The wearable fitness industry has officially made its way into the pet market. In the world of human wearables, products by companies to the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin dominate the market. Companies on the pet side of things include Fitbark, Whistle, and Link AKC. Our reading and research pointed us in the direction of the Fitbark2 as being recognized as the superior product. We decided to put their most recent product, the Fitbark2, to the test in order to break into the world of dog fitness wearables. The following is our comprehensive review.
The Fitbark2 is available on Amazon and features Prime shipping so, by default, we loved it already. It got to us in a quick two days and came neatly packed as most electronics do. The package included the Fitbark2 unit, a USB cable for charging, and plenty of zip ties for mounting the unit to your dog’s collar. It also came with a quick start guide to get you rolling with your new purchase.
The quick start guide explains that the first step is charging the unit for approximately 90 minutes. We’ll be honest, this was a little bit of a buzzkill as we wanted to start tracking and playing with the numbers right away. We fought past our impatience and in the meantime followed the remaining instructions on the quick start guide, which included downloading the Fitbark App and watching a video that explains how to setup the unit on the collar.
The app was an easy setup. Once downloaded, the app prompts you to enter some basic information about you and your dog. Questions included background information such as whether or not your dog is spayed/neutered, weight, health issues, and breed. It may seem a little excessive to enter the information now, but when you realize that Fitbark uses the information to compare your dog’s behavior with other dogs of similar value, it makes sense and becomes well worth it.
After the details are taken care of, there is a short video that explains how to set the unit up on the collar. You might be thinking, how hard is it to zip tie something to a dog collar? And you would be right, it’s not that hard. But you have to give credit to the company for making sure everything is crystal clear and there are plenty of instructions. This prevents and eliminates nearly all frustration.
App – Main Page
The first thing you’ll notice when you click on the app is the picture that you chose of your beloved pooch. Win. On the main screen, you can choose “My Dogs” or “Featured Dogs.” For us, this isn’t all that useful because we only have one dog and currently do not have any other dogs to follow. We can certainly see how it would be useful to have the centralized location for all the dogs you want to access.
At the bottom of the screen, you will notice the first bit of data. You can cycle between daily activity, daily rest, activity records, and goals streak. All of these data sets give you your dog’s average compared to similar dogs. This is very motivating and valuable as you can get a feel with how your dog’s rest and activity levels compare as a whole. It is a very rewarding feeling to know that your dog is getting sufficient exercise and even better when you see that your dog’s levels are above average. Likewise, it can be very motivating when you see your dog’s averages start to slip and is helpful in getting you and your dog moving.
When looking at the main screen, you will also notice a bone in the top, right corner above your dog’s photo. This bone is filled in (dark) and begins to empty as the battery level on the unit drops. The battery lasts up to an impressive 6 months! Of course it will vary based on use and how often you sync plays a significant role. That being said, when you are talking about charging a unit in terms of months, that is beyond impressive.
App – Individual Dog Pages
Moving along with the app, you can access your dog’s data by clicking on his/her name. This brings you to your dog’s main page. The first thing you will probably notice is a circle with numbers both inside and outside of it. The top number is the points that your dog has currently accumulated and the bottom number is the goal for the day. It is important to note, at this time, that there are two arrows in a circular fashion in the top right part of the screen. This is the sync button and will update the data.
The data will only sync if you are within Bluetooth distance of your dog. If you are at work or at the store, the data will not be up to date. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until you are with your pup to get the most accurate information. Fitbark offers a Wifi Base Station which, for an additional $49.95, will transmit your dog’s data constantly. This can give you peace of mind when you are at work and very useful for people that use the Fitbark professionally.
As of the writing of this review, we were unable to use the Wifi Base Station because it was, and had been for quite some time, out of stock. There are very few things that we dislike about the Fitbark2, but this was one of them. We would have liked to see the Fitbark2 come with the Wifi Base Station. Even if it means a higher price point, we would like to see the two come together. The people that are most likely to buy this are probably obsessed with their dogs (like us) and would love to have access to their movements throughout the day, no matter where they are. Hopefully Fitbark steps up production of the base stations and makes it a complete package at some point in the near future.
Below the data (which we will go into greater detail next) you will notice a journal section. The journal entries are populated by both Fitbark and the user, should you so choose. You can add notes, comments, and pictures. It is treated like many social media outlets in that you can share your journal entries with others. A drop down menu allows you to select who sees the post including just owners, followers, vets, or public. You can also categorize your post into one of their five categories. The categories include: General, Food, Play, Grooming, and Health.
Although this is a cool feature, it is not one that we frequently use. We see the advantages of using it, particularly when you are tracking the health of your pet or when you have a lot of dogs to follow, but it is not immediately useful for us. We take so many pictures of our Maddie and post to Instagram so frequently that we haven’t found a real need for it. We are sure once we start following all your awesome pups that we will begin to use it more frequently!
