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Whistle is like Fitbit for your dog

Whistle for iPhoneWhistle is a Fitbit for your dog, and more. This unobtrusive, durable and waterproof device attaches to Spot's collar and records data on his activities, day or night. Gather precious information for your vet, track progress towards fitness goals, view peaks and valleys in activity and even share photos with family and friends, all with the Whistle wearable monitor and companion iPhone app. My Boston Terrier Batgirl and I had a good time testing this out, and I'm very impressed. Here's our look at Whistle.

Last June we sat down with Ben Jacobs, CEO and co-founder of Whistle. At that time, his company had begun taking preorders for its namesake product: a wearable activity monitor for dogs. Today, my dog and I have spent some time with a Whistle monitor and the companion iPhone app. Not only is it an effective monitor, it supplies a wealth of data that you can share with your vet, which is vastly superior to the mostly anecdotal evidence that owners usually bring to an appointment.

How it works

The Whistle device itself is about the size of a US half dollar. It fits into a small holder very securely, which in turn can be attached to a dog's collar via the supplied, adjustable strap. The unit charges over USB in about an hour (USB cable also provided), and a full charge will get you about a week's use.

It uses a three-axis accelerometer to determine if your dog is idle, walking around, playing briskly or running. The Whistle weighs just 16 grams and feels solid and well-made. While I wasn't able to test its claim of being waterproof with a dip in the lake, it did trudge through the snow without a problem. Finally, LED indicators make you aware of various states, like charging (red), connecting to Bluetooth (blue, of course) and ready to go (green).

It's also quite nice that a charging base, USB cable and collar attachment piece are all well-made. Nothing feels cheap here. Even the packaging is attractive.

Setup

Setup is easy. Once the Whistle is charged, all you need to do is launch the app and follow the on-screen instructions. First you must connect it to your phone via Bluetooth, as that's how it shares its data. Next, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, as that's how it syncs data to the cloud. The next step is to create a profile for your dog, including age, weight, breed, and some info on his/her human (that's you).

Finally, set an activity goal for Spot. The default is 30 minutes per day. The app notes most vets recommend between 30 and 60 minutes of activity per day. Once that's done, an animation shows you how to attach/detach the Whistle from its mount, and you're good to go!

Use

Ah, the fun part! I really wanted to see what the Whistle could do so Batty got a workout. Of course, you'll get an accurate, representative baseline of your dog's activity if you let her have about a week of typical days. Once that's done, you can compare that data to subsequent days to compare and contrast.

At the end of the day, you can view a chart of our dog's activity. It's easy to spot his most active time and most restful. A pattern emerges the more you use the Whistle. Eventually you can see his total time spent active per day across five days at a glance. Simply swipe left or right to view newer or older data. The "Trends" view offers additional detail.

This beautiful presentation is what I'd show the vet. You'll see the number of days your goal has been hit, active minutes per day in an attractive scatter plot and trends in daily activity (percentage up or down). Finally, you can review trends in resting.

In addition, you'll find a "+" icon. Click it to reveal four options:

  1. Food. Record what and when your dog ate.
  2. Record any medication(s) taken, when and what dose.
  3. Add a note.
  4. Add a photo.

I should point out that you can attach a photo to any of the above. Not only is this fun, it can be quite useful when sharing information with a doctor, dog sitter and so on.

I was skeptical about this device at first. A FitBit for my dog? But now I'm a convert. It does provide useful information with no effort from me, setup is easy and the app is useful and pretty. I can recommend Whistle to gear-loving dog owners. You can buy yours online or at your local Petsmart retailer.

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