers are helping pet parents monitor their dogs’ health!

Activity trackers have taken the world by storm. Almost everywhere you look, someone is wearing one proudly on their wrist as a way to keep track of steps, heart rate, and sleep quality. Now, not surprisingly given their popularity, these electronic devices have edged their way into the canine companion market.

How activity trackers work

Also known as fitness trackers, activity trackers for dogs are designed in a similar way to the human versions. They track your dog’s movement and vital signs using small sensors, and store the information for you (and your veterinarian) to review. While different brands have different capabilities, there are a number of things these devices can track, including:

  • Activity
  • Sleep quality
  • Pulse
  • Respiration
  • Temperature
  • Distance traveled
  • Location
  • Calories burned and consumed
  • Overall health
  • Behavior

Once information has been received by your dog’s activity tracker, it’s stored internally to be downloaded, or sent via Bluetooth technology, to your smartphone or computer. Some products even have cloud storage capabilities, so you can hold onto your pup’s health history for as long as you need.

Two primary versions of canine activity trackers are currently available – devices that are built into a collar, and those that clip onto a dog’s existing collar. At the end of the day, the style you choose comes down to personal needs and preferences.

What are the benefits?

Obesity is a common problem in dogs. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), over half of all dogs in the US are overweight or obese – and the number is gradually creeping up. Diet is certainly a factor, but another primary contributor is lack of exercise. Just as activity trackers help humans get in shape, they can encourage dog parents to walk their canine companions more.

“We jokingly refer to activity monitors as ‘inactivity monitors’, says veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder and President of APOP. “They’re a wonderful way to prove to people that their dogs aren’t getting nearly enough exercise.” Dr. Ward refers to a phenomenon he calls the “myth of the backyard”. Most people assume that their dogs, when turned out into the yard on their own, will run and play. Many years ago, as a way to debunk this myth, Dr. ward encouraged people to videotape their dogs in the yard. More often than not, the dogs would run the perimeter once, then immediately find a spot to lie down.

“They’re a wonderful way to prove to people that their dogs aren’t getting nearly enough exercise.”

Activity trackers are a more modern version of the video camera in this situation. They’re an invaluable awareness tool that encourages people to face the facts about their dogs’ health, and start them on an appropriate exercise program. “This daily check-in is the first step to changing behavior,” says Dr. Ward. “When you can look at data, such as how much your dog is eating and how active he is, you can be proactive about preventing or reversing obesity.”

Special features

Let’s take a look at the special features some canine activity trackers offer (spoiler alert: they’re really helpful).

Goal setting functions – Ready to be proactive about your pup’s health and well-being? Many canine activity trackers are connected to an app that allows you to set lifestyle goals for him. Set your dog up for success by inputting his ideal weight, then help him take the right steps to get there.

Space for notes – If your dog’s activity tracker has an app, you can also use it to set reminders for yourself, or to leave messages for his caretaker. Does he have a vet appointment next Wednesday? Schedule it in! Need help remembering his target weight? Make a note of it!

Health comparisons – Certain activity trackers allow you to compare your dog’s health and activity level with other dogs, so you can determine how he measures up to others of his breed. This function offers a great way to understand your dog’s habits and behaviors, and figure out whether or not genetics might be the cause.

Feature for tracking lost dogs – Activity trackers with GPS technology allow dog parents to easily find their canine companions if they get lost. You’ll be extremely grateful for this feature if Fido ever goes missing.

Activity trackers with GPS technology allow dog parents to easily find their canine companions if they get lost.

Emergency alerts – If you’re worried about your dog’s health and well-being while you’re away, look for an activity tracker that can be programmed to send alerts directly to your phone. If his temperature is too high or low, his heart rate is abnormal, or anything else seems amiss, you’ll know immediately.

Waterproof design – Dogs will be dogs! If your four-legged friend spends a lot of time exploring the great outdoors with you, a waterproof activity tracker is a must. It might not be able to withstand prolonged time underwater, but a little rain and mud shouldn’t affect it.

Activity trackers for cats

Don’t worry, cat parents. Activity trackers are available for felines, too! And seeing as more cats than dogs are classified as obese, it might be a worthwhile investment.

Although a cat’s weight depends much more on diet than activity level, it doesn’t hurt to monitor your kitty to ensure he’s not spending all day lazing in the sun. While the jury is out on how much exercise cats actually need to thrive, they should be active for about 15 minutes a few times each day. If your cat’s tracker alerts you to anything less than this, try engaging him in play using a wand or laser pointer.

What product should I buy?

A number of activity trackers are available. So how is a dog parent to choose? At the end of the day, it depends entirely on your needs – and your budget. “I always recommend that people get the most affordable product that meets their basic needs,” says Dr. Ward. “Don’t overspend. If you find you outgrow the features, you can upgrade.”

A few noteworthy brands:

Whether you’re into high-tech gadgets or not, there’s no denying the benefits of canine activity trackers. They might be small, but their impact is enormous!