Fitbark adds to your journal to let you know what type of progress your dog is making throughout the week. It gives you a weekly report that lets you know how many of the seven days the goal was reached. What we absolutely love is when Fitbark let’s you know that your dog has crushed a goal. We have had multiple weeks where Maddie had her best week yet. When Fitbark gave us a big “Woohoo!” it was extra exciting!
The first data set you see is the one mentioned above. The numbers within the center circle discuss how much progress the pup has made so far. There are four numbers outside of the circle. Moving clockwise, at 2 o’clock we have calories. This is an estimate of the number of calories that your dog has burned for the day. It is not the most useful number considering we often use weight instead of calories to measure our dog’s food, but it doesn’t hurt to get an idea.
Down at 4 o’clock is the number of miles that your dog has moved throughout the day. This one completely blew our minds. Either the tracker doesn’t really work or we just have no clue how many miles we move throughout the day, and we truly believe it is the latter. On Maddie’s best day yet she had over 13 miles! The number astounded us, but when we think back to the fact that in addition to going on a hike, she did not stop moving for 14 hours it becomes quite evident that it is accurate.
Tracking miles is also very useful if you are trying to determine how long your walk or hike was. We usually fire up MapMyRun and track our walks, but sometimes we forget. Fitbark might not track the route that you took, but the distance is certainly taken care of.
Next up, at 8 o’clock, is the sleep score. This is a number, 1-100 that gives you an idea of how your dog slept throughout the night. In order to get the sleep score, the app asks you to select a 4 hour window when you know that your dog will be asleep. It then, we assume, tracks your dog’s movements throughout that designated time period. Less movement equates to better sleep. When you wake up in the morning the number updates and you can start to note trends in your pooch’s sleep.
This was one area that confused us initially as we did not understand why we could not adjust the time to the time that we knew Maddie would be sleeping. For example, if we knew we went to bed at 10:30 p.m. and got up at 6:00 a.m., why couldn’t we set the time to that? Eventually we realized that they were asking for a four hour window. Being completely honest, we are unsure as of to why that was the chosen number of hours.
Finally, at 10 o’clock, we have the health index. As stated in parenthesis under the percentage score, the health index is in the beta stage. We could explain what the Health Index is, but we found that Fitbark’s website says it much better than we would. It explains:
“The FitBark Health Index (currently in beta) is a first of its kind, ambitious, proprietary metric that tells you how healthy your dog is. The primary elements it analyzes include: Recent activity and sleep patterns (vs. typical patterns) Typical activity and sleep patterns (vs. similar dogs) For dogs on a stable medical situation, the health index is typically between 70% and 100%.…”
The last bit of information on your dog’s page is a share button. Clicking this allows you to take or select a picture. The statistics mentioned here are then displayed over the picture that you chose. When you click save, you are then brought to Facebook where you can share your dog’s stats with others.
By clicking on the center circle on your dog’s page you will be brought to an additional screen. This is where the data starts to get very interesting. You are greeted with a very colorful and lovely circle with four additional circles above. Upon further observation, you will begin to notice that in addition to having the same numbers inside the circle as the previous page, the circle has grey areas and white areas. The white areas mark day time while the grey, shaded areas mark night time . This is confirmed with a little sun in the white area and a little moon in the grey.
There are twenty-four lines coming out of the circle representing each hour of the day. Within these lines you will notice something that looks like slime. We really can’t think of any other way to describe it. The slime varies in height and is essentially a graph of the categories of your dog’s activity levels. The teal color represents rest, while purple is active and maroon is play.
When your dog is active or playing, the slime graphs start to rise within the individual slots designated by the time lines. So, for example, if Fido was running at the dog park between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., you will see a large bubble of maroon slime between the line for 3 and the line for 4, indicating that Fido was playing at this time.
But wait, there’s more! If you click on that time period when Fido was crazy active, you are brought to an hourly breakdown that tells you the exact number of points accumulated, how many calories burned, miles traveled, and a breakdown of the three activity levels by the minute. This information is accompanied by the circular chart that you clicked on for reference and so that you can click from one hour to the next with ease. This allows you to compare hour by hour and really dig into the data.
Can we say it again? But wait, there’s more! At the bottom of the hourly breakdown, you can click a button that says “Show Chart.” This transforms the data set into an easy to read bar graph that breaks down the activity levels by five-minute increments. Impressive stuff.
Back one page with the day’s breakdown, you will notice three additional components. First, there is a little broken bone at the bottom, right side of the screen. Clicking this brings you to additional bar graphs with plenty of options. You can select from activity, sleep quality, play time, active time, rest time, distance, health, calories, weight, and my activity (which requires your own personal fitness wearable). You can use any of these categories to view a bar graph of weekly, monthly, trimonthly, or yearly results.
