Log My Dog: Perceived Impact of Dog Activity Tracking

Abstract: The pet industry is catching up in the wearables market, and pet activity and location trackers are increasingly worn by our furry friends. We report on an empirical study investigating the user perceptions of a popular dog activity tracker. Results show that these trackers have a positive impact on owners’ motivation to increase their physical activities with their dogs.

Read the full article on IEEE. A previous version of this article is available on ResearchGate (no subscription required).

A recent study by the Tech4Animals lab, published in IEEE Computer (https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8812161), a high-impact leading magazine on technological innovations, features the FitBark product, posing some fascinating questions on the dog-human bond through the lense of technology. By interviewing more than eighty FitBark users, the study showed that FitBark is perceived to have positive impact on owners’ motivation to increase their mutual physical activities with their dogs. Moreover, the human-dog bond is perceived to be further reinforced, increasing human awareness to animals’ needs by giving them a “digital voice”, potentially improving the quality of human caregiving.

FitBark_Love_My_Dog_Chart-1030x573 | University of Haifa taps FitBark to show that dog health monitors motivate humans to be more active

The study shows that “healthier together” is more than just a slogan, as dog and human activity go hand in hand. Several participants particularly noted the effectiveness of synchronization of FitBark with their own FitBit on increasing their mutual daily activity with their dogs. Thus activity trackers such as FitBark may increase the depth of our understanding of what motivates people to increase their activity not only for their own good, but for that of their pets as well.

A next step will be to see how product integration between FitBark and Fitbit can play into this joint increase of activity to stimulate more enduring benefits to activity and health than ‘individual’ devices tracking only human fitness have so far been shown to have. 

In general, the authors believe that smart collars and activity trackers are the “underdogs” of the IoT world, and that these devices will have a significant impact on society in more ways than we can imagine today. One aspect of this is that dogs and cats are beginning to generate huge amounts of wellbeing data, and that the insights scientists will eventually obtain through analyzing this data are about to transform the way we take care of our companion animals’ needs today.

FitBark_tech_4_animals-900x675 | University of Haifa taps FitBark to show that dog health monitors motivate humans to be more active
Becky, a founding member of the Tech4Animals Lab, proudly trying her new FitBark

About the Author: Anna Zamansky (http://is.haifa.ac.il/~annazam/web/), a researcher in Information Systems is the founder of the Tech4Animals Lab at the the University of Haifa. This unique multidisciplinary lab, founded only six years ago, aims to study all aspects of technology for animal science, welfare and well-being. Its research team includes Dr. Stephane Bleuer, a veterinary behaviorist, and Dr. Dirk van der Linden, an expert in human factors of technology, in addition to a team of research students and developers. 

The lab’s projects range from developing research-tailored automatic tools for analyzing animal behavior and welfare to understanding the impact on society of commercially available general-purpose products – such as activity trackers like FitBark. 

The lab uses machine learning, IoT and computer vision to produce tools that animal scientists can use to analyze and measure behavior of various species. It is great fun too: dogs, cats, giraffes, turtles and pigs are only some of the lab’s subjects of study. 

For more information on the lab and its research, visit www.tech4animals.org