Holiday gifts for pets following high-tech trend

Associated Press
This undated photo provided by PetSmart shows a Sunbeam Holiday Dog Treat Maker, available at PetSmart Inc. stores. A holiday present for Fido or Fluffy used to be an extra table scrap or a new squeeze toy. But as with gifts for their human counterparts, pet presents are becoming increasingly high-tech. (AP Photo/PetSmart)
.

View gallery

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A holiday present for Fido or Fluffy used to be an extra table scrap or a new squeeze toy. But as with gifts for their human counterparts, pet presents are becoming increasingly high-tech.

Like presents for young children who lack the dexterity to enjoy their new playthings, pet gifts are usually for the human who owns the pet. Allie Robino of Austin, Texas, bought a dog treat maker for her 8-year-old rescue mutt Bentley, but it'll be her baking the biscuits — not Bentley.

She bought PetSmart's Sunbeam Holiday Dog Treat Maker, essentially a waffle-maker with dog-bone molds, for Bentley when she took him to see Santa Claus at a Fort Worth pet store. Even though he and her other dog, Shiner, will be the primary beneficiaries of the purchase, it's mostly a gift for Robino, who admits to having problems making things at home from scratch.

"A lot of these kinds of things end up being more complicated than the company promises, but this was super easy to use and the finished product looked great. Believe me, if it were possible to mess up, I would have messed up. I'm batting zero on Pinterest," she said, referring to the photo-sharing website beloved by amateur chefs and DIY-crafters.

Robino said it was the only time she has bought a gift for a pet that requires electricity, figuring that would put Bentley in a rarefied group of animals with high-tech presents. But there are actually plenty of gadgets in stores for animals, from the predictable (dog barking control, electronic self-cleaning cat litter boxes) to the surprising (exercise equipment, air conditioners for doghouses, pet air purifiers for human houses).

Technology is having an impact in every area of the pet world, including food, toys and care products, said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association. He believes health care advances are moving the fastest.

"There are many advances on the pet rehabilitation side of health care that weren't even heard of a few years ago. There are also new advances in medication, treatments, and even testing and diagnostic areas. For example, you can send off your pet's DNA to find out their breed and even give at-home tests to determine if certain diseases are present," he said.

Rehab equipment for pets, such as a dog-size treadmill, are no longer just for veterinarian clinics. Pet owners can buy the DogPacer's Minipacer treadmill ($479), which is made for dogs under 55 pounds. The original DogPacer treadmill will accommodate dogs up to 179 pounds and sells for $499 — about the same price as human-size gym equipment.

For owners who exercise with their pets, the Sharper Image Pet-O-Meter Pet Pedometer ($19.99) counts steps, calculates distance and tracks the calorie intake of the human partner.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of apps for mobile devices offers clutter-free options for urban pet owners with little living space.

There are apps that track pets' whereabouts, like the GPS-based monthly service Tagg Pet Tracker, which can alert owners if a dog leaves a designated area or monitor a pet's physical activity. For a simpler option, PetHub dog tags and collars make owners' contact information accessible through a scanning app on a mobile device, and animal shelter and GPS tracking services can be added.

Vetere believes the best high-tech pet product is the microchip, which can be implanted in dogs, cats, birds, horses and other animals and will help reunite owners with lost pets.

"They are also widely used by industry professionals to track vaccinations, test results and other records. With GPS microchips now available as well, your missing pet can not only be tracked back to you, but you can now track them down and prove ownership if need be," he said.

Vetere predicts hot high-tech gifts this year will be microchip pet doors, which open using a chip implanted in the animal. He said the most popular products will always be those that make life easier for pet owners — "like automatic feeders and water delivery systems, automatic litter boxes, grooming tools that comb and also vacuum up the pet hair."

On Vetere's personal wishlist is "an automatic yard cleaner that would pick up after my dog, but I don't see how that would work without a robot," he said.

For pets and owners who do volunteer work — yes, there's an app for that, too. For example, the $149.99 TouchChat alternative communication app lets people who have difficulty speaking play with a dog using voice commands.

Ricochet, a 4-year-old golden retriever from San Diego, works with people who have Down syndrome, who are autistic or who suffered strokes. Patients touch an iPad, prompting a synthesized voice to deliver a command like sit or turn around or down. If the dog performs the command (and Ricochet always does), the patient can throw her a treat.

"No cues, inflection or interaction is needed from her handler. They can communicate with Ricochet directly, giving them a sense of independence, self-confidence and empowerment," said owner Judy Fridono.

View Comments (4)

Recommended for You

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • France, Cameroon wouldn't take foreigner later shot by LAPD

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — A homeless foreigner shot to death by Los Angeles police was in the country illegally after serving time for a bank robbery but couldn't be deported because no country would take him, U.S. immigration authorities said Wednesday.

    Associated Press42 mins ago
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Iranian president says Israel 'greatest danger'

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said Israel creates the "greatest danger" in the region, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In a speech on Capitol Hill, Netanyahu said Tuesday the nuclear agreement US President…

    AFP
  • Former marine reported killed in Syria

    A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria, leaving his family "devastated" Wednesday. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died on Monday in a battle with IS militants, a source in the Kurdish People's…

    AFP
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • Marijuana Growers Arrested After Pocket Dialing 911

    Three men in California were arrested Monday night after one of the suspects pocket dialed 911. The emergency operator who took the call heard two of the men talking about the possibility of getting pulled over, leading to a major drug bust.

    KSWB - San Diego
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • 'Thousands' of Russian troops in east Ukraine: US envoy

    The United States' senior envoy to Europe alleged Wednesday that Russia had deployed "thousands and thousands" of troops to neighboring Ukraine. Speaking to a congressional foreign affairs committee, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also told US lawmakers that Russia was flooding…

    AFP
  • Couple plead not guilty to locking up kids 22 hours a day

    ASHTABULA, Ohio (AP) — A husband and wife in Ohio pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that they kept three of their adopted children locked up 22 hours a day, gave them little to eat and beat them with a paddle that became stained with blood.

    Associated Press
  • Ferguson Officials React to Department of Justice Report

    Officials in Ferguson will comment Wednesday on a scathing report from the Department of Justice about the police department`s treatment of African Americans.

    Tribune
  • Afghan forces kill dozens of militants in hostage rescue operation

    By Sarwar Amani KANDAHAR (Reuters) - Afghan security forces have killed dozens of militants in a military operation aimed at freeing a group of civilian hostages in southern Afghanistan, an army official said on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses said most passengers belonged to the ethnic Hazara minority, a…

    Reuters
  • Georgia police officer killed in shootout

    By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia police officer was killed in a shootout with a suspect in suburban Atlanta early on Wednesday, authorities said. Officers went to investigate reports of shots in a suburban neighborhood and came under fire about 1:30 a.m. EST, according to the Fulton…

    Reuters
  • New Honda Civic breaks Nürburgring record

    The new Honda Civic Type R hot hatchback, officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on Wednesday, is now also officially the world's fastest front-wheel-drive car. As well as taking the wraps off the eagerly awaited 306bhp, 167mph (269km/h) car, Honda also revealed that in testing it had posted…

    AFP Relax News
  • Hundreds of starving koalas killed in Australia

    Close to 700 koalas have been killed off by authorities in southeastern Australia because overpopulation led to the animals starving, an official said Wednesday, sparking claims of mismanagement. Victoria state Environment Minister Lisa Neville said the koalas were euthanised around Cape Otway near…

    AFP