The Power of Pet Tech
As pet owners increasingly integrate new technologies into their everyday lives, they are looking for similar advancements in a variety of pet product categories.
Computers are smaller and more powerful and efficient than ever. Cell phones now can do almost as much as a laptop, and there are apps for just about everything under the sun. Our cars have cameras, televisions, Wi-Fi and features that help prevent accidents. Wrist devices can measure our heart rate, our pulse, how long we sleep, how much we exercise and how many calories we burn. With all of these advances at our fingertips, it’s no wonder that consumers have become somewhat tech-obsessed. And now they are carrying that obsession over into the pet industry.
While it may not yet be quite as sophisticated as in the human world, technology in the pet care market is rapidly changing and evolving. Take, for example, something as unassuming as doors that allow dogs and cats to go in and out of the home. Today, these products bear little resemblance to the simple flaps of yesteryear, having grown more sophisticated as companies like Ideal Pet Products have applied technological advances to an age-old solution.
The family-owned and operated business started in 1979 with a plastic dog door in three sizes. Over the years, those offerings were expanded upon with aluminum doors, doors for cats and, eventually, even an electromagnetic-activated cat door. A special collar with a key fob unlocks the door for entrance and exit, keeping out unwanted critters.
“We did our research and decided to go with radio frequency technology, which keeps programming and usage simple and allows a quality product at a good price point and support,” says Tom Schrey, president of Ideal Pet Products. “We pride ourselves on customer service, and if someone has an issue, we immediately address it and relay all of that information to our engineering department.”
In addition to wanting to go outside and inside, our pets can be very insistent when it comes to being played with—especially dogs. That unrelenting canine demand for playing is how iFetch was born.
iFetch manufactures and markets automatic ball launching machines for dogs. President Denny Hamill and his grandson Grant came up with the idea after Grant was trying to do his homework and their poodle Prancer kept nagging him to play ball. Hamill, a retired physicist, designed the iFetch by reverse engineering a children’s toy car launcher and making modifications to get it to work with a small ball.
After putting all the manufacturing, distribution and marketing pieces together they started shipping product in 2014. The response was good enough that they developed and rolled out a second unit, the iFetch Too, a year later.
“There wasn’t anything like this available and we’ve captured a small piece of a growing high-tech segment of the market,” says Hamill. “Dogs are members of the family and people are taking good care of them and want to make sure that they get appropriate exercise and are entertained. Owners see the value in smart products that benefit their pets and provide a better lifestyle for them.”
Based out of Edison, N.J., PetLife LLC manufactures pet products in a wide variety of categories, including high-tech items like a pet motion, activity and consumption tracker that operates via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
“Our pet bowl can calculate the pet’s calorie intake,” says PetLife CEO Joseph Braha. “You select your dog’s food brand, pour it into the bowl and synchronize that data with your smart phone. Now you know the ingredients, amount and number of calories your dog consumed and have a record of activity.”
In terms of the broader picture of the high-tech market Braha believes that it is just now coming into its own.
“Consumers are looking for more technical products that are app-enabled devices because of the convenience and uniqueness of them, and they have a need to be up to speed with the latest technology,” he says. “They are becoming more health conscious when it comes to their pets and want to be able to track them, and that ultimately leads to reduced veterinarian costs.”
While electronic dog-training collars are not new to the market, DogtraUSA has taken these products to new heights. With over 30 years of experience, Dogtra markets remote dog training collars, dog containment systems, no-bark collars, game bird launchers and other products, including obedience-training manuals.
“We offer a complete line of e-collars from small-breed pet trainers to a variety of sporting dog units, as well as the police/K9 market,” says Dogtra brand specialist and dog training consultant Pete Fischer.
According to Fischer, all Dogtra systems use a patented Exact-stim stimulation control and offer the exact correction for every dog’s temperament, without jumps between levels. This is combined with a non-stimulating attention-getter pager/vibration feature, allowing trainers and owners to more effectively modify and correct a dog’s behavior with a product that is easy to understand and use.
“Some manufacturers are making e-collars extremely complicated and overloaded with gadgets that sound fancy or impressive, but aren’t ultimately useful or effective in training,” says Fischer. “Our focus has been to reduce the size of the collar for small dog use and keep the controls simple and effective.”
That emphasis on simplicity of use and a small footprint is what drove Dogtra to develop the low-profile Arc series.
Designed for dogs as small as 15 pounds with mid to normal temperaments, the Arc features an LCD-screen remote transmitter with a three-quarter mile line of sight range. It also has an ergonomically shaped receiver/collar designed to fit the curve of the dog’s neck. Both components are waterproof.
“The Arc collar doesn’t protrude down the dog’s neck like most of the others on the market, and it can be used as a sporting dog unit or for obedience training,” says Fischer.
OurPet’s is another manufacturer that has harnessed the power of technology to make pet ownership easier than ever. While the company offers a plethora of products, one high-tech item of particular note is its Wonder Bowl selective feeder.
The Wonder Bowl is designed for one or multiple pet households and is especially beneficial for those pets with special dietary needs. An owner fills the bowl with food and shuts the lid. The pet has a special tag on its collar, which, through infrared technology, opens the bowl when that specific pet is near. This eliminates other pets or intruders from munching on someone else’s food.
With so much advancement taking place so quickly, OurPet’s vice president of marketing Gabriella Chessman can’t help but be optimistic about the prospects for the increased influence of technology on the pet care category.
“The pet industry in general outpaces other consumer goods industries and continues to grow at a steady pace,” she says. “As pets become more like family members, consumers want to monitor them just as they would themselves and their homes. That is good for high-tech products.”