Dogs and technology….the Furbo.
Have you ever wondered what your dog gets up to when you’re not around ? Some just nap and chill whilst others get up to mischief like climbing onto the kitchen table or other pieces of furniture that they would never go near when you are around .
Twenty or so years ago I used to leave a camera and video recording system with clients to review their dogs behaviour problems such as separation problems or excessive barking…Once , for a court case about neighbour’s complaints, I reviewed 18 hours of tape to find that the dogs barked for a total of 12 minutes !
Now modern technology has been brought into the home where you can not only watch what your dog is doing but also talk to him and also reward any behaviour you like by remotely triggering a reward. Once you have wifi (and who hasn’t?) its a very simple process to connect your device to your wifi and then to your smartphone and away you go.
Just before Christmas I was asked to review one of these types of cameras, called FURBO. This is a well designed piece of technology which looks somewhat like a piece of designer appliance so it wont look out of place in the kitchen.
What is Furbo ?
Basically it is a wide angle camera system with microphone and speaker system which allows you to watch and listen to your dog and be able to talk to and issue instructions , commands and praise , followed by the giving of a treat by simply pressing an onscreen button on your connected phone.
What does it come with?
The basic unit arrives well packaged and contains the Furbo unit, charging lead (usb cable) with relevant plug for your country . It even comes with a small package of treats so you can start right away.
Once plugged in the unit indicates it’s ready by a series of coloured lights. You will need to download the Furbo app to your phone and once the Furbo and your phone are connected you are ready to go.The whole process took less than 5minutes .
Once downloaded from the appropriate site for your phone , which does’t take long even with a poor wifi connection, the app proves to be very intuitive and I was firing treats within minutes ,much to Mary’s consternation as there were no dogs present in the kitchen and neither was I , so she was wondering where the little bits came from . I was able to apologise remotely from a safe distance as well !
You can watch a live feed on your phone , take pictures or record video to your phone and save them . That would be a bonus for those dogs with a behaviour problem which could then be recorded and discussed with your behaviourist . This would help rule out patterns of behaviour which might lead to a misdiagnosis of the actual problem.
The app says that some dogs require training to accept the Turbo and a training curse and help is provided via the app. Before each treat is fired there is a little chirrup to indicate to the dog that a treat or reward is coming , though our two German Shepherds quickly discovered this fact within two firings and were quite happy to run and get into correct place as to where the treat / reward would come from or land.
The system also has a barking monitor which signals your phone when your dog is barking. Speaking into your phone you can easily talk to your dog and the sound from the speaker is clear and audible. The microphone on the unit is sensitive and you can easily hear ambient sounds from the room in which it is placed , so it could easily double as a home / room monitor. With suitable dry kibble the Furbo can also be used with cats .
More than one person can use the Furbo by adding their phone, but Furbo can only have two users connected at the same time.However, to protect your privacy, Furbo can only be linked to one Email account and password. If there are multiple users, it is recommended to share a family group account and password and I would also suggest a rota system for treating otherwise everyone will be giving the soon to be overweight dog his treats!
The unit is plastic , easily wiped clean and so far has functioned with no problems . The treats need to be small enough to feed through the hopper and would I suggest need to be dry so that they do not soften or block the feeding mechanism .
So do you need it ?
If you are a techie dog lover is this worth the money? It’s difficult to know as everyone is different but you can certainly have fun watching what your dogs get up to when you are away, though whether your boss will be happy that you are watching your dog rather than working may be consideration. If you are thinking of a house camera / intruder warning then this may be ideal as it serves the extra function of being your dog’s “next to best friend”. Some people who I’ve discussed this with were really taken with the idea and wanted one straightaway whilst one or two others felt their dogs would be driven mad looking for them having heard their voice remotely. For the latter there would need to be a bit of training to introduce the dog to the remote voice. Certainly I can see areas in behaviour work where the use of the Furbo would be beneficial as an adjunct to behaviour work and where the “chirrup” sound could, with training, replace the clicker, as a signal for a correct response .
Recent research into technology has looked at how dogs react to such machines and remote toys and came to the conclusion that many of the recent innovations are made to assuage the guilt of owners leaving their dogs behind at home, rather than being designed from the dogs point of view .At least the Furbo allows for two way communication between dog and owner, unlike toys with which dogs lose interest quite quickly. With time and effort you could train your dog to find objects hidden around the house on command and then reward with a food pellet.
If you do decide to try the Furbo we have a pleasant surprise for you. If you visit either of the Furbo websites and use code wendenkennels159 or wendenkennels50 you can get a your Furbo for a discounted price !
https://bit.ly/2Um1K7P for a £40 discount code wendenkennels159
https://bit.ly/2C0IEg7 for a €50 discount code wendenkennels50