SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit for Raspberry Pi review – a cute, lively puppy dog with no mess

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REVIEW – Have you ever wanted a dog that isn’t messy, doesn’t shed, only does what you tell it to, won’t chew on the furniture, and kind of obeys your voice commands? Well, the SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit for Raspberry Pi is for you. The SunFounder PiDog is another great robot kit in dog form. A few weeks ago, I got to review the SunFounder GalaxyRVR Mars Rover Kit and had a blast building and running the rover all over the place. This time it’s a more challenging build, a better onboard computer, and a little more personality. If Luke Skywalker had had a droid pet, it would have been PiDog.

What is it?

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The SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit for Raspberry Pi is another great robot kit from SunFounder. The purveyor and innovator of all things for Arduino and Raspberry Pi. PiDog is a robotic pet that you build, meticulously over a few hours. It has the same aluminum frame, a multitude of sensors, and no less than twelve servos to mimic the actions and behavior of man’s best friend.

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PiDog can sit, stand, walk, trot, bark, howl, almost anything a real dog can do except those things that make dogs not fun. You know what I’m talking about. PiDog can react to faces, avoid obstacles, and obey voice commands. All kinds of fun things. The process of building, debugging, and using programming makes the PiDog kit a great learning experience for anyone from teens to retirees.

The PiDog kit comes with a myriad of sensors that give it the ability to respond to sight (camera), touch, sound, proximity, and balance. It’s amazing all the things the little robot canine can do.

What’s included?

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SunFounder PiDog Kit Contents
  • 25 Aluminum Frame Parts
  • 12 Metal Gear Servos
  • 13 Clear Plexiglass pieces
  • 7 Electronic Sensors for sight, distance, touch, balance, and sound detection and measuring
  • A controller board
  • LED light strip
  • Over 200 screws, nuts, standoffs, etc.
  • Many cables and connectors
  • Battery
  • Tools

What’s NOT included?

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Raspberry Pi 4

Although the PiDog kit comes with just about everything you’d need, one thing you will need to purchase separately is PiDog’s brain. The kit requires a Raspberry Pi to function. If you’re not familiar with Raspberry Pi, in a nutshell, it’s a small, yet capable, fully-featured, relatively inexpensive computer. The PiDog will run with any of four different Raspberry Pi models (these are listed in the Tech Specs below). All of these are available to purchase from SunFounder’s website. (Full disclosure: SunFounder provided a Raspberry Pi 4 for this review.)

Tech specs

Click to expand
  • Size After Assembly: 10” long x 9” tall x 6” wide (24cm long x 22.5cm tall x 14 cm wide)
  • Compatible Motherboards: Raspberry Pi 4/3B+/3B /Zero W (Not Included)
  • Expansion Board: SunFounder Robot Hat
  • Camera: 5MP Camera
  • Sensors: Ultrasonic Module, Touch Switch Module, 6 DOF (Gyroscope+Accelerometer) Sensor Module, Sound Direction Module
  • Battery Type: 2 x18650 Battery
  • Battery Life: 1.5 Hours
  • Charging Time: About 2-3 Hours
  • Connection Mode: WiFi/ AP
  • Body Material: Aluminum Alloy
  • Number of Servos: 12
  • Action Set: Walking, sleeping, sitting, running, turning left, turning right, scratching ears, bobbing head, wagging tail, stretching, push-up
  • Voice Control Commands: forward, backward, turn left, turn right, trot, stop, lie down, stand up, sit, bark, bark harder, pant, wag tail, shake head, stretch, doze off, push-up, howling, twist body, scratch, handshake, high five
  • Use of RGB LED Strips: Emotional Expression
  • Control Mode: SunFounder Controller App
  • Programming Language: Python


Design and features

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Newly Assembled PiDog

Just as the Mars Rover kit from SunFounder was an excellent robotics kit, the SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit is also a very well-designed and thought-out kit. I have a feeling, that most, if not all of SunFounder’s kits are excellent to teach different aspects of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

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PiDog’s Assembly

Assembly (see the next section) was very straightforward and resulted from some great planning and instruction. You can tell the team at SunFounder took their time and carefully thought out each step.

Once the kit is built, you load the full suite of software required to run PiDog onto the Raspberry Pi. The full instructions on how to do this are found on the SunFounder PiDog website. The process was easy and consisted of connecting to PiDog over WiFi and copying and pasting commands from the website into a window on your computer. Once All the software is copied over and installed, you can begin running PiDog through its paces.

