Collar tracks man's best friend

MAN BYTES DOG: Three-year-old griffon Mo gives the Heyrex collar a test run.
MAN BYTES DOG: Three-year-old griffon Mo gives the Heyrex collar a test run.

Dog collars designed in Wellington can tell pet owners what their beloved pooch gets up to while they're out at work or fast asleep.

Heyrex biosensors attach to collars and monitor movement. Owners can access detailed reports of how much time their pet has spent napping or chasing its tail by logging onto a website. When the dog behaves out of character, an email or text is sent to the owner.

The Heyrex biosensor system was designed by Karori scientist David Gibson, who died suddenly in late 2011. It hit the market last year, after five years of development and just over $5 million of investment.

"You could be in Fiji with your feet up while your dog is in a kennel, and you can know how much the dog was walked," Heyrex chief executive Nathan Lawrence said.

The information could also be useful to vets.

"It's all about peace of mind for the pet owner and vet, so issues are picked up before the fact. We don't pretend to diagnose - we provide the tools for a vet to make a more informed decision."

Kelburn Pet Doctor vet Brendon Bullen said the practice had sold several Heyrex systems to dog owners, and it gave him information that humans could not.

"One of the biggest things vets are worried about is if pets are returning to the function they had before surgery, moving around . . . we can see if they're having a restless sleep because they're in pain. Owners can't watch them all the time."

At $149.95 for the sensor system and a minimum of $9.95 a month for access to data, the costs are likely to put some dog owners off.

Kumia Paea has a 2-year-old golden retriever and a 4-year-old red nose pitbull.

"I buy my dogs quite expensive biscuits at the moment, about $50 for enough that runs out within a few weeks, so I've already spent that much money as well as visits to the vet. It's about $80 to cut their nails. They say it's expensive to own a dog but, for the price, I wouldn't invest in this."

Dog Agility Wellington Group vice-president Rebecca Sidwell, who owned two border collies and a collie-huntaway cross, said she would not buy it because her dogs were fit, active and healthy.

There could soon be a feline friendly version on the way as cats who were trialling the biosensor had not shown any discomfort.