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Whistle review: Activity trackers go to the dogs

At a Glance
  • Whistle Labs Whistle

Just what does your dog do all day? Sleep for eight hours straight? Run around your living room in circles? Go on lengthy walks with your dog walker? Whistle, an activity tracker for dogs—yes, you read that correctly—can help you find out.

The hardware

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The Whistle device on a collar

The Whistle device is a round gadget that measures about 1.5 inches in diameter and 0.25 inch thick. The front of the gadget is made of attractive brushed aluminum with a whistle icon stamped into it, while the sides and back are plastic. Although the brushed aluminum looks great, don’t expect it to last—especially if your dog enjoys dramatically scraping up against walls (mine does) or playing collar-tug with pit bulls (mine does). One small button sits on the side, and a slim ring of light, which indicates battery status, appears just under the front plate.

The Whistle gadget attaches to your dog’s collar with a rubbery strap. The device snaps into a plastic plate on the strap, which has quick-release levers that let you take the device off your dog without removing the entire rubber-strap contraption from the collar. Although the strap is adjustable, the Whistle device is rather big for small dogs—it fit nicely around my French bulldog’s 1-inch-thick leather collar, for instance, but it looked ridiculous (and a bit uncomfortable) around my Pomeranian’s slim quarter-inch collar. It doesn’t come in different sizes, so owners of small dogs may want to skip this gadget.

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Charging the Whistle

Once attached to your dog’s collar, the Whistle device simply sits there and passively records activity. It doesn’t record every single tiny movement your dog makes—it waits until your pup has been running around for a few minutes before it starts calling the activity a play session.

The software

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See a summary of your pup’s playtimes.

To see your dog’s activity charts, you have to log in to the Whistle iOS app, which is available for devices running iOS 6.1 and later. The app allows you to add your dog’s profile (including name, age, weight, gender, breed, city, and activity goal) and to track your pet’s activity throughout the day. You can add up to six people for each dog, which is perfect if you have a dog walker or a spouse who also wants to track your pup’s activity. When your dog is active with those people, Whistle will pick up on their nearby iOS device and inform you as to who your pup is being active with.

The Whistle app has a nice, clean interface that lets you review your dog’s daily activity level at a glance. Each day features a line chart that shows how your dog’s activity level changes throughout the day (it’s labeled morning, daytime, and night). Below the chart, you see a list of your dog’s individual activity sessions, which are usually labeled ‘Active with you’ (or with another owner) or ‘Walk’. Whistle can tell when your dog is walking versus playing, which is a nice feature if you hire a dog walker to walk—not just play with—your dog.

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Quickly view your pet’s activity levels.

If you tap the arrow icon in the upper-right corner, you can see your dog’s trends over the past few months. Here you can check on your pet’s daily activity levels, progress toward activity goals, and daily rest levels. You can see your dog’s activity for the past six months, or you can compare the activity against that of other, similar dogs. I assume that the app determines “similar dogs” based on your pup’s age, weight, and breed, but I’m not sure.

Overall, Whistle is a fun little gadget that’s useful for people who want to know whether their dog is getting enough exercise. Potential buyers might include people who are away all day and who hire dog walkers, or people who are traveling—I know that this gadget certainly helped me make sure that my puppy was getting enough exercise when I recently drove across the United States. I did find one major drawback with Whistle, however: It connects via Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth.

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Trends on Whistle

At first I didn’t think that would be a problem—after all, I’ve had Bluetooth headaches before, but I almost never have difficulties with Wi-Fi. However, once I started traveling, I saw why the dependence on Wi-Fi wasn’t ideal. Because the Whistle gadget can send information to your mobile device only via Wi-Fi, you’ll always need access to an open Wi-Fi network. You can connect Whistle to a private (password-protected) Wi-Fi network through the app, but I had trouble getting that connection to work after the initial setup. Also, if your only option is a protected Wi-Fi network that doesn’t use a password but instead uses some other type of protection, such as a Web portal, you will not be able to connect Whistle to that network.

Whistle’s Wi-Fi–only restriction meant that I couldn’t check on my dog’s activity levels, or even the gadget’s battery status, for the entire two weeks I was traveling.

Bottom line

Whistle certainly has its uses, but it’s a little limited compared with other dog trackers that are popping up. And although its Wi-Fi–only restriction is tolerable if you’re mostly at home with a Wi-Fi connection, it can be annoying to use if you’re on the road. For $130, I really see Whistle as a worthwhile investment only for people who hire potentially untrustworthy dog walkers, because Whistle will let you know if, when, and for how long your dog is being walked.

Updated on July 10 with a video from IDG News Service.

This story, "Whistle review: Activity trackers go to the dogs" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
  • Whistle Labs Whistle

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