If you’re a dog lover, you may not admit it but you secretly want a social network centered solely on your pooch. There are a few of you who have acted on that desire, creating a Twitter account for Stella’s more amusing barks or a Facebook profile to show Bruno’s best selfies. But most of us try to keep it reasonable. Though we may annoy you with a lot of pics of our pups, we don’t ask you to “friend” them on Facebook.
But San Francisco quantified canine startup Whistle Labs is tapping into that pent-up demand we dog owners have to obsessively record, catalog and share our pets’ daily lives. Whistle is adding social media tools to its dog activity-monitoring platform – instead of only a being a Fitbit for dogs, it wants to become Path as well.
Whistle’s poker-chip sized collar tag has been on sale since November — you can read my full review of the canine wearable here — but last week the company announced a major milestone: an exclusive distribution agreement with PetSmart. And in the process, the company released a major update to its iPhone software. The new app not only breaks down the activity data from the Whistle tracker in much greater detail, but also adds a bevy of new interactive tools.
Instead of just attaching photos and comments to the major events it tracks throughout the day — say, a long walk or a play session — Whistle now lets you create an event anywhere on its daily timeline. You could note naps on the sofa, friends giving your mutt a scratch behind the ears, even feedings and monthly heartworm pill doses. You can record these activities in real-time, snapping photos directly from the app or note them retroactively, and you can comment on any event in the timeline.
The end result is a daily activity stream that looks an awful lot like a Facebook timeline, but unlike with Facebook, only a dog’s owners can see or post to that stream. Technically anyone can be invited to become a dog’s “owner,” but because it involves downloading the Whistle app and registering for each dog individually, few beyond very close friends, family or dog walkers would go through the trouble.
So you can think of Whistle as a private or exclusive social network like Couple or Path, and frankly that’s for the best. No one except for my wife and I really wants to get this level of detail about our dogs Lola and Hippo’s daily routine. But for those moments we do want to share, Whistle offers tools for sharing individual photos, events or even a snapshot of your dog’s day on Facebook or Twitter.
Whistle co-founder and head of product Steven Eidelman was quick to point out that these batch tools were just a starting point. Whistle’s developers are weighing different kind of social networking designs that would let users give more casual friends the ability to interact on a pet’s timeline, as well as create communities within the Whistle network. For instance, pit bull owners across the country could subscribe to a bully breed group, or a local dog walking club or daycare could build a community around its canine members.
There are no firm plans on what features or tools Whistle will add next, Eidelman said, but it definitely plans to move well beyond the fitness and activity tracking. The idea is for Whistle to become the central digital node in your pet’s life, where not only daily minutes of activity are cataloged, but its health and happiness as well. There are a lot of dog owners looking for such a tool, myself included.