Have you ever been away from home and wanted to check in on your pet? Just curious about how they're doing and if they're getting into anything they shouldn't be? I certainly have. My family has set up a laptop with Skype set to auto-answer calls so while we are out, we can call to stream video to our phones and check on our dog any time. It was especially handy when we were crate training him. Meanwhile, we know other dog owners who have repurposed nanny cams for their pets, anxious to make sure their dog is safe, or at least not destroying the couch while they're out.

But even if your dog is destroying the couch, and you can see it happening, what are you going to do about it from a distance? A camera streaming video to your phone can't tell your dog to knock it off or distract her with something more entertaining. At least, not any old camera.

Petzila and Big Heart Pet Brands collaborated to create a new device called the Petzi. The wall-mounted treat dispenser has a built in camera and speaker. Using your smart phone, you're able to watch and also talk to your pets. The camera allows you to get video and you can take photos of your pet.

And of course you can also dispense treats to your pet with a tap of your touch screen. The best part? It doesn't just gently dispense a treat into a dish at the base. No, it shoots the treat out into the field of vision for the camera, so you can see your dog catch (or at least chase) a dog treat as it flies out or bounces off the floor.

dog at treat dispenser

The dispenser's hopper fits more than 100 small treats, and gives you an alert when you're running low. A hundred treats should last a really long time — but that brings up a drawback to the gadget. I can picture dogs and cats gaining some weight as they're now getting treats tossed to them all day by trigger-happy owners excited to interact with their pet whenever they want. I suppose you can counter that by waiting until your pet is in the other room, then calling to bring them running. The little extra exercise couldn't hurt!

The Petzi dispenser goes on the market in July 2015 for (gulp!) $169.99. Considering the pet industry is one of the only sectors that continued to grow during the recession, and is about to hit $60 billion in 2016, I'm guessing there are plenty of pet owners willing to dish out that kind of cash to be able to take photos of and toss treats to their pets all day long.

Is this something you'd want to use for your dogs or cats? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Related on MNN:

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.