When I Skype with my parents, my dog is very confused. He hears my dad whistle and call his name but isn't sure why he's being beckoned by the iPad. The same thing happens when dogs are barking or growling on TV. Brodie rushes to the set, wanting to get in on the action, but he can't seem to find the play group.
Apparently, we're way behind on pet tech at my house. For the truly savvy, there are apps that can turn your dogs and cats into gamers and technology that will let your four-legged companions take care of their own social media accounts. Here's a sampling of the cool stuff that's available (or at least on the horizon).
Fun and games
Lots of cats love to sprawl on keyboards or lay across laptops when you're trying to work. And dogs can be jealous of the time you spend on your screens that doesn't involve petting or playing with them.
So keep your furry family members occupied with iPad games specifically designed for cats and dogs. While you work or binge-watch, they can swat at fish or pounce on fruit on their own screens.
Patricia Pons, a member of the FutureLab research team at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain, studies how computers can help animals lead happier lives.
"We aim to develop interactive games using technology, which can adapt to the animals' species and personality in order to make the playful activity more engaging and suitable," she told NPR. "This could potentially help pets to avoid stress when they are left alone at home, as they could play with these systems by themselves."
Watch a cat catch this iPad mice:
And this dog go nuts trying to catch fish:
Just a helpful note: You may want to invest in a heavy-duty screen protector before you turn your iPad over to your pets. It looks like they can get seriously excited and really whack and bite at those devices.
Posting online without your help
If you spend way too much time posting photos of your dog on Facebook, wearable tech can let your canine do it by himself. Pedigree (with help from Saatchi & Saatchi, Madrid) just introduced The Posting Tail, a dog vest that lets dogs post photos to social media when they're most excited — that is, when their tails are wagging.
The device has a built-in Raspberry Pi processor that "reads" how happy your dog is by how vigorously he's wagging his tail. When he's incredibly psyched, the camera takes a photo which is automatically uploaded to the dog's social media accounts. (Note to self: Get Brodie some social media accounts.) The image is taken from the back of the dog's head so you see what your dog is seeing. It even has GPS data so you can get an idea of your dog's favorite happy places. The sensor is allegedly able to tell the difference between a normal tail wag and a really happy tail wag so it won't snap pictures all day if you happen to have a generally waggy dog.
Here's a look at how it works. No word yet on when it will be available for purchase.
TV for dogs
Sure, you could find a Netflix movie with a canine sidekick or a rom-com with a dog next door, but if your dog is home a lot by himself, you may want to sign up for DogTV. The cable network started delivering 24-hour programming for dogs a few years ago. The channel features three- to six-minute segments ranging from relaxing snippets of soothing music and visuals to muted doorbells and vacuum cleaners to help expose your dog to possibly aggravating stimuli.
Here's a sample of what dogs get to watch on their very own station.
Will it keep your dog happy (and nondestructive) while you're out of the house all day? Possibly, Stanley Coren, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, told the New York Times. Cohen is kind of an expert in the field as he created a series of dog DVDs called "The Dog Companion."
"Dogs have terrific motion sensitivity," said Cohen, meaning the illusion that makes still images on a TV appear moving won't fool dogs as easily as it fools people. "For many dogs, that's a turn-off. It doesn't look real to them."
To increase the odds that your dog will pay attention to the TV, Cohen suggests placing it at your pet's eye level.
Twitter for cats
Your kitty might get impatient, sitting around all day waiting for you to tweet about what she's doing. So let her do it.
A gadget from Sony Computer Sciences Laboratory has a camera, GPS, accelerometer and Bluetooth tech to record your cat's activities, according to Tech-On. Using the data, the device senses whether your cat is eating, drinking, playing or sleeping and can automatically post one of 11 phrases to Twitter. For example: "This tastes good!"
The device is worn around the cat's neck, and it's still in prototype stage.
Videographer Jeff Myers raised some eyebrows when he let his drone take his golden retriever for a walk around his Connecticut neighborhood.
The seemingly good-natured Lucy was game enough, but some dog lovers online weren't too keen on that much tech.
"This is not cool," wrote John Hendrickson in Esquire. "You have dozens of people in your life; your dog only has you. He's devastated when you leave in the morning and he stares out the window all day awaiting your return. Your walks are the highlight of his day, your special time to bond and breathe and explore together, if only for a few minutes, if only around the block."
Isaac Saul at the Huffington Post agreed: “What’s the point of owning a dog if you automate the whole experience?”