Spend a few minutes roughhousing in the backyard and you'd probably assume your dog is getting more than enough exercise. Unless they're not. In fact, the hidden secret for many pet owners may be what goes on when you're not around. That's where Whistle comes in to play. It's a San Francisco start-up that's developed a collar-mounted activity monitor which works something like a FitBit for dogs.
The key, according to co-founder Steven Eidelman, is that owners can track their dog's activity through an app on their cellphone.
"So on the trends screen, you can start seeing each day, summarized, how many minutes activity did we get, and did we hit our goal," Eidelman explains as he demonstrated the iPhone app.
To yard-test the features, ABC7 News strapped a whistle monitor onto Carolyn Johnson's family dogs, Stanley and Oliver. It's essentially an accelerometer. And while the app charts minutes of activity, it's actually measuring intensity, which is why speedy Oliver often registers more than double the activity of Stanley. Over the course of days, weeks and months, a broad picture starts to emerge of when your pets are playing, when they're resting, or even stumbling onto the kind of adventure dogs like Stanley live for.
"And it had a few, a few pretty meaningful spikes in activity probably around nine o'clock again," says Eidelman. As it turns out, that spike in Stanley's activity coincided with a deer in the backyard.
By entering the dog's breed and weight, owners can compare their pets' activity level to similar dogs and even set fitness goals.
The interface also includes a social media component, allowing users to share photos and comments.
Co-founder Ben Jacobs says the technology actually helps form tighter bonds.
"People are using Whistle as a communication tool within the family, with the dog walker, with other key members of the pet's life," says Jacobs.
For Stanley, it was the validation of at least 30 minutes to an hour of active exercise a day. A fairly healthy lifestyle that might not otherwise be obvious at first glance.
The monitor retails for $129 on the Whistle website. The company says it plans to update features in the upcoming months including compatibility with Android phones and the option to connect with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology.
Written and produced by Tim Didion