The dog cam, or pet camera or nanny cam, has really taken off in popularity the last few years.
And after all, why shouldn’t they?
Dog owners justifiably spend a lot of time wondering what their pups are up to while the people are away.
Is Fido just sitting and waiting? Is he peeing on the rug? Is he trying to get into the bag of food?
Owners of dogs with separation anxiety have their own set of concerns.
Some pooches can cause serious damage to a home as they chew, claw, and bash into everything in sight, fearing that the worst has happened to their loved ones.
Meanwhile, Wi-Fi video cameras have lowered in price to the point where they’re becoming a common household item.
Everyone technically has one in their phone these days, or built into their laptop.
The rise of YouTube and Twitch streaming means that desktop cameras are also more and more prevalent.
The dog cam is a new twist on this familiar product.
They’re geared specifically towards checking up on your furry best friend while you’re away from home.
Crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo are a breeding ground for slightly off-the-wall concepts in tech, and several dog cams have made it all the way to production.
How does a dog cam differentiate itself from a standard web cam?
Primarily, they tend to include some features to let you actually interact with your dog while you’re gone.
Desktop software or a mobile app to interface with the camera lets you do everything from simply record, to make a noise and grab the dog’s attention, or launch a treat towards them.
It’s gimmicky but fun, and dog owners love new ways to play with their pets.
Of course, these fun features can also come with a price hike, so it pays to do your research and pick the best one.
We’ve identified three main features that matter to people looking into a dog cam.
Two of the frontrunners in the dog cam field are Petcube and Petzi.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of them measures up.
The Petcube and Petzi both use smartphone apps as the main user interface, like most consumer electronics these days.
Both varieties of dog cam offer iOS and Android versions of their app, and are compatible with most modern phones and tablets.
Web cameras these days take advantage of a neat trick in Wi-Fi configuration, and the dog cam is no exception.
Load the app on your smartphone, and plug the camera into any wall outlet.
The app will pair with the dog cam automatically and configure it for you.
All you need to know is your Wi-Fi password, and in some cases the dog cam can even read that off your phone.
It really makes configuration a snap, and makes these cameras easy to set up and use even for the less computer literate.
As far as using the devices, what neither of these cameras offer is a way to view them from your desktop PC or laptop.
It’s their way or the highway, and their way is the app.
That said, both dog cam apps are quite well designed and easy to use.
They include some social functionality, allowing you to share access to your dog cam with your friends, or even the public.
Who knows, maybe you could use this to build the next Grumpy Cat Empire?
Neither the Petzi nor the Petcube dog cams are professional grade video equipment.
Don’t buy either of these expecting crystal clear, butter smooth, HD video of your home and pets.
Cameras that can do that are certainly available, but not at these prices and not with the pet-centric features offered by a dog cam.
For a consumer level product, though, both the Petzi and Petcube are pretty decent.
They both offer 720p video at 30 frames per second.
That’s not the highest resolution viewable on a new phone like an iPhone 6, but it is HD and it looks pretty good.
As with any video streaming product, the quality of your Wi-Fi network and Internet connection are a factor in the image quality.
The image may sometimes appear a bit jerky as it skips frames, and may become blurry due to artifacting.
However, the dog cam still serves its purpose. It will let you check on your pets while you’re away, and as we’ll get into, it even lets you interact with them.
Bottom line first: The Petzi has the edge in build quality and ease of physical installation, even if the Petcube is a bit sexier.
The Petcube is a solid 4×4 inch cube of what seems to be aluminum.
It’s quite heavy for its size, and could probably take a fall from a tabletop and keep on ticking.
The Petcube includes a standard socket for a mini tripod like the GorillaPod.
The GorillaPod is an exceptionally durable, heavy duty mini tripod, and I wouldn’t recommend going with anything much lighter for the Petcube.
It’s heavy, and liable to just tip right over!
I expect most people will just set the cube on a table or countertop.
The Petzi is practically fluffy by comparison.
Although heavier, the Petzi is made of plastic, somehow doesn’t feel as weighty, and is just overall a much friendlier feeling product.
Best of all, it comes with double-sided adhesive strips. And they’re strong enough that you can use them to mount the Petzi up on your wall.
No chance of a curious dog or cat knocking it over.
Petzi definitely takes the lead here.
Enough with all the boring technical stuff, what about the puppies?
What makes both of these cameras “dog cams” rather than just “cameras”, aside from marketing, are their pet interaction features.
The Petcube was the innovator in this rather small field. They made a name for themselves as the first dedicated pet camera by offering an integrated laser pointer, and allowing you to speak to your pet through the Petcube’s speaker.
With a couple of taps on the app, you can swipe a laser around, playing Star Wars with your critters.
With another button, you can speak into your phone and your pups will hear it.
Darth Vader voice filter not included.
The Petzi, as a relative newcomer, has added their own twists.
The Petzi app, while not including a laser, does give you control of a patented “treat launcher” built into the camera. It will take a few small treats and shoot them out one by one on your command.
Crunchy treats are recommended so as not to get stuck, but people have had luck with the soft variety as well.
Petzi also ups the game with their audio features. While the Petcube allows you to speak to your pets, the Petzi dog cam offers a two-way audio connection. You can hear them as well.
Yes, you can hear their whines and barks as they are showered in treats. A button to make a chime lets you get downright Pavlovian with your pooches, and it’s pretty gratifying to hear them come running just before they round the corner.
Ready for treat launch in five!
I enjoy the laser feature of the Petcube, but I tend to have better luck getting cats to interact with lasers than dogs.
The laser is a great idea, but specifically as a dog cam and not a general pet camera, Petzi takes the prize.
|List price - $199.99||$169.99|
|Size - 4" cube||7.4" x 12.8" x 4.5"|
|Weight - 1.3 lbs||3.5 lbs|
|Software - iOS or Android only||iOS or Android only|
|Video - 720p, 30fps||720p, 30fps|
|Audio - Dog can hear you||You and dog can hear each other|
|Recording - NONE||Still photos from app|
|Dog features - Laser and speaker||Treat launcher, speaker and microphone|
Overall, I give the nod to Petzi.
As a generalized pet cam, it’s a bit better.
As an interesting piece of physical design, the Petcube is nicer looking with its stark metal lines.
As a serious security camera or way to keep an eye on your property, neither of them are great.
But none of that are what this review is about.
Satisfying that need to be able to check in on your dog while you’re away, and just let them know that you’re out there, is priceless.
That’s something that we get on this site, and it’s something that the Petzi people get, too. They’ve made a great dog cam.
And in that regard, it’s simply a great product.
After all, how else could you give your dog a treat while they’re missing you and get to see them eat it, too?