If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since getting a dog, it’s that it’s impossible to have a dog without becoming one of those pet parents that treats their pet like an actual human child.

Just as you might buy them anything and everything they ask for, it is impossible not to spoil your pet in exactly the same way. My needs are now second to Jax, who has a tailored food subscription, a bed almost as big as mine, and now more smart gadgets than even I own.

The smart pet product industry grew to $565m in 2018 and is expected to become a $1bn market by 2023 as pet owners turn to technology to help their pets play, eat and sleep.

Wanting the best for my four-legged child, I got my hands on a pile of dog tech to see whether food dispensers, tennis ball launchers and fitness trackers are really worth the investment.

Petnet SmartFeeder

Price – $179

Average rating – 3.5 stars

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My rating – 4 stars

My verdict – Having heard a few horror stories about the first generation Petnet SmartFeeder, I was pleasantly surprised that this device worked (for the most part) as it should.

It’s worth noting at this point that the feeder is currently only on sale in the United States, and while it is possible to pick one up in the UK via Amazon, the product is very much set up for American users. You will have to enter your dog’s weight in pounds, with no option to change to a different measurement. Likewise, you will have to figure out how many ‘cups’ of food your dog usually eats, as entering portion sizes in grams isn’t an option. I also noticed a few popular British dog food brands missing from the options list. With plans for a wider UK launch, I would hope that this is a problem that Petnet will eventually address.

Teething problems aside, the Petnet SmartFeeder does exactly what you would expect it to do. The user loads up the hopper, schedules their pet’s meal times and portions, and waits. While there was the odd (unexplained) missed meal, this wasn’t all that frequent and seemed to correct itself after a few days. Pressing the manual feed button on the front of the unit usually does the job. However, when feeds are missed, the app does send a push notification to let you know, so at least you can dash home and do it the old-fashioned way.

The feeder is well designed, with a removable metal bowl and container that makes it easy to clean or discard food that goes uneaten. It feels sturdy and, combined with the locking lid, should be able to keep even the most determined of pets out.

It’s a relatively inexpensive way to make sure that your pet is well and frequently fed when they’re left at home on their own. It isn’t perfect, but it does what it says on the tin.

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Dog tech - Verdict


Price – £550

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 4 stars (and a 0 from Jax)

My verdict – A £500 robot vacuum cleaner and mopper might seem somewhat unnecessary, but for dog owners living through wet winters, it quickly becomes a necessity. No matter the mess, the DEEBOT OZMO 930 handles it so that you don’t have to.

Unless you’re in to paw print floors, as a dog owner you will know all too well just how many times the floor needs cleaning each day – particularly after a long, muddy walk. Rather than reaching for the mop, as a DEEBOT owner you can press one button and have the smart vacuum clean up after you.

The vacuum worked well and did a thorough job first time. The mop function needed a second spin to get rid of some particularly stubborn mud marks, but did a good enough job for the amount of time it saved. Switching between vacuum and mopping modes also takes some effort (there is a water tray in the bottom of the robot that needs to be filled up and rinsed), but perhaps having too many smart devices has just made me lazy.

That said, your pet might be less welcoming to the moving robot thing as it moves menacingly around the room, bumping into furniture and getting too close to their toys for comfort. Jax now sees the “I am starting to clean” prompt as his cue to go upstairs.

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Hive Hub 360

Price – £99

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 4 stars

My verdict – Perfect for the pup’s first time home alone, the Hive Hub 360 listens out for certain noises in your home and alerts you through email or a smartphone push notification when these sounds are detected. 

The hub delivers on its promise, sending a notification almost instantly with each bark, glass break or alarm. Of course, if you have a particularly vocal dog, you should prepare for an endless stream of notifications. However, this is easily avoided by remembering to switch off the notification settings when you’re at home. I frequently forgot.

Setting up takes minutes and the hub can be paired with other Hive devices that can help you to check on your pet while you’re away. It’s no toy, bone or slipper, but for pet parents eager to know that their pet is safe when you’re away, the Hive Hub 360 works a treat.

