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Helicopter Parent Your Dog, With Pet GPS

Spot can run, but he can’t hide.
September 22, 2011

You’re probably familiar with the term “helicopter parenting,” the idea that in our technological age, being up in your child’s business is easier than ever. The cell phone, some say, has become “the world’s longest umbilical cord.” But why limit your overwhelming scrutiny to your kids? With one of the new pet-oriented GPS systems on the market, now you can extend your helicopter parenting to Fido.

“This could easily be a multimillion-dollar category,” David Lummis, a “pet market analyst,” recently told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. With that in mind, let’s explore what’s out there.

First there’s Tagg, from Snaptracs, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm. “Hi! This is your old pal Skipper!” announces a pitchdog Jack Russell Terrier in a video hawking the device. “When my family wanted me to know how much they loved me, they bought me Tagg!”

It consists of a device that fits into the collar your dog already has (provided it’s not a spiked or bejeweled one), plus a unit that rests in your home. Through your computer, you can set a virtual perimeter, a safe zone for your dog to wander. If he strays too far, you’ll get a text message alert. The device has a battery life of some 30 days and is water resistant; it’s intended for dogs (or cats) 10 pounds or heavier. For $200, you get all the necessary hardware, plus one year of the service.

You wouldn’t expect a “multimillion-dollar category” to have only one contender, would you? Tagg has a competitor in the form of Retriever, which behaves very similarly–with virtual fences and alerts. Joining the everything-is-social trend, Retriever even lets you share the location of your dog with a friend, presumably so if your old pal Skipper escapes while you’re out of town, you can help steer the on-site rescue. To judge from its site, Retriever appears to not yet be on the market, nor is a projected price listed.

These are just two of many. Global Pet Finder, Garmin, SpotLight, and Love My Pets all have models, with prices running up to around $700, depending on what level of military standard is sufficient for your own style of puppy surveillance. The fully featured SpotLight model, for instance, even comes with a rescue button that will alert a “SpotLight recovery team” in case of emergency.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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