Dog owners will go to crazy lengths to make sure that their fur-babies are entertained during the long, boring workday. I’ve frozen wet dog food in red rubber Kongs, or stuffed them full of peanut butter. I’ve hired dog walkers and pet sitters. I’ve turned on DogTV on my Roku. But my dogs were bred to herd cattle or sheep all day, and they still get bored. It’s not like they can read a magazine.
While cameras with two-way microphones, like the Nest IQ, are good at freaking out your dog, the Furbo is built specifically to let you check in on your pets when you’re gone. When you set up the camera and download the companion app, you can enjoy a wide array of pet-friendly features.
You can speak to your pups, watch a live feed, or toss them treats. With a Premium account, you can also save video footage, take pet selfies, set barking alerts, and keep an eye on any humans coming and going.
Nowadays, I work from home and have two young kids, so arguably my dogs now have a little too much stimulation. But if I didn’t, I would love the Furbo. It offers a very high level of remote doggy interaction.
The Furbo is a gorgeous device. It’s smooth and white, a little under nine inches tall, and wouldn’t look out of place in a much better-decorated home than mine.
Finding a good place for it did take a little thought. It has to be plugged in—there’s no way to use it with a battery—and in a spot with a strong Wi-Fi signal. The Furbo has to be set low enough for your dog to see it, and if you want to use it to identify visitors, it would ideally face your front door. Eventually, I made a little shrine to the Furbo on a stepstool in my living room.
With every device that shows the interior of your home, you need to make sure that the data is protected. Furbo uses secure 2048-bit RSA private-key encryption. The footage is also deleted from both the cloud and the app at midnight every night, and you can go into Furbo’s settings and turn off the camera entirely.
Setup is simple. Plug it in and wait for the status light at the bottom to turn green. Yellow means it’s on standby; blue, that it’s in use; and purple, that the Wi-Fi connection has dropped out. Once it’s on, download the Furbo companion app and follow the instructions.
Unfortunately, I hit a hitch shortly after completing the setup. Neither the sweet potato soft treats, nor dog biscuits, that I had in my dog drawer fit in the Furbo’s treat tosser. Furbo does recommend that the treats be under 0.4 inches in diameter, and the app links directly to suggested treats on Amazon (my pups were partial to the peanut butter mini Zuke’s).
However, since they’re both battling a little weight problem (sorry, guys), I ended up filling the treat reservoir with ordinary kibble. The treat reservoir has a half-cup capacity, so the Furbo will only work as an auto-feeder if your dog is really, really small.
It does take awhile for your dogs to figure out what Furbo is all about. The app has a training video that shows you how to teach your dog to respond to it. It took me a day of sitting next to the Furbo and tossing them a treat by hand at the same time that I triggered the tosser. But once they learned what it meant, they parked themselves in front of it all day long.
It has a pretty good arm, too. Sitting a foot off the ground, it can fling treats up to around eight feet away. I caught my spouse using a second tester Furbo to hurl Cheerios for my infant to chase, and it did pretty well on double duty.
The Furbo also seems quite sturdy, and the bamboo top is spill-proof. If your over-enthusiastic dogs knock it over a few times by scrabbling at it excitedly when they hear your voice, there’s no harm done.
Even though it has a lot going for it, a few things about the Furbo were annoying. You can’t log into your Furbo online or even turn it on or off without the app, so software glitches can be a huge problem. Once, I updated the firmware on the app and the Setting tab went MIA. I was stuck uninstalling and reinstalling the app a few times until it reappeared.
Then there’s a few camera quirks: the Furbo has a 160-degree wide-angle lens that you can digitally zoom, but you can’t pan around or rotate the image. So, your dog knocks the Furbo over, you might as well turn it off or give yourself vertigo.
If you have two or more dogs, the Furbo might also be of limited utility. One of my dogs is pretty shy, and the other more aggressive. Even though you can create multiple dog profiles, my boss dog ended up snagging most of the treats.
But for a seemingly simple device, the Furbo’s software was sophisticated. The app informed me that subscribing to premium alerts is currently free. With premium alerts activated, the Furbo kept a timeline of the day’s events. It sent me a push notification whenever it detected a person, a dog moving, or barking (my dogs bark a lot, so I eventually turned barking alerts off).
The Furbo identified everyone who walked by, no matter their shape, size, or activity. It identified my infant rolling around, and even just a flash of adult foot or a pant cuff.
Adorably, it also automatically takes pictures of your dog when they gaze into the camera. Someone better at dog training than I am—or maybe with slightly more responsive dogs—could probably train their dog to gaze into the camera when the signal light turns blue, since blue is one of the few colors that dogs can see. When the selfie feature worked, it was utterly hilarious.
You can set the video resolution at either 360p, 720p, or 1080p. The 1080p resolution was remarkably clear (and looking at high-resolution pictures of my carpet made me realize I need to vacuum more). You can also record your own voice and use it for the snack call, instead of the clicker. My dogs did recognize the voice as mine. On the live camera, I could watch their heads swivel as they looked from the Furbo to my office door, and back again.
Live Long and Paw-sper
Every dog owner leaves their house with a little trepidation. Dogs are intensely social creatures, selected by nature, and our own desires, to be as cuddly and appealing as possible. It’s hard to leave them behind sometimes.
While $200 might seem expensive, the Furbo is simple, effective, and comparably priced to some of the other interactive pet cameras available. It’s also cheaper than constantly replacing shoes and pillows destroyed by lonely doggos.
Since I work from home, I can pet my dogs whenever I want. But my spouse works in an office. In the weeks that we had the Furbo, he developed a habit of feeding them a few pieces of kibble before he starts his commute.
Every day at around 5 pm, I hear the Furbo’s mechanical click-click. The dogs sit in front of the Furbo expectantly, and oddly enough, my toddler, too. When she sees the dogs move, she starts singing, “Daddy! Daddy!” and dances in front of the camera.
Even when your dogs are sufficiently fed, cared for, and entertained, my spouse ended up using it. And the Amazon reviews of hospitalized or overseas Furbo-owning pup-parents are enough to make any softhearted dog owner tear up. It’s an easy, small way to connect, for the pet parent who just can’t wait to get home.