June 21, 2017
In an age when gaming is no longer just for those with ghostly tans, but a booming industry with a growing spectator division, it only makes sense for it to expand beyond humans. For those of us with pets, we often feel guilty leaving them on their own during the work day, being left to their own devices. Like people, dogs too need to keep their mind occupied in order to stay happy and healthy, and a new startup, CleverPet, has found a way to do just that. What looks like a combination of the old school Simon Says game, an automatic feeder, and some gamification provides your pup (and sometimes cats) with endless fun and training activities.
Developed by cognitive scientists and neuroscientists who love their pets, CleverPet progressively helps people train their pups through brain puzzles. This begs the question, can an old dog learn new tricks? We gave CleverPet a whirl with two test dogs over the course of a month to find the answer.
Before we get to it, let’s dig into setting it up, and then we’ll introduce you to the test pups.
Setup and Training
Unlike some other pet related gadgets that are designed to let you monitor and interact with your dog, CleverPet requires some upfront training and patients with your dog. Once the dog is familiarized with the hardware, sounds, and function, it then becomes passive and they get to interact with it as they see fit.
To get started all you really need to do is familiarize yourself with the hardware, taking apart some of it and removing stickers, giving parts a wash, and then filling the food pod up with food. From there you download the app, connect CleverPet to power and your wifi, and then it will train you how to use it.
Before the games begin, CleverPet will start opening and closing the food tray to encourage your dog to approach it. It then tracks if the food was eaten, showing that the dog is becoming familiar and ok with the hardware. After quite a few interactions like this it will then transition into the games that start relatively easy with two pads lit, and progressively gets more challenging such as dropping to one lit pad and then having to follow the lit pattern.
During the training period I was initially planning to use CleverPet with my chiweenie Loopy since she loves PetCube, but due to the sounds it made she was not a fan. Gizmo on the other hand is an 11-year-old pug who loves nothing more than eating, He flew right through the initial training, and after that he’d interact and play with CleverPet sporadically throughout the day.
How CleverPet Works
CleverPet is designed to keep food-driven dogs happy and active by rewarding them when they either press the right lit up pad. As your dog progresses, it’ll move to subsequent levels that makes the games more challenging such as having to press on a series of pads instead of just one. While the machine will hold or go back if it looks like your dog is struggling, the app also makes that easy to do as well. Just as important as the hardware though is the app, which allows you to keep track of how much is being eaten and how well your dog is doing.
Watching Gizmo interact with it at first was probably just as entertaining for me as it was him. He was getting food, playing games, and showing off, and I mostly just kept laughing at how well it worked with him. He progressed relatively quickly (in my mind) with the challenges, and seemed to max out at about level four when it went from two lit pads to just one.
At first it almost seemed like he was just pressing pads until the food would come out, but it became clear as the challenges increases that he was doing a better job of interacting with the lit pads. Unfortunately when I filmed him in action with it I think it added too much pressure as he reverted back to just a process of elimination for most of it. Otherwise the app shows he was doing progressively better.
It got to the point where if anyone came over Gizmo would immediately greet them, but then walked them over to the CleverPet. He acted just like a kid showing off his new toy and how good he was with it. And he’d keep doing it until you gave him praise, because there is nothing more this crazy old pug likes more than food and praise.
Overall it’s clear that for dogs that do like to interact with CleverPet will absolutely love it and get some much needed brain stimulation in the process, but it won’t work for all pups. Because this also combines an automatic feeder into the mix, this also ensures that food is being distributed throughout the day. If only it took them out, too. As for connectivity, CleverPet does require wifi for full use, but if it does go out it’ll kick into basic mode after 10 minutes. So as long as you have food in it, your pup will stay fed.
Design and Durability
Unless you have a petite little dog there is a good chance your pupper drools, farts, scratches things, and is overall a mess. Mix that in with an electronic device that feeds them, and you’ve got a potential hub of stink on your hand. Obviously the creators of CleverPet had this in mind as all of the external components are easily removed for cleaning, as well as the internal food pod. With some basic maintenance like whipping down the control pad, it’s also easy to ensure that it doesn’t get too messy.
Outside of cleanliness, the CleverPet can easily handle Gizmo’s squishy face and nails scratching at the controls. Typically I observed Gizmo using his face to hit the controls, but as he became frustrated with pressing the wrong button he would begin scratching at the control pad or occasionally at the outer shell.
Overall it’s clear that the CleverPet was designed to handle dogs of any size and would keep on running. As for the app, the only downside I found is that I was unable to adjust the dog’s name/profile, so when I created the one for Loopy I couldn’t adjust it for Gizmo.
Pros and Cons
- Keeps dogs active
- Fun way to keep track of eating/skills
- Not for lazy pet owners
- May not work with all dogs
Should you buy the CleverPet? If you have a food-driven dog, definitely. At first glance, you too probably looked at the price tag. For a typical electronic feeder you’ll have to drop about $150, and for a smarter connected one -which there are few- it’ll probably reach to $200-$250. But what about games, puzzles, and ways to interact with your dog? It varies, and frankly there are not really any like CleverPet on the market. While Loopy wasn’t a fan, Gizmo absolutely loves CleverPet. For an old man pug who can’t handle much outdoor heat, keeping him active indoors is awesome.
The exception to all of this of course is that if your dog is not food driven or may be started by sounds and machinery, then CleverPet may not work for you. Fortunately they do have a two month trial period so you can test it out to see how well it works with your dogs.
Read more reviews of Gear & Gadgets at Tech.Co
Did you like this article?
Get more delivered to your inbox just like it!