Dog cams lead wish­lists

The West Australian - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Dud­ley-Nicholson

Aus­tralian pet owners are us­ing tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate makeshift doggie day­care cen­tres at home, in­stalling in­ter­net-savvy gad­gets to check on their pups from afar, host video chats, and even to throw them dog treats.

An­i­mal be­hav­iour spe­cial­ists said the tech­nol­ogy had the po­ten­tial to help anx­ious dogs but the RSPCA warned they were “in no way a sub­sti­tute for the phys­i­cal care and at­ten­tion that a pet needs”.

The tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing the new Petcube Bites de­vice and Furbo Dog Cam­era, is part of a grow­ing smart-home trend that is fore­cast to rev­o­lu­tionise Aus­tralian houses next year, with new de­vices ex­pected to launch from com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Sam­sung, Ring, Nest and Philips.

Aus­tralian shop­ping ex­pert Kathy Sheeran said smart pet tech­nol­ogy was be­com­ing a huge trend this hol­i­day sea­son as con­sumers sought to buy some­thing for ev­ery­one in the fam­ily.

“We spend bil­lions of dol­lars a year in Aus­tralia on our pets and pet cams have be­come very pop­u­lar,” she said.

An­i­mal be­havioural con­sul­tant Dr Cam Day said the de­vices, which ranged from $50-$400, weren’t just a nov­elty but a use­ful tool for treat­ing dogs with sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety dis­or­ders.

“They’re a great idea, mainly be­cause the way work rou­tines are go­ing none of us are work­ing the 37.5-hour week and many dogs don’t tol­er­ate ab­sences like that at all,” he said.

He said in­stalling an in­ter­net­con­nected cam­era at home had be­come the first step in di­ag­nos­ing anx­i­ety in dogs and de­vel­op­ing treat­ment solutions, as owners could only treat what they could see. Symp­toms of anx­ious dogs in­cluded whin­ing, howl­ing and cry­ing, he said, though some dogs left alone could de­velop panic dis­or­ders, lead­ing to de­struc­tive be­hav­iour such as “pulling screen doors off their hinges” and de­stroy­ing gyprock walls.

A spokes­woman for the RSPCA said the smart pet tech­nol­ogy could pro­vide “use­ful in­sight to some pet owners into their pet’s be­hav­iour while they are at work,” but warned they could not re­place hu­man com­pan­ion­ship and should not be used in place of board­ing or pet-sit­ting ser­vices dur­ing long ab­sences.

“They are in no way a sub­sti­tute for the phys­i­cal care and at­ten­tion that a pet needs” she said.

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