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Hive View

Price – £179

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 4.5 stars

My verdict – While there are a plenty of pet cameras out there, I felt a smart camera designed to protect homes from crime was more fitting, given how much Jax likes to steal socks, shoes and just about anything else you might leave lying around.

The Hive Indoor Camera responds to motion or sound (such as barking), and begins recording when either are detected. The use cases for pet owners are endless. You can play a sound if your pooch goes somewhere he shouldn’t, speak to them should they become distressed or use it (as I often do) just to watch them go about their business when you’re away from home.

Users can livestream through the camera at any time through the Hive app, providing constant access to your pet in 1080p HD video quality. It also comes with two-way audio so you can let your pal know that, actually, you haven’t left him forever.

For those that don’t want Hive watching them night and day, users can set specific times to monitor for activity. This is worth doing if you’re keen to avoid an onslaught of notifications (see Hive Hub 360 above), and an ample supply of mugshot-style captures that come with triggering the Hive View’s sensor (I clearly didn’t learn my lesson and once again received hundreds of emails).

Of course, there are similar devices that will allow you to dispense treats and play games with your pet. However, there are few smart home devices that can match Hive’s quality. You know you’re getting a high quality, stylish device that will provide easy access to your pet at a few clicks of a button.

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Dog tech - Verdict

PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher

Price – £141.99

Average rating – 3 stars

My rating – 4 stars

My verdict – Keeping a border collie entertained often proves to be an endless task. Any attempt to stop is met with protest from my pup, which makes this an ideal toy for pet owners looking to rest their throwing arm now and then.

However, the PetSafe Automatic Ball Launcher presents a problem – and one that, like many reviewers point out, proves frustrating for pets and pet owners alike. For every 15 minutes of use, the launcher forces 15 minutes of rest. This is a safety feature designed to stop pets from overexerting themselves. However, for my restless companion 15 minutes just never feels like enough.

That said, the PetSafe ball launcher is difficult to fault. The user can choose from a range of distances and angles that will fire tennis balls between 8ft and 30ft, making the machine useable in a range of environments. I wasn’t able to test the launcher at its maximum range, but my dog was quite happy running the length of the garden.

For a dog that guards tennis balls like they’re key to his survival, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly he learned that giving them up now and then isn’t so bad after all. Sleep mode aside, this beats chasing him around in attempt to get the ball back.

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PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Pet Fountain

Price – £82.99

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 3 stars

My verdict – The PetSafe Drinkwell fountain is the perfect water bowl for the pampered pooch, offering continuously circulated, charcoal filtered water supply that will keep your pet hydrated and healthy.

The fountain was easy to put together, taking approximately ten minutes from start to finish, and offers a sleek, stylish appearance that wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury pad. The pump working to keep the water fresh can be heard, but it isn’t loud enough to cause too much distraction.

Drinkwell claims that the free-falling stream, which ensures freshness, encourages pets to drink more water. By the time I had finished putting it together, Jax was eager to see what I had to give him, and the fountain did encourage him to take a long drink.

However, the novelty quickly wore off and within hours I caught him drinking from a murky paddling pool in the back garden.

The Drinkwell fountain does everything it’s supposed to and would undoubtedly get five stars from a prim and proper pup, but unfortunately it failed to civilise mine.

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Dog tech - Verdict

Which dog fitness tracker offers the best bang for your bark?

For the greedy lab that needs to cut down on treats to the greyhound training for its next race, Fitbits for dogs are becoming increasingly popular.

These devices are fastened to a dog’s collar and, as fitness trackers do, monitor activity to determine whether its wearer is getting the right amount of sleep and exercise, or in this case sleep and play.

These dog activity trackers connect up to a smartphone app which provide pet owners with insights into their pet’s health and behaviours.

With a wide variety to choose from, Verdict got their hands on some of the more popular brands to try out.

Dog tech - Verdict

FitBark 2

Price – £60

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 5 stars

My verdict – The FitBark is among the most well-known brands in the dog fitness tracker market, helped somewhat by its play on the Fitbit name.

The device is fastened to the collar by two cable ties, making it perfect for those pets that really go for it during play sessions. While I was concerned that the other trackers would remain secure, that thought didn’t enter my mind with the FitBark 2.

