REVIEW – Our 10-year-old Border collie mix, Pepper, is a full-figured girl who is as likely to eat any food she finds as she is to eat anything else—including, but not limited to, a box of tissues, a glass Christmas ornament or a pair of ear plugs. She also tends to be a lazy lady of luxury and is prone to obsessive-compulsive behaviors. A monitor/tracker seemed like the perfect way to help her get on a healthier track.
What Is It?
Animo is an easy-to-install device that learns, measures and assesses your dog’s behavior and activity levels. You begin by entering basic information on the app: your dog’s name, gender, breed, birth date, weight, and spayed/neutered status. You can also enter medical conditions, medications, preferences and dietary information for a more detailed profile. You also enter the family’s normal sleeping patterns—e.g. waking at 7 a.m. and going to bed at 11 p.m. After about a week, the device provides 24/7 data on your pet’s activity level, the number of calories burned, daytime and nighttime sleep patterns (broken down in categories as “rest” and “sleep”), and behaviors. Tracked behaviors include barking, scratching and shaking.
We downloaded the app and attached the device to Pepper’s collar on March 11. It took about a week for the device to learn and begin to assess her behavior. Because I work out of my home office and am with Pepper almost all the time, I was able to see what I already knew: She sleeps a lot, has spurts of activity, and is prone to bouts of licking and scratching. The amount of licking and scratching was commensurate with Florida’s heaviest pollen season, something that typically sends Pepper’s system into a tizzy. I am alerted when her behaviors improve or worsen.
A few days before getting the device, we adopted a 7-week-old puppy, another Border collie mix we call Biscuit. Though Biscuit often bites at Pepper’s neck and has targeted Animo repeatedly, the device has held up under the tussle. Its water-resistant quality is a big plus considering the amount of dog slobber to which it has been exposed.
But let’s talk for a minute about what Animo is not. It is not a GPS tracker. Two weeks after attaching it to Pepper’s collar, my husband (Gadgeteer reviewer Bill “Mr. Headphones” Henderson) took both dogs outside while I made dinner, but he came back in with only one.
“Did you let Pepper in the house?” he asked. I immediately panicked because Pepper had been a street dog until she was rescued, and she’s also an escape artist. Add to that the fact we live on a lake, and she could get hurt (think alligators and water moccasins) or travel around the lake to a more distant community. It was nearly dark when our neighbor found her stuck in the muck and inside a briar bush by the lake. Within a couple of days, we ordered a GPS monitor, Whistle, which does everything Animo does in addition to location tracking. The Go Explore model, which we chose, costs about $40 more than Animo plus requires an annual subscription that amounts to $7.95 a month. Animo requires no subscription.
What’s interesting is the disparity in readings between the two apps. For instance, as I write this, Animo has recorded one hour and 22 minutes of activity. Whistle, on the other hand, has recorded 40 minutes of activity to this point. I do know Animo’s barking metric is inaccurate. It often will indicate Pepper has had no barking bouts when my migraine reminds me she’s had several.
The behaviors are also recorded differently. Whistle tracks the exact amount of time pets scratch or lick and reports on the percentage of improvement or worsening. Animo graphs behaviors by time and frequency. It then indicates whether behaviors are normal, lower than normal, or elevated based upon the pet’s history. Whistle doesn’t report shaking, and Animo doesn’t report licking. The types of information reported and its presentation would be a matter of personal preference for the user.
- 22 grams
- 37-mm diameter
- Fits collar widths ranging from 12 to 30 mm
- Uses a CR2032 battery with a six-month battery life
- Contains a three-axis accelerometer
- Water-resistant and can be immersed in a meter (3.3 feet) of water for 30 minutes
- Uses Bluetooth
- Compatible with iOS 9 and Android 5.0 and higher
- Can synchronize data within a 10-meter (nearly 33-foot) range
- Durable metal mounting ring
- Sturdy plastic construction of main unit
In the Box
- CR2023 battery
- Animo monitor
- Collar attachments
- Quick start guide
Design and Features
Animo’s home screen charts activity by hour, amount and intensity. It also assigns a sleep score and breaks down sleep by night rest and day rest. You can also see the number of calories burned so far, as well as average calories, burned. Pepper burns an average of 1,336 calories a day, slightly short of her assigned goal of 1,417. (That does not account for the extra calories she consumed when she ate half of Biscuit’s food this morning while he was outside.) You’re notified when your pet meets his goal. Finally, you can see whether your dog is experiencing abnormal amounts of licking, scratching or shaking. You can click on each section of the home page to get a more detailed summary, and you can select a day from the calendar at the top for comparison.
What I Like
I appreciate the unit’s durable construction—its ability to withstand the onslaught of attacks from Biscuit as the dogs wrestle—and the ease of setup. The unit was on Pepper’s collar, where it has safely remained since, and collecting information on her behavior within a few minutes of opening the box. It’s unobtrusive enough that Pepper hasn’t noticed it.
I also appreciate the unit’s water resistance. I didn’t have to worry when Pepper decided to park herself under the sprinkler, and I don’t have to panic if I forget to remove it when I give her a bath.
What I Would Change
Unlike Whistle, Animo has to be synchronized to generate the most current report. The app loads fairly slowly, and synchronization can be tedious. You also have to make sure you’re in the same room and an adjacent one to synchronize successfully. I would prefer automatic updates, something Whistle provides. And after Pepper’s most recent misadventure, I would love to see GPS incorporated into an updated model, at least as an upgraded option. This would benefit people like me who have lost a pet, as well as people who hire dog walkers and want to see the route their dog takes daily.
Also, the silicon ring that holds the unit onto the collar snapped within a few weeks of activating Animo. We originally used the largest of three-ring sizes included in the box. We replaced it with a smaller ring, but we expect the extra tension will contribute to an even earlier demise. Fortunately, we discovered the broken ring when photographing the unit for the review. The unit could easily have been lost on our property.
If you don’t need the GPS technology—perhaps you’re always outside with your pet or you have better fencing than we do—then Animo is a great way to track and monitor your dog’s health and behavior. It also helps you create a baseline for comparison as your pet ages. If you need to consult a vet as the result of behavior changes, you have hard evidence instead of strictly anecdotal observations.