This was a great article in the New York Times sent to us by Izzy’s mom! Enjoy!
by Bob Tedeschi
I’m part owner of a nervous little dog with a bark like an ice pick through my brain and a tendency to use that weapon at random, several times a day.
Pippi, who is officially my wife’s dog, also has a fondness for dark chocolate. And when we make the mistake of leaving it within her reach, her behavior approximates that of a barking cocaine addict. During those moments I sometimes wonder whether she might actually expire.
Smartphones can now answer that question with great precision and perform many other dog-related tasks because of apps like Pet First Aid ($4 on iPhone, $3 on Android) and PupTox ($1 on iPhone).
Others, like iSqueek ($2 on iPhone), Squeaky Fun Time (free on Android) and Dog Whistler (free on iPhone and Android) are meant to interact directly with your pet and may even help shorten your dog’s barking jags.
A third category of apps is meant to give your dog’s social life a little boost (as in the free Dog Park Finder for the iPhone) or let you leverage your pup to strengthen your own social network.
Here, DogBook is the one to watch. Free and only for the iPhone, this is the mobile version of the DogBook service on Facebook, which lets dog owners post profiles of their pets and connect with other canine lovers.
The app is promising, but flawed. You can search for Facebook friends who have also joined DogBook. But when I searched the list, very few had actually posted profiles of their dogs.
The app displays the profiles of your friends’ pets, but if my friends are any indication, these profiles offer limited (and not very entertaining) information. You can also view profiles of dogs who live near you, but because they belong to strangers, the information is even less interesting.
The search feature is marginally entertaining, though, because you can search for specific dog names and breeds and see how many people within a certain geographic area own animals like yours.
A more useful tool for socially minded dog owners is Dog Park Finder, which puts the content of DogGoes.com into a mobile-friendly format. The free version of the iPhone app shows the location of roughly 2,600 dog parks, including those closest to you. Dog Park Finder Plus ($2) adds about 2,500 dog-friendly hiking spots and beaches. (Hey Walkies, a highly rated and free iPhone app, offers similar features, but is limited to New York City users.)
What if you’re out with your dog and it eats something toxic, like, perhaps, someone’s stash of dark chocolate?
Here is where PupTox and, to a greater extent, Pet First Aid come in handy. The apps can save you from a frantic trip to the veterinarian’s office.
Pet First Aid offers users a list of hazardous substances for household pets and points out toxic elements you may otherwise overlook. Avocados and antifreeze, for instance, can be toxic for pets.
The list includes a section on chocolate, where you can calculate the lethal dosages for dogs of certain weights. The app further differentiates between milk chocolate and pure chocolate.
Pet First Aid includes a section for adding veterinary contacts and pet identifications, and lists vaccinations and other information. One of its developers is also the publisher of PetCPR.com, which offers pet health advice.
Far bigger online publishers are also pushing their content to mobile phones, including AOL, which produces the free Paw Nation. This polished, useful iPhone app is technically pet-agnostic, but the information skews heavily in the direction of dogs.
Users can choose from several categories of stories and videos, including pieces on animal nutrition and health, celebrity pets and question-and-answer sessions with veterinarians and specialists from the American Kennel Club.
Some recent features include advice for giving dogs ibuprofen and Benadryl, tips for owners of snoring canines and guidance on why a dog’s ears can get smelly. (Tips: smelly ears can be cured with medicine, but you’re more likely to need a surgeon to get rid of snoring.)
App developers haven’t built programs for your dog to play with your device, as they have done with cats. But iSqueek and Squeaky Fun Time are close, in that they can at least attract your dog’s attention.
ISqueek, for instance, includes interactive photos of 18 different squeaky toys. The toys were true to life and annoying. Perhaps predictably, Pippi was quickly drawn to the sound when I tapped the toys. Squeaky Fun Time offered uninspired graphics and less sound control, but it was free and the closest thing to iSqueek that I could find on the Android platform.
The app that held the most promise for me was, likewise, free. Dog Whistler emits high-pitched tones that you can tweak in various ways, especially on the iPhone version, so you can train your dog to, for instance, not threaten your sanity with incessant barking.
The app receives mixed reviews, so I was prepared for the worst. (As one iTunes reviewer wrote, “It doesn’t work on the dog, but it really annoys my brother.”)
I opened Dog Whistler and waited for my daughter’s school bus to unload in front of our house — a trigger for Pippi’s most frantic barking. When it did, and Pippi started growling, I pointed the iPhone at her and hit the whistle.
Man, did it hurt my ears, but it didn’t keep her from barking.