There are two things you should understand about my dog, Daisy. First, she hates walking. She’ll get excited if you take out the leash, but it’s a farce. She just wants to pop out and then go immediately back inside. This is partly because she doesn’t understand that if you go all the way around a street block, you will end up back at home. Second, she is wily and stubborn. She’s faked a limp, made herself vomit, or pretended to faint more times than I can count just to get out of a walk. I have the vet bills to prove it.
She is the absolute worst dog to put a fitness tracker on. Which is exactly why I did it.
Here’s the thing: Daisy is an anomaly when it comes to doggie health. This lazy Yorkie refuses to walk or play with toys other dogs love, but somehow never puts on weight. She stays a trim five pounds no matter how much or little I feed her. (Or how many treats she gets because of her very strong puppy eye game.) A good day in Daisy’s book is one where she snoozes all day in a chair right next to me as I blog, curled up on a soft blanket. The vet is constantly amazed at the “immaculate state of her joints” as she — a dog approximately the size of a football — apparently has no fear about leaping down four feet off the bed, even though I bought her a staircase for geriatric pups. Besides the fact that her muzzle is going grey and all her teeth fell out years ago, my vet says Daisy passes for a dog who is much, much younger than her estimated 15 years.
I, however, am paranoid that she doesn’t get the physical activity needed to keep her spry. My vet’s mouth always forms a grim line when I say attempts to walk her are hopeless, as if I were a bad dog parent for not giving her a brief moment to sniff the outside air and other dogs’ urine. I’m also a wearables reviewer, which means I live an overly quantified life. I’ve come to believe, perhaps wrongly, that you ought to at least meet a modest baseline of activity to keep yourself healthy and strong. Why wouldn’t that also apply to Daisy?
To test this out, I ordered the Whistle GO. There’s no shortage of doggie fitness trackers online, but I went with the Whistle because it said it supported preventive health-tracking for things like excessive scratching and licking, which Daisy is guilty of. It also supports GPS-tracking, and the companion app automatically calculates the number of activity minutes a dog of Daisy’s breed and age would need. This seemed like a good starting place.
When I unboxed the Whistle GO, I was immediately concerned this thing would strain Daisy’s neck. It was clearly meant to be a “one size fits all” type tracker. While it probably wouldn’t even register on a larger dog, I was afraid Daisy might topple over unbalanced. I wasn’t wrong either. The first time I put the tracker on her, she was visibly uncomfortable as she trotted around my apartment. She whined. She pleaded. She gave me puppy dog eyes.
I did not give her what she wanted. Instead, I pat her on the head and said, “It’ll only be for a little bit.” She huffed and whined. I did not relent. “It’s for a blog,” I told her. She huffed again, unimpressed. After a few hours, Daisy eventually got used to the weight. She no longer keened to the side or whined when the tracker got in her way. (Daisy did, however, glare dolefully at me for a few days.)
In total, I tracked Daisy’s activity for about a month. Her data didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. That was disappointing, but not in the ways you’d expect. That’s because the numbers I saw didn’t make any sense.
Daisy and I, along with my partner and his cat, live in a roughly 550-square-foot studio apartment. There’s not a lot of places this dog can go. Yet, almost every day the tracker said Daisy had walked over two miles. I’m telling you, this lazy arse dog has not walked two miles continuously in years. A few times, it said that Daisy had logged a handful of minutes but had somehow walked several miles. Daisy often pulls fast ones on me, but there is no universe in which this tiny geriatric con artist could walk a mile in one minute.
A timeline of a typical day alternated between spurts of “low activity” and “resting.” In fact, by the end of the month, the tracker said she rested an average of more than 18 hours per day. The only time I felt the tracker was accurate was when Daisy laid a particularly large turd. After every substantial poop, she scuttles around for about five minutes, tail wagging furiously, in what I call her “Fuck Yeah, I Pooped!” dance. After a few minutes, I’d see this “activity” reflected in her timeline.
Because I knew Daisy would never voluntarily walk without incentive, I arranged for a few socially distant outings. After all, the Whistle GO also has a GPS feature where you can set a “safe” perimeter for your dog. When your dog leaves that zone, you get a notification on your phone if you’re not with them. It also helps track longer walks or hikes. So, I took Daisy on an outdoor picnic and two hikes.
Let me be clear, this dog doesn’t hate the outdoors. She hates walking outdoors. She’s happiest when riding in a little doggie sling while I do all the walking. If you take her out of the sling, she will do everything in her power to get back in the sling. On our first hike, I insisted she walk 15 m on a flat trail where there were lots of pretty flowers and grass to sniff. She sat down. She might have sniffed a dandelion. It wasn’t until I uttered her most hated phrase, “Bye-bye Daisy!”, and pretended to walk away that she came trotting after me — for about 3 m before she sat down and let out a pathetic wail. I walked a little further in a test of wills, but then she lay down listless like I’d abandoned her to an eternity of loneliness. So, back into the sling she went. The second hike was steeper and she gave me a look that said, “I know you don’t expect me to even try.” She spent that hike happy in her sling, tongue blepping in the breeze.
The annoying thing was the tracker actually gave Daisy credit for both the first 10 km hike and the second 3 km hike. Physically, yes, she did technically traverse those distances. Just not on her own four legs. I’m sure this isn’t a problem most dog owners would have, but it’s definitely a Daisy problem.
As for the preventive health features, the Whistle GO didn’t deliver here either. It’s possible that the readings got borked because the tracker is hilariously large on Daisy, and probably doesn’t account for her shorter body movements. It was correct in that Daisy doesn’t spend too much time scratching. However, as I mentioned earlier, Daisy has no teeth. Her tongue constantly hangs out of her mouth. When I adopted her, I was told she had a neurotic tic of licking everything in sight. Pillows, carpets, the couch, herself, me, my partner, the floor — you name it, she’s lickin’ it. After a month, this tracker confidently states my dog does not excessively lick. Yet another lie.
I went into this thinking that if I could get Daisy to walk 10 minutes a day, we’d all be better off. She’d get a little exercise. I’d be less paranoid. We’d get some doggie-human bonding time. What I got was a resentful dog who did her best to nap harder than she’d ever had in the five years we’ve been together. When I took the tracker off for a long-overdue grooming appointment, I may have imagined she gave a triumphant huff. To be fair, everyone in my life told me that I should let Daisy be her natural sleepy self, and they can sleep peacefully at night knowing they were right.
Whatever I thought would happen, I’ve never been more certain that Daisy is actually a cat.