Tech For Dogs – Do We Need It?

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This site is called Tech For Dogs so I hope I’m not throwing in any spoilers when I say that the answer comes out as a Yes!

The first thing to point out is that dog tech is not limited to hi tech dog gear although it will cover a lot of that.

What Is Dog Tech?

A lot of technological innovation goes into modern fabrics and material to help keep your dog snug, warm or cool, and safe.  Technology is used to design new and better dog products with no sign of a battery or microchip  – think of the no tangle dog lead, for example – yes, there are such things.

So if it’s new, if an element of tech was used to design or make it, and if it can benefit you and your dog, we’ll take a look at it here.

When they hear “Tech for Dogs”, some readers may be thinking about hi tech, electronics, wireless devices and so on. And, yes, that is certainly one of our major areas of interest, too. After all, hi tech has benefited our lives, so why not see how it can help our furry pals?

Having said that, not everyone will want or need every bit of dog technology so it is worth discussing the idea, if only to see what you might be missing and how it might be helpful.

Before we get into modern doggie tech, let’s go back to when dogs were first domesticated. Depending on which source you believe it may have been anywhere from 12-17 thousand years ago. A bit before my time…

Lead on

Dog On LeadBack then the only ‘tech’ they had was probably a lead of sorts and a dog crate or cage. As I said in the About Me section, back in the day the most hi tech gear I had for my dogs was a retractable lead. And, let’s face it, until this relatively modern tech was developed, that’s all any dog owner had.

So do we actually need more dog tech? What can it do and what benefits does having a high tech pet offer?

Just to be clear, you don’t need dog tech. But then do you need your computer or mobile phone? Are you old enough to remember life without them? How did we manage?

Life Before Google

Remember life before double glazing? Jet airplanes? TV? Antibiotics? GPS and sat navs? What about searching the internet before Google?

JetSure, we can live without all these things but when they make life better, safer, more entertaining, easier and more fun, why would you want to?

So when a new tool or aid comes along that might make your life or your dog’s life better or easier or just plain more fun, at the very least, it’s worth checking to see if it can be useful. I hope you agree.

One of the potential problems with certain types of new idea is that they may be a ‘Solution in search of a problem’.

A Solution Looking For A Problem

Solution Without A Problem

I absolutely love this phrase. It’s often some politician or company ‘boss’ or marketing ‘guru’ who floats an idea which filters down to grass roots and becomes a ‘product’. However, no research has been done on whether it is needed or wanted and continuation of the project is usually to further the politician’s personal ambitions, the boss’s golden handshake or the marketing guy’s bonus.

Ok, enough of the pseudo rant.

Railway Money Or House The HomelessOne example in the UK is the HS2, a proposed railway system linking London with Birmingham and the East Midlands. In 2013 a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee Report on HS2 said: “The Department has yet to demonstrate that this is the best way to spend £50 billion on rail investment”.

£50 billion! And you can bet the price will double by the time it gets built. If it does. That could end child poverty. Probably total poverty in the UK. House the homeless. Boost the NHS. Make the rich richer. You choose. Er, well, no you don’t.

With so much money at stake/up for grabs you can see how invested interests will be lobbying to get it built.

Sorry any non-UKers or anyone who hasn’t the remotest interest in this. E.g., anyone living in the North or Scotland except it’s your money they’re using. Hey ho…

The Internet of What?

Let’s get a bit more techy, what about IoT – the Internet of Things? Technology allows us to connect just about everything – fridges, washers, cookers, lights, garage doors, TV… You may already have app-controlled lighting.

Internet of ThingsBut really, do you need a device in your fridge that tells you when you’re out of coleslaw and orders more from the supermarket? Heck, maybe you do. But it’s like those mini bars in some hotels that know when you’ve taken out one of the over-priced miniatures from the fridge and automatically charges it to your room hoping you’ll be so drunk at check out that you won’t notice. Thing is – if you pick it up to look at it and then put it back, you still get charged. Doh! Massive fail! But I bet hotels have made a fortune by charging for drinks that haven’t been used.

But some IoT can definitely be useful. Switching your oven on when you’re leaving the office late for example, and heating control that goes beyond a simple thermostat. Even programming playlists on your speaker system, something a friend of mine does while we’re chatting or eating or playing games, and he can take requests without leaving his seat. But the IoT has yet to really take off. The IoT is neat but it’s currently looking for problems to solve.

There’s more about the technology behind the IoT here.

However, it has already found some dog tech things which we look at throughout this Tech for Dogs site.

Anyway, I’m simply saying that not all ideas are useful or practical.

Back to Dog Tech

Which brings us back to dogs and dog tech.

If you look at some of the developments in the dog tech market you may think they’re not for you and that’s fine. But some simple tech I could really have used with Murphy was a dog location or tracking device. They were available; I just didn’t think I needed one!

