Wearable Tech for Pets: A Whole New Way to Call Your Dog

Tsunagaru-call is a wearable pet tech app from Japanese company Anicall. It records pet footprints and tracks lost pets with smartphones. Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

It's 2 p.m. and Adrienne Onorato knows her dogs are sleeping, even though she's miles away at work.

That's because her pets – a 4-year-old dachshund named Maya and a 2-year-old border collie mix named Ellie – are wearing smart collars, a new breed of pet accoutrement that will track location, activity, temperature and more. Some smart collars even come equipped with a built-in microphone and speaker that will let owners talk to their dogs, giving "calling your dog" a whole new meaning. 

Onorato, a marketing director in New Jersey, says she purchased a Whistle smart collar out of curiosity because she wanted to track the activity of her high-energy border collie mix throughout the day. "After using it, I decided to purchase another, in order to increase the activity level of my much more laid-back dachshund," she says. "Because of the app's daily charts, we were able to see what the dogs do during the day while we're at work."

The devices that Onorato's dogs wear are part of a new breed of smart collars that come in a variety of shapes and forms, with varying features. Take the FitBark, for example. This bone-shaped tracker attached to a dog collar notes your pet's every move and stores the data so you can analyze it later. As a bonus, FitBark makes it easy to Tweet your pet's antics or share them on Facebook.

Whistle co-founder Ben Jacobs and his dog Duke in a San Francisco dog park in 2013.
AFP/Getty Images

If you prefer to sync your pet's stats with your own smartphone, the Motorola Scout5000 may fit the bill. This upcoming smart collar is outfitted with Wi-Fi and 3G, as well as a 720-pixel camera, pedometer, microphone and speaker, so a person can chat with his or her dog, whether they are separated by a single room or an entire city.

Voyce, a waterproof smart collar, not only monitors the resting heart rate and number of calories a dog burns, but it also has a goal-setting function. If a pet needs to shed a few pounds, simply set a higher daily activity goal and then use the data to determine whether that goal was met.

The one thing these devices have in common – other than the fact that they are made for wearers with fur – is that they are an extension of the quantified self movement. The popular concept revolves around using wearable tech to collect quantifiable data across a range of activities, from receiving periodic pings to record moods to tracking the number of steps taken throughout the day. And now, dogs are having their moment.

"Much like our Fitbit encourages us to be more active, we can [use smart collars to] set goals for our dogs," says Onorato, whose dogs have been wearing smart collars for two years. "My dachshund was advised by our vet to lose a couple of pounds, so if she doesn't hit her activity goal one day, we'll take a longer walk so she gets an appropriate amount." 

Another promising smart collar development is Buddy, a crowd-sourced LED collar that incorporates WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS technology. Check out the video below for a rundown of its many features.

Some smart collars also offer statistics that reveal behavior averages for similar dog breeds, and Onorato found this information reassuring. "We know it's really not out of the ordinary for the dachshund breed to sleep as much as she does," Onorato says. 

"And since it's an app, we can easily look back on their charts and see whether we've been hitting goals and what days it spiked – days at the beach, dog park or other memorable times we've had with our pups. It's almost a game to make sure to hit the goal every day for as many consecutive days as possible."