SunFounder provides 13 different pre-programmed packages to fully run PiDog. 3 of these packages allow you to demonstrate all of PiDog’s capabilities. Here is a list of all the pre-programmed packages that are installed and what they are for:

Package Purpose
Wake Up PiDog goes through several moves to simulate waking up.
Function Demo All-in-one demo of many moves and sounds
Patrol PiDog walks around and reacts to obstacles
Response PiDog reacts to threats and scratches his head
Rest PiDog sleeps and snores
Be picked up PiDog goes into a Superman flying pose when picked up
Face Track PiDog recognizes a human face and follows it
Push Up PiDog does pushups
Howling PiDog howls at the moon
Balance PiDog balances on changing uneven surfaces
Keyboard Control A keyboard controller for going through all his pre-programmed actions
App Control Package to interface with the SunFounder robotics app
Ball track PiDog recognizes and follows anything colored red (e.g. a red ball)

This video will show a few of these actions and what PiDog does when you run them.

One of these packages is an app that runs on Android and Apple devices. This gives you an easy-to-use ability to make PiDog move, make sounds, respond to stimuli, and be playful. See this video for the app’s interface.

Just like the Mars rover from SunFounder, PiDog goes with a suite of educational “lessons” and reference material for the PiDog kit. This includes a very thorough set of webpages for each piece of hardware that the PiDog kit includes.

Another module is a short lesson on the Python programming language. You don’t need to know anything about programming, or even go through the programming part, but it is there if that interests you.

The meat of all this centers around the pre-programmed actions listed above. The website uses a small app you install on your computer (PC or Mac) that allows each project to connect to PiDog and run the Python code. One of the nice features of these lessons is the programming code that SunFounder has put together for these packages is all shown, and you can even modify it and test it immediately on the PiDog. Most of these packages’ code is well-documented and easy to read.

Everything you would need to learn, modify, and extend PiDog is provided to you on the SunFounder website. If you have a desire to easily learn programming with Python (which is one of the best programming languages to learn programming), this is a great resource and fun way to do it. I highly recommend it.

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PiDog’s Battery (blue part)

The included battery for PiDog takes about 2 hours to fully charge from empty to full. Once fully charged, you can use PiDog for a couple of hours before it needs to be charged again.

Assembly, Installation, Setup

Assembling PiDog was challenging in a way that was not overwhelming. I would not recommend this kit for children under 12 years old. Many tiny parts require dexterity that I don’t think younger children would have. It took me about four or five hours to fully assemble, set up and calibrate PiDog.

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Assembly Instructions

The assembly instructions were very well designed and laid out. There are 74 individual steps to assemble PiDog. Most of these steps are rather short and only take a few minutes to attach a piece of the frame or attach and connect a piece of the electronic hardware. Several of the steps require you to go on the SunFounder website and follow more detailed instructions to load a piece of software onto the Raspberry Pi or calibrate a servo to make sure it is in the right position before attaching it to PiDog.

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Many Servos

There are 12 servos in all for PiDog to be fully articulated. Two per leg, one for the tail, and three for the head/neck. Before you can attach a servo, it has to be “zeroed out”. This process takes about 5 minutes. Tedious? Yes. Necessary? Also, yes.

Don’t fret though, young padawan, SunFounder provides the necessary instructions and helper videos. Everything you need to venture on your robot-building adventure.

After assembly is complete, there is quite a lengthy calibration step. This step makes sure the legs’ hip and knee joints are in the correct alignment. If these joints on the robot are out of alignment, then PiDog would have a limp and/or possibly fall over when walking or standing. And you wouldn’t want that, would you? To calibrate PiDog, you use an included 90º plexiglass piece that you use to measure how out of square the joints are. It’s an easy process, just takes a while to complete.

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PiDog’s Hip and Knee Calibration

Once calibration is complete, you are free to run all the pre-programmed packages or explore modifying the code and “training” PiDog to do new tricks.

What I like about SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit

  • Excellent kit with very well-designed and thought-out steps
  • Assembly instructions and videos are very easy to follow
  • Online projects are well done and educational
  • Easily customizable code
  • Loads of extra parts

What needs to be improved?

  • Kind of expensive
  • Raspberry Pi not included
  • Front-heavy and sometimes tipped over on the nose

Final thoughts

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The review that I did of PiDog’s sibling kit, the GalaxyRVR Mars rover, had given me the most joy and was the most satisfying I had written for The Gadgeteer thus far. Well, Mr. Rover, you’ve been replaced. The SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit is the new sheriff in town. The amount of personality this little robot dog has is infectious. I love just looking at it and watching the little guy walk or trot across the floor. I haven’t felt this connected to a robot since R2-D2 in 1977.

Price: $179.99 (PiDog Kit) and $75.00 (Raspberry Pi 4)
Where to buy: SunFounder website or Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by SunFounder. SunFounder did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

3 thoughts on “SunFounder PiDog Robot Dog Kit for Raspberry Pi review – a cute, lively puppy dog with no mess”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
      1. Sunfounder replied to my question and said the PiDog will be available again at the end of the month. Since tomorrow is the end of the month, I’m going to presume they meant June.

        Still…. good to know that there will be more coming soon!

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