The FitBark cannot be faulted for aesthetics. Its bone-shaped appearance is playful but sleek, and doesn’t stand out against my dog’s fur. FitBark offers different coloured covers to ensure that this is the case for all owners. The device itself is small and lightweight and is barely noticeable on a medium-sized dog. Better yet, it can take a beating and a soaking, ensuring that it is always tracking.

This simplicity extends beyond its appearance. The FitBark app is also uncluttered and provides the just the right amount of insight. Users can view daily updates on sleep, calories burnt, kilometres travelled and an average health index, all while tracking a daily points target set when you first set up the device.

For me, the FitBark confirmed that my border collie gets more than enough exercise and less rest than he probably should. While that was already clear from the early starts on weekends, sore feet and my Amazon subscription for bubble mixture, it is motivating to have a set of numbers to monitor in a bid to maximise my dog’s health.

My one concern is the battery. After a couple of months of use I was prompted to recharge the device, which falls well short of the promise of “up to six months” of battery life.

However. if you’re looking for a well-designed fitness tracker that presents key insights into your pets health in a simple, easy-to-understand way, the FitBark 2 is a great option. The device feels well-made and secure, and was hard to fault overall.

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Sure Petcare Animo

Price – £59.99

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 4.5 stars

My verdict – The Sure Petcare Animo fitness tracker is remarkably similar to the FitBark in functionality, offering the same level of tracking of activity, play and rest. However, the Animo tracker takes this a step further by monitoring scratching, shaking and barking and detecting when your pet displays increased levels of these behaviours. Honestly though, while there was the odd increase, I didn’t get enough insight out of this to make it worth monitoring too closely.

That said, the companion app presents everything clearly and concisely. Despite the Animo tracking more, the app didn’t feel any more cluttered than those of its rival devices. Users can view daily graphs detailing the amount of walking, running and general activity that its wearer gets hour-by-hour, week-by-week, month-by-month and year-by-year, which could be useful for spotting any subtle changes in activity levels that could indicate a more serious problem.

While the Animo matches up to the FitBark on functionality, I personally prefer the FitBark’s design. The Animo is a white circle with light blue trimmings, which stood out against my dog’s black fur in a way that was a little too chic for my liking.

Likewise, the device is held on by rubber bands which proved robust enough to keep it fastened to the collar, but didn’t stop me from having to check that it was still there at the end of each walk.

Ultimately, the margin between the two devices is incredibly slim – slimmer than the 1.15cm depth of the tracker (which is by far the slimmest of the three). The Animo will provide adequate tracking and then some, and the best choice for you may ultimately (as it did for me) depend on which one suits your dog’s style.

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PitPat 2 Dog Activity Monitor

Price – £39.99

Average rating – 4 stars

My rating – 3.5 stars

My verdict – The PitPat 2 offers a fitness tracker for the more money-conscious pet owners. It may come in third out of the three devices we tested, but it also comes in a third cheaper than its competitors.

Like the FitBark and Animo, PitPat similarly tracks a dog’s activity throughout the day. Whereas the other two devices break down activity into play, active and rest, the PitPat measures time spent walking, running, playing, resting and pottering – perhaps this insight isn’t all that useful, but it’s is satisfying to see that level of breakdown. I can now confirm, for example, that Jax spends more time running and playing than he does walking most days.

While I worried that the hard plastic shells on the other two trackers could cause discomfort, that isn’t the case with this tracker. Its styrene surface makes it both lightweight and (presumably) comfortable for its wearer. Better yet, the device looks good too. It’s a simple black square, complete with orange paw print, which is just noticeable enough without standing out too much.

The fully waterproof tracker also promises a battery life of one year, double that of the other two devices, and so far has lived up to its word.

However, the PitPat has one major flaw. Rather than syncing to a smartphone automatically, as the other two trackers do, the user must press a button on the front of the device in order to initiate syncing. Admittedly, it takes very little effort, but when you’ve just got home from a long walk at the park, finding the energy to press that button proves far more difficult than it should.

Regardless, it’s difficult to fault the PitPat 2 if you’re on a tight budget.

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