How many steps?

Exercise, like baking, used to be one of those activities that lots of us liked to think about but not all that many actually did.   So 14.8m tune in to the Great British Bake Off final, but cake sales are, according to the Bakers Federation, defiantly on the up.  But there is apparently one little gadget that is making us both think & do – and that’s the fitness tracker.  One in six of us are now reckoned to use a smartwatch or fitness tracker – counting an enormous and ever-increasing number of steps/calorie burns/heartbeats.

But what about our dogs?

Technology is tracking our dogs, in every sense.  Trend forecasters are predicting that major pet food brands will soon be showering us with freeby fitness trackers for our dogs – mostly for the data they can then collect, but hey, as long as we get some step-counting fun at the same time, then great.   And locators are two a penny – and could obviously be great if they really do have the range to track a lost dog, though I haven’t yet seen any in action that really have a range much beyond visual?  But more interestingly, a team of British vets has recently invented a smart collar that as well as monitoring steps and whereabouts, analyses movement, drinking habits and sleep and behaviour patterns too.

It seems to me this technology does have positive potential. Dr James Andrews, who came up with the smart collar, says ‘Pet behaviour can tell us a lot about pet health. Owners often come into vets’ surgeries thinking they know exactly what their pet has been doing, but usually they don’t.’

Imagine how good it would be when you suspect there may be something wrong with your dog, and you could go into the vet surgery and rather than hopping from foot to foot mumbling ‘not quite right’ you could say ‘she’s not her normal self, has been visiting her water bowl four times more per day than normal and is regularly sleeping 3 hours a night less.  What about diabetes? ‘

(Actually, maybe cut out the last sentence.  I’m married to a vet and am not at all sure it goes down well when too many diagnostic suggestions are involved; I’d just stick to the drinking/sleeping statistics and leave them to do the thinking part!)

Anyway, the point is, this technology can do more than just spur us on to walk more, it can alert us to behavioural changes which may be early indicators of disease.

Which is obviously great.

But I still feel that we shouldn’t totally  let go of our instincts with these dogs.  The monitors can reassure – but part of enjoying our dogs is having the confidence of knowing we are taking responsibility for, and are on top of, their health and well being.  Anyone can see shining eyes, a nice wet nose and glistening coat, and feel a reassuring bump of rib under your hand.  So, my thoughts are monitor by all means, but we should trust our instincts too. And if yours is one of the 4m obese dogs that vets are busy worrying about in the UK and fitness trackers are designed to help get busy, start by allowing yourself to recognise the lumpy bumpy truth.  And then maybe stop feeding quite so much before the fancy new smart-collar ends up reporting both dog and owner to the vet’meister authorities!


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