Meanwhile, the proliferation of apps for mobile devices offers clutter-free options for urban pet owners with little living space.
There are apps that track pets' whereabouts, like the GPS-based monthly service Tagg Pet Tracker, which can alert owners if a dog leaves a designated area or monitor a pet's physical activity. For a simpler option, PetHub dog tags and collars make owners' contact information accessible through a scanning app on a mobile device, and animal shelter and GPS tracking services can be added.
Vetere believes the best high-tech pet product is the microchip, which can be implanted in dogs, cats, birds, horses and other animals and will help reunite owners with lost pets.
"They are also widely used by industry professionals to track vaccinations, test results and other records. With GPS microchips now available as well, your missing pet can not only be tracked back to you, but you can now track them down and prove ownership if need be," he said.
Vetere predicts hot high-tech gifts this year will be microchip pet doors, which open using a chip implanted in the animal. He said the most popular products will always be those that make life easier for pet owners — "like automatic feeders and water delivery systems, automatic litter boxes, grooming tools that comb and also vacuum up the pet hair."
On Vetere's personal wishlist is "an automatic yard cleaner that would pick up after my dog, but I don't see how that would work without a robot," he said.
For pets and owners who do volunteer work — yes, there's an app for that, too. For example, the $149.99 TouchChat alternative communication app lets people who have difficulty speaking play with a dog using voice commands.
Ricochet, a 4-year-old golden retriever from San Diego, works with people who have Down syndrome, who are autistic or who suffered strokes. Patients touch an iPad, prompting a synthesized voice to deliver a command like sit or turn around or down. If the dog performs the command (and Ricochet always does), the patient can throw her a treat.
"No cues, inflection or interaction is needed from her handler. They can communicate with Ricochet directly, giving them a sense of independence, self-confidence and empowerment," said owner Judy Fridono.
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