We love a bit of pet tech. It's a huge market, growing every year. Smart feeders for dogs, along with dog activity monitors are gaining more popularity as people adopt technology to help make their dog ownership tasks even easier. Nothing can replace real-life interaction with your dog, but do dog smart feeders and canine activity monitors actually work?
Whether it's something that might help us to enhance our pet's wellbeing or bring a bit of fun, we're always keen to learn how technology advancements are being leveraged for the pet world.
This month we were invited to test out Sure Petcare's new Microchip Pet Feeder Connect (from £119.99). And this really is a smart feeder, apparently, owners can weigh their pet's food to within 1 gram for accuracy. It will also tell owners how often pets eat and how much they've consumed.
Alongside it, we were invited to put their Animo activity and behaviour monitor (£59.99) to the test too.
Since the pet feeder is ideally suited to small dogs and cats, we invited our friend Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jayne Dunn and her pug, Ming Ming to put them to the test for us. Here's Sarah to share how they got on.
Smart feeders for dogs
This month I was very excited to test out and review the Sure Petcare Feeder Connect.
This is a pet bowl with a difference, well, a lot of differences in fact. It links up to the Animo tracker that you pop on to your pet’s collar and will only allow access to the food in the bowl to the registered pet, the food is otherwise covered by an automatic lid.
The feeder has built-in scales which you can set your weight settings on via the connected app, meaning you can easily monitor and control the amount of food you are giving your pet. The app also monitors how much food your pet eats and when.
If you have more than one pet, only the allocated pet for the bowl will be able to gain access to the food and you can purchase more than one feeder and connect each one to a different pet, personalising each feeder to each pet. You can even choose different coloured bowls to sit inside each feeder if you really want to go the extra mile to personalise.
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The feeder is easy to clean with the bowls and mats easily removable and washable and the automatic lid means that if any food is left out or not finished by your pet it remains fresher for longer and stops flies being attracted to the food, something some pet owners will find incredibly useful during the warmer months.
The concept of the feeder really appealed to me, specifically the built-in scales as we have to measure Ming Ming’s food to manage her weight as she is prone to gaining weight. I was also drawn to the auto-feed aspect of the feeder knowing that if Ming wasn’t to eat her meal immediately or finish it, the food would remain fresh for her to go back to when she liked, even if we weren't home at the time.
The feeder is most suitable for cats or small dogs, in fact, Ming Ming is just on the cusp of being a little too big to use it due to the pet having to put their head under the sensor to activate the lid. I think for cats it would be absolutely perfect and I’d highly recommend. For a dog, I’d consider the reasons that you would need the feeder and whether it would be truly beneficial.
It took me several attempts to get the feeder set up because it has to link to your phone and internet and a hub has to be connected directly to your router, the signal has to be clear and strong. I kept running into connection problems and only managed to get it set up on my 3rd attempt. However, the Sure Petcare team were on hand to talk me through any troubleshooting (which in the end I didn’t require) and now the feeder is set up it’s really easy to use and pretty self-explanatory.
It took a little while to encourage Ming to actually use the feeder as she was a little jumpy at the movement of the lid, however, it quite cleverly allows you to set the feeder into ‘Training Mode’ which leaves the lid open and allows your pet to gradually get used to the feeder and how it works, and with a little fish to tempt her, Ming Ming soon got over her trepidation.
One of the main issues we’ve had with the practicality of the feeder is that your pet needs to have the tag that attaches to the pet's collar on to operate the lid feature, however, Ming Ming doesn’t wear a collar due to her lack of neck, a common side effect of being a Pug. She doesn’t like to wear a collar and due to this we’ve been putting a collar on her at feeding times to operate the lid but this means she doesn't necessarily get the full benefits of it being an automatic feeder.
It’s a fantastic product and it looks great. It's very modern, almost futuristic. But for us, it’s not really the most practical product for the reasons mentioned above.
Dog activity monitor
We were also sent the Animo activity and behaviour monitor to try. Think of it as a FitBit for your dog. It’s an attachment for the collar and it links up to an app on your phone.
It monitors when your dog's barking or scratching and can notify you of any changes in this behaviour. It’s super at keeping you in the know about your pet and is a fun insight into their habits. It also tracks your dog’s daily activity, how long they sleep for and how many calories they burn so it's great for keeping track of exercise, especially for a dog that maybe needs more than normal, to see that they’re getting the amount that they require.
I love the concept and was really intrigued to see Ming’s activity versus how much she sleeps per day but unfortunately again because of the need for this to be placed on a collar it just wasn’t practical for Ming.
These are two great products though and I’d recommend both despite Ming's collar issues. If you have a pet that is happy to wear a collar and you're looking to get more of an insight into their activity and feeding patterns, then these are both for you.
Many thanks to Sure Petcare for sending us the Microchip Pet Feeder Connect and Animo for review.