Lost In FranceMurphy And Friend Getting Lost In France

On holiday in France, he wandered off in a wood we were walking through. I didn’t know it well and he did not return when called. I ran all over the place, trying to get around its perimeter – I was much fitter then! – fearing he might have got lost or wandered onto the road or had an accident.

Half an hour later I did find him, coming out of the woods close to where he went in, wagging his tail. He’d obviously had a great time whatever he’d been doing. Grrr. Not a thought for the stress he caused his owner.

Great Dog Tech Ideas

Writing On My WallThat’s just one example. The potential is growing all the time. As well as trackers, there are devices to monitor your dog’s fitness and activity, help keep them safe, feed them automatically, ones to let you see and talk to them and even play with them remotely. Hmm, okay we’ll see how those check out.

There’s even – believe it or not! – research going on to learn how to communicate with animals. Give it ten years, they say. Hmm to that, too, but it would be nice to know what the growls and wuffs mean. Move over Doctor Dolittle!

Meanwhile, there is some very useful and practical dog tech around that you can use right now for both you and your dog’s benefit. You don’t have to use it but then you don’t have to use your mobile phone. No you don’t. Really…

Ian

4 comments on “Tech For Dogs – Do We Need It?

  1. The best tech for dogs, I believe, is the invisible fence. That’s really a great invention. When you have a dog who’s often wandering, you can give it a special collar that first gives a small shock, and then a slightly harder one, when it strays too far from the base. Really convenient when you are living on a farm, so any dog can have a lot of freedom.

    Why not make use of technology for your pets? I like the technical option to talk to them remotely. Some dogs do have behavior problems when the boss is out!

    Loes

    • Hi Loes – we could combine your two ideas and create a fence which alerted the owner to the dog’s whereabouts and allowed them to talk to them to bring them back within range 🙂

      Well, I thought tit was a funny idea!

      But contrary to your opinion, I am not at all in any way shape or form in favour of the collars you mention. In fact the UK government has announced plans to ban them – so ocassionally they do get something right! 🙂 I suspect you may be from the USA where animal welfare doesn’t usually figure so highly (which is not to say that Americans don’t love or care for animals) – we Brits just love our animals 🙂 – and although you say it could be useful on a farm, it doesn’t sound as if you live on one. But I could be wrong 🙂

      Apart from such collars being cruel and unnecessary, how does a dog know they’re getting punished beccause they strayed beyond bounds? It would take a lot of trial and error on their behalf and they may end up going in the wrong direction! As a trainign device they’re as useful as a chocolate teaspot and at best can only produce a frightened and feaful dog.

      If you’re going to get a dog at least take the time to train him properly with care and kindness. As with many things, that approach produces much better results and the rewards are far, far greater.

      Ooooh, that was a mini rant! 🙂

      Ian

  2. As I was reading your post, I was glancing over at my part black lab, part dauschaund puppy Max. He is a little stinker who loves to tease the cat! Maybe there’s a tech gadget he could use to tease the cat better? 🙂

    I think a tracking device or electronic fencing might be a smart move for him because now that he is getting a bit older and braver (5 months old now), he is starting to do the “big dog” thing and wander out to the road and the edges of our property. 

    What do you think about or know about electronic fencing? Does it work? Does it hurt the animal? I sure wouldn’t want him to get hurt, but I also don’t want him to get run over by a car, either!

    Tech for dogs – if I had to live without my cell phone, I’m not so sure I could do that and I think using technology to help our dogs is a wonderful odea.

    I look forward to your reply.

    • Hi Karin – thank you for your commnets. Max sounds absolutely brilliant! From the sound of it, I don’t think he needs any technological help in teasing the cat 🙂 I do hope they start to get on, although I know some cats are very stroppy when a new puppy comes to the house.

      I think I expressed my vy views on electric fencing (I do hope you meant ‘invisible fencing) in my reply to Loes a little earlier. If your property is open to the road then you need to keep your dog out of it. Simple. If you can securely fence it off, great!

      A tracker is useful if you want to know where your dog is, or if you lose him, say in a wood, and he doesn’t do recall. It could tell you if he wanders out of bounds but it won’t stop him wandering – neither will an invisible fence! Sometimes we just have to adapt our surroundings and routine to make sure our dogs are comfortable and safe.

      Just as our tech, like phones, is there to help us, so dog tech should help our dogs – and much helps us, too, into the bargain. The FitBark, is a perfect example, and I am also a fan of the Flexi leash which combines freedom with control.

      But for all the benefiots of doggy tech, you still can’t beat bonding with your dog which should be the first goal of any dog owner.

      Hope this helps 🙂

      The very best to you and Max (and the cat!),
      Ian

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