Keeping your dog fit and healthy is important to pet owners who understand the connection between their dog’s activity levels and their best overall health. Just like with a Fitbit for a human, there are now several different activity trackers made especially for dogs. They’re an excellent way to determine how much your dog moves around and gets small bursts of exercise; not just long walks in the park or playing fetch.
Activity trackers are different to GPS trackers for dogs, which are also worthwhile. So, let’s quickly explain the differences. While an activity tracker/monitor is focused around tracking motion, a GPS tracker can help find them if they get lost or don’t return to you when you call them back. Both types of devices certainly have their uses.
In this article, we specifically cover activity trackers and their benefits for dogs and their owners.
The Need for Dogs to Stay Active
Some dogs love to go out and play. It’s what they enjoy the most (other than belly rubs and eating you out of house and home). But other dogs are reluctant exercisers. Sometimes, their personality is such that they just prefer to sit around the house and laze about. This might seem okay to dog owners that are pleased to have their company, but it’s not healthy for the dog. If that sounds like your dog, then it’s time to get real.
Dogs, just like people, require a certain amount of regular exercise to keep their bodies fit. Their heart won’t stay as healthy if it isn’t put through its paces on a regular basis. They’ll get to an unhealthy weight if they don’t burn off enough calories every day. Excess weight can cause health issues as they age just like with humans. Perhaps you’ve noticed your dog is already getting chubby around the chops?
Physical fitness is important for pets. They cannot get so domesticated that they forget to be active. It also keeps their muscles stronger. Their body is then able to react well to the need to defend the home and its occupants; or protect from a stranger approaching when walking outdoors.
Why Isn’t Going Old School with a Dog Collar and a Leash Enough?
Walking a dog with a dog collar on, and sometimes on a leash if required to do so, is the old-fashioned way to walk them. It’s certainly been a good approach for many years, so why is anything else required?
The reality is that just like some people have bought Fitbit trackers to make note of their activity levels and hook into health monitors to check their active heart rate or calories burnt, the same is now possible for pets. Rather than being left in the dark about how much exercise your dog is really getting every week, it’s now possible to use an activity monitor that clips easily onto their existing dog collar. Their daily activity levels are collected, collated and then transferred to a mobile app via the cloud when your dog is back indoors. Monitoring devices connect to the internet automatically once they have a good signal to do so and transfer the data securely. The activity app for the monitoring device then gets updated with the latest information.
It’s a non-intrusive system that enhances what the dog owner knows about how healthy their dog really is. Because while not every illness or disease can be avoided, regular exercise lowers the risk of all the kinds of illnesses that dogs are susceptible to.
What Can Activity Trackers for Dogs Actually Do?
An activity tracker like FitBark, PetPace or Whistle provides the ability for owners to monitor their dog’s activity and sleep. They can set goals for their pet with how many steps they should be taking every day or every week. Monitoring how much their dog moves around during the day lets owners get a far better sense of whether they’re more or less active.
When your dog is feeling poorly or has an injury that you’ve unaware of, it may not be immediately obvious by their physical appearance. However, when they have a typical level of exercise every week and it’s recorded, then a drop in their activity levels is easier to see in a mobile app because the information is right in front of you. It’s also possible to get a baseline by comparing your dog’s activity level to other similar breeds and the age of the dog to see if they’re below or above average.
Everypaw, a UK insurance provider for British pets, is currently offering a free activity monitor for UK customers that sign up for their pet insurance through their website. This goes to show the connection between activity and health in pets.
Are They Too Large or Heavy for Toy or Smaller Dog Breeds?
Each monitor is a different size and weight. They’re all intended to clip around the existing dog collar, and only weigh between 8 to 16 grams depending on the product.
For toy or smaller breeds, a product like FitBark 2 that’s only 8 grams is going to be easier to wear than an alternative monitor that hits the scales at 16 grams. For mid- to large-sized dogs, any dog monitor up to 16 grams is going to be fine. They fit most sizes of dog collars too, so it’s not always necessary to replace the dog collar to get a good fit either.
How Does an Activity Tracker Assist a Dog Owner in Monitoring Their Dog’s Health?
The dog’s activity tracker is wearable 24/7. It tracks both their activity during the day and when they’re sleeping. Based on the goals set by their owner in participation with their vet, they can see whether their dog is meeting their exercise and sleeping goals. These devices usually also estimate how many calories they’re burning which has an impact on how much to feed them and at what times of the day; especially for bigger dogs that consume a lot of food.
Some monitors like FitBark will let their owner link to either Google Fit, Fitbit or the Apple Healthkit to see their dog’s activity data side-by-side with their own. This is useful when both owner and dog have goals set for an increased level of activity in 2019!
Along with monitoring your dog’s health, it’s sensible to consider getting dog insurance. The subject of insurance for dogs isn’t new. As the cost of vet bills often surprises canine owners when their buddy gets sick, it can be a struggle to pay the bill. When having an insurance policy just for your dog, many of the costs of vet care are covered under the policy. For UK dog owners, try out Everypaw (https://www.everypaw.com/). In the US, there are other pet insurers available too (Everypaw doesn’t cover Stateside wagging tails, unfortunately).
Just like with humans, there’s a direct connection between staying healthy and being active. While being fit doesn’t guarantee perfect health for many years, it almost always helps. Or, put another way, not being active enough can be a contributory factor in poor health. The exact same thing is true of our dogs. If they don’t get enough exercise, good nutrition and sleep, their health can suffer too. Feeding them well is not enough; they must get out and run around even if they’re a reluctant exerciser like some of us two-legged owners are sometimes!