The second item below the circle is the activity index. This is the same number as the previous page but it is useful to have as you can easily swipe through days. While swiping, you can note what that score was and get a feel for what type of activity your dog is doing.
Last, but certainly not least, below the bone you will notice a hybrid bar and line graph. This graph is a clear-cut, easy-to-read representation of your dog’s activity levels for the week. It is best to quickly note which days your dog got moving and when she rode the couch a little bit more. This plays into the motivating factor. When you notice that the previous day was a low day, you want to be sure you get your dog up and moving much more the next day.
On your dog’s page, you can click on his/her name and a drop down menu will allow you to choose from a variety of settings. You can edit the daily goal for your pooch. Fitbark gives you three options categorized as Average, Active, and Olympian. There is a detailed explanation of each to help you decide which one you would like to go with. There is also a slider up top that will allow you to manually choose your own point goal.
The distance settings help you determine how many points it takes to reach one mile. This is something that you should sync up upon getting your device. If you do not take the time to make sure that your points accurately represent one mile, your dog’s points can be thrown off and essentially be rendered useless.
You can add users in the form of followers, owners, or vets. Simply enter an email address and select the category of the user and in invite is sent to that person. Followers can view your dog’s profile but cannot edit or invite others. Owners have full access to the profile, which is useful when multiple people own the dog. Lastly, vets can change the profile but cannot invite others to follow. This can be useful if your vet feels your dog’s activity levels need to be adjusted.
The remaining options are Update Dog Profile, Replace or Upgrade Fitbark, and Privacy options. These categories are fairly self explanatory and you will certainly know when it is time to access them.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Fitbark goes to great distances to ensure that users know precisely how to operate the app and unit. In addition to the video explaining how to install the unit, the app has numerous on-screen prompts outlining the functionality of the app. Fitbark also sends useful emails, including Fitbark 101, which gives details about common dog ailments and how you can use Fitbark to help. They also send a weekly report to summarize your dog’s activity levels for the week.
When you allow Fitbark to send notifications to your phone, Fitbark will push through alerts that tell you when your dog has not been super active. We aren’t going to lie, it frustrates us a little bit when we know that we haven’t been as active as we would like to be with Maddie and then we get a notification on our phones to get our butts in gear. However, Fitbark is cool about it and we know their intentions are kindhearted. We probably get about one notification from Fitbark per day, sometimes two, but it is not overwhelming or annoying like getting one every time someone likes your Aunt Susie’s photo on Facebook, or something of the sort.
Putting it simply, we love Fitbark. It has been such a valuable tool in trying to piece together Maddie’s overall health. We didn’t think we would actually need a Fitbark, but now that we have it we’re not sure we can go back to life without it. It takes the guessing out of exercise and helps us recognize when we need to push Maddie a little bit more and when we can let her have a laid back day. Coming in with a price tag of $69.95 it is, in our opinion, a great value.
Fitbark spared no expense in coming up with the most comprehensive data sets they could find. There are certainly pieces of data that we do not use, but it is still nice to know that we have it. Breaking down physical activity into time slots as low as five-minute increments has been quite useful to owners. For example, some users have been able to find out which of their two dogs chewed something up by reading the activity levels of their dogs. You better behave, Pongo!
We really only have a few reservations about the Fitbark, and they are no where near significant enough to deter us from recommending the product. The first concern is the aforementioned Wifi Base Station. Another potential complaint, if we are getting nit-picky, is the process of using zip ties to secure the device. We don’t mind using the zip tie method but it does seem a little cheap. We feel like there are other options available that could do the job in a bit snazzier of a fashion.
Really, the only other thing that stands out to us is electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) produced by the unit. We were unable to determine the exact output of EMF’s, and we are sure that it is not all that much. Nonetheless we don’t love the idea of having something that produces EMF’s around Maddie’s neck 24/7. That is why we take her collar off at night and have not been utilizing the sleep score. We feel it is important to give Maddie a break and we would much rather sacrifice her sleep score than her daily points.
One possible solution to the EMF situation is adding a button that essentially puts the device into airplane mode. Some human wearables, such as the Oura Ring, are trending this way because of the growing concern with EMF’s. This can be a safe solution that allows users to feel comfortable with having the device on at all times.
Our final score for the Fitbark2 is a 5 out of 5 paws. It is an easy-to-use product that provides meaningful and useful data. The pros substantially outweigh the cons and the cons do not warrant a reduction in paws for the rating. In fact, we see the cons mores as areas of improvement that Fitbark could potentially address in the future.
We highly recommend the Fitbark2 to all our readers! Take charge of your dog’s health and get meaningful data to help you do so. The Fitbark2 fosters an environment of physical activity and motivates owners to get out and get moving!
Have you tried the Fitbark2? What did you think? We want to know! Leave a comment below!