Exercise is one of the best ways to ensure your dog’s wellbeing throughout his life – but how can you tell if he’s getting enough, or whether he might be overdoing it for his age? To see if technology can help you to find the right balance for your pet, we put a PitPat activity monitor to the test.
How does a PitPat activity monitor work?
PitPat is one of a few new dog fitness trackers on the market. We’ve chosen to review it, as it’s a proudly British brand and is designed here in the UK (in Cambridge). It’s also relatively affordable when compared to other trackers, with no added monthly subscription fee, and has a replaceable battery that will last for around a year and needs no extra charging.
To use, you simply strap the light, waterproof device onto your dog’s collar, download the app (free for iOS and Android) and sync your phone or tablet with PitPat via Bluetooth (which has been thoroughly researched and proven to be safe for both humans and animals). The app allows you to select your dog’s breed and enter his details such as weight, age and whether he’s been neutered. From there it’ll recommend a daily exercise goal for your furry friend, and will capture all the movements he makes in a day. You can use the app to check on your dog’s activity statistics – like how much exercise your 30-minute stroll around the park actually resulted in – and the calories it burned. Unlike more expensive models, it won’t measure your dog’s heart rate and doesn’t include a GPS function. But it can provide you with easy-to-follow advice on how to meet your pet’s exercise needs.
So read on for one customer’s experience of the device (but please keep in mind that Petplan does not favour, recommend or guarantee this product, or any of the products or services that are advertised or mentioned on petplan.co.uk.)
An older-dog owner puts it to the test
Nina May owns Pippa, a 13-year-old Collie cross, and used PitPat continuously for a week.
‘At almost 14 years old, Pippa isn’t as fond of running around as she once was,’ says Nina, ‘and like many owners of an older pet, I’m often afraid that if I push her too hard she could overdo it and hurt herself.
‘After setting up the device (so easy Pippa could almost have done it herself), I downloaded the app. It was simple to then create a profile for her, and I received a recommendation on her daily exercise: “We’d suggest short but more frequent walks for a lady of Pippa’s age. Perhaps 30 minutes of gentle walking, with slow sniffing and extra belly rubs!&rdguo;
‘Pippa perked up at the mention of belly rubs, and the tone of the app was so encouraging that it made me wish for a human version I could download, too. And so we set off on our first data-collecting walk, which the tracker’s in-built technology can monitor and then divide into ‘playing’, ‘walking’, ‘running’ and ‘resting’ time.
‘I expected to reach the recommended 30 minutes after doing two of our usual sessions, but when I checked the app, I discovered we’d done hardly any walking. After half an hour in the park, we’d only clocked up about 10 minutes of trackable time. Our pace, it seems, is too slow.
‘Even though we increased the frequency of our walks, the data continued to show the same result over the week we tested the device – which suggested that Pippa and I must simply be “potterers&rdguo;. I consulted my vet, and his advice was simple: as Pippa isn’t overweight, and has some age-related conditions such as Cushing’s disease and arthritis, giving her exercise at the pace she’s comfortable with is the best course of action. After all, happily sniffing all sorts of things is an essential part of an old dog’s day!’
PitPat is easy to use and its friendly in-app reminders are a great way to keep your dog’s exercise needs top of mind. As the app prioritises walking, running and playing over any time your dog spends pottering around the house, it’s also good encouragement to get outdoors and get moving.
The app’s calorie-counting feature needs refining in order to be more accurate and, at the moment, it only shows you the calories your dog has burnt, so could also be improved by recommending a set amount to feed. But its goal-setting feature is still useful for dogs that need to lose weight and, if yours does have a few pounds to shed, adhering to its exercise suggestions could help him on his way to better health.
Overall, its recommendations work well for older dogs and can help you to find a healthy balance for your dog. Just keep in mind that, as with all monitors of this kind, you’ll still need to monitor him for cues (like shortness of breath or discomfort) to make sure you’re going at a pace he can keep up with. As Nina says above, the app is a guideline only – make sure to follow your dog-owner instincts and discuss any concerns about your pet’s health with your vet as soon as possible.