East End Tech: This Place Is Going to the Dogs, Tech-Wise

Technology has gone to the dogs!
Technology has gone to the dogs! Photo: damedeeso/iStock/Thinkstock

This week, a truly momentous occasion took place in my home: We adopted a dog.

It wasn’t really much of a decision. After three solid years of lame excuses, mealy mouthed promises and outright lies, my kids finally called bulls**t and demanded action. And when Sammy came over from the shelter—23 pounds of Shiba, Chihuahua, Terrier, and God knows what else—it only took about 6 minutes to fill out the adoption papers. Then we realized that we had absolutely no idea what came next.

After a quick run to Petco, we had the basics in hand. Naturally, I decided to go deeper. I wanted see what kind of gadgets and electronics were out there for our little guy. It wasn’t hard to find some cool ones.

Tagg, You’re It
The first gadget for your dog (and any pet, really) is an identification microchip. Sammy already had one. It’s like a Lo-Jack for your pet. The chip is surgically embedded inside his body with a unique code that will let us find him if he ever disappears or is stolen. If you don’t want to put your hound through this process, Tagg is a simple option to consider. It’s a GPS unit that attaches to your pet’s collar and gives real-time information about her location. You can even set distance limits and the system will send an alert if your pet strays too far from home. Neat.

Tagg isn’t cheap. The tracker costs $99 plus $8 a month for the service. But the free smartphone app is simple to use and better than the clunky interface for the microchip. I’m not even sure the microchip can actually track Sammy—it’s just a system that lets someone scan and learn his identity later on.

The downside: Tagg’s GPS unit isn’t embedded inside the dog’s body. It’s on the collar, which means there’s always a chance it can fall off or be removed by a dog-napper. Still, both options are way more sophisticated than the traditional collar with ID tag. If you’re even thinking about getting a dog, this is a must-have item.

Yes, iCam
One of the scariest things about a new dog is leaving him home alone. You never know how the little guy will behave—and you dread coming home to find that he’s eaten the kitchen table or done his business all over the mohair couch. iCam is a great inexpensive alternative. It lets you build a network of basic cameras you probably already have—such as your laptop or PC webcam—and view them remotely through your smartphone.

The app costs $4.99 to get started, with in-app upgrades such as additional video storage, multi-camera view and more. Remember, you might also need to purchase web cams and set them up around the house. But for me, a simple laptop in the kitchen gives a birds-eye view of Sammy as he sleeps comfily in his little dog bed.

Pet Phone
This is a rather limited app that lets you track your pet’s health and medical information, such as medications and upcoming vet appointments. It’s one of those apps that is really just a template that collects and displays information you could easily write down yourself. At $2.99, you’re better off spending the money on a new chewable toy.

Petsie Dog Breeds (Android only)
It only took a few trips to the park to realize that dog owners are a breed unto themselves. (Cat people must be off the charts. Then again, they never leave their homes, so we’ll never know.) Anyway, everyone we see always has lots of questions about your dog. How old? What breed? Where does he workout? What does he eat? Petsie is a great informational app to help you learn more about all the dogs in your ever-expanding circle. You search breeds by name or by photo, and reveal tons of information about each one.

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