CleverPet Hub: Our first take

CleverPet’s Hub is a robo-tutor for your dog, but only works if he woofs down treats

 If your dog is home alone for hours at a time, CleverPet could provide an amusing, autonomous diversion.

Dog owners know we are the center of our pets’ universe. Yet every day we must head off to work, school, or other activities, leaving them alone. Remote cameras will let you check in on your pup, and maybe allow you to tell him he’s a good boy via your smartphone, but that might not cut it for dogs with behavior problems or separation anxiety. CleverPet offers a more engaging alternative for lonely dogs home alone with nothing to do.

CleverPet uses positive reinforcement to engage and train your dog with an increasingly complex series of tasks involving touchpads, lights, and sounds. Successfully completing a task earns your dog a food reward. All you really have to do is keep the robotic dog trainer’s food compartment supplied with dry food or treats. Based on our experience, dogs don’t universally respond to CleverPet, but dogs that are lonely, generally inquisitive, and food-motivated are good candidates.

Out of the box

Picture R2D2’s dome-like top section and that’s pretty close to what the CleverPet looks like. It measures 16 inches deep by 15 inches wide by 7 inches high and weighs 11 pounds. There’s an extended lip in the front with three touch-sensitive lighted pads. The central dome has an opening indent on the front where a food tray shifts out and back from the inside of the dome.

CleverPet recommends not letting your dog see you while you’re checking out the CleverPet Hub and setting it up for the first time. It also recommends first introducing your dog to the new device when he or she is hungry. You also don’t want to simply plug in the CleverPet the moment you get it, because it will start the connection process, whether you’re ready or not.

CleverPet uses positive reinforcement to engage and teach your dog an increasingly complex series of tasks

The first step is checking the silicon seal on a food hatch to be sure it’s secure. Next, you open the dome latch and remove the food pod. Fill the pod with up to 2.5 cups of dry food or treats, which should be no bigger than the size of a dime (17 milimeters). Wet or crumbly food won’t work, because it will get gummed up in the works and will be a pain to clean up. You can remove the food tray and stainless steel dish if you wish and wash them with soap and warm water.

Reassemble the hub with the food pod, the food tray, and food dish and follow the directions to attach the hub end of the power adapter. But don’t plug it into the wall yet.

At this point you are about to hand control over to the CleverPet Hub software. We were impressed by how smoothly the operation went. First, you download and launch the CleverPet app for iOS or Android. The app instructs when to plug in the Hub and then walks through connecting to your Wi-Fi. Once you’re connected, the app helps you find a good spot to place the Hub. It won’t move, or not much, because of non-slip rubber feet, but it’s best to put it against a wall or even in a corner if possible.

Now you’re ready to introduce your pet to the CleverPet Hub.

Making introductions

There are several stages dogs go through with CleverPet. First, they have to get comfortable with its presence, including the sounds it makes and the sight of colored lights showing up seemingly randomly under the three touch pads. The food tray slides into view mysteriously, with a few pieces of dog food or treats contained within. The tray slides back after a short period, whether or not your dog takes the food. So this is all strange and different for your dog.

The plan, when everything goes to plan, is for your dog to start taking the food and start curiously touching the pads. If indeed the dog takes the food, this is noted by the app, and you get feedback as your dog advances. At first, any touchpad will release food, then only the lit one. Eventually, the touchpad becomes a bit like the old game Simon – your dog has to touch a sequence of lit pads in the correct order to get a treat. It’s based on training via positive reinforcement; when your dog does something correct, he or she gets a treat, but nothing happens if he or she makes a mistake.

It’s imperative to have patience. When we spoke with Leo Trottier, the CleverPet CEO, he said it can take hours, days, or even weeks before dogs warm up to CleverPet and start regularly taking food. The company measures your pet’s progress through a series of gradually more complex challenges and adapts to your dog’s responses and reports all specific engagements on the smartphone app.


The challenges — in order — are getting the dog to eat the food, explore the touchpads, engage consistently but avoid unlit touchpads, learn the lights, and respond quickly. And that’s just the introductory series. Once your dog has acclimated to the CleverPet Hub, the challenges get more complex, at the same time engaging your dog and making her or him work harder for treats.

Unfortunately, we did not get past stage one. Our dog — a four-year-old, submissive, double doodle female, is the epitome of a laid back dog. She also is almost never home alone, so she doesn’t get lonely. She’s also not food-motivated. She often leaves a filled food dish until late afternoon before eating anything all day. It turns out our home-office/lab dog was not at all an ideal subject for testing the CleverPet Hub.

CleverPet is a unique product capable of engaging and mentally challenging lonely, food-motivated dogs

We spoke with representatives from CleverPet and got more input from Trottier, but even with particularly succulent treats in the tray, not much changed. Our dog would notice when the tray came out and maybe once a day help herself to the treats. She wasn’t bothered by the Hub but also showed no interest.

We kept trying but had some pushback from other people in the house because the tray makes what can be an annoying mechanical winding noise when it moves in and out of sight. The noise is similar to that made by automatic paper towel dispensers. When we spoke with the company they said the CleverPet design concept was it would be used when no one was home, so the noise wouldn’t be an issue. We also found that the food tray’s movement could sometimes be blocked by stray pieces of kibble.

So we kept trying for a several weeks. We turned the device on during the few periods of several hours each week when no one was home and our dog was most likely to be bored and inquisitive. Not much happened.

So our dog wasn’t an ideal test subject. Apparently ours is not the only uninterested dog, as the company now offers a 30-day engagement guarantee refund. On the other hand, we saw on the website a growing community of other owners who submit videos of their dogs fully engaged working with the hub. If we had a dog that was food-motivated and home alone all day — especially if she or he was of a generally inquisitive nature — we’d definitely want to give it a try.

Warranty information

CleverPet guarantees against defects in material and workmanship for one year from the original date of purchase, and it can repair or replace defective parts with new or refurbished parts. CleverPet also has a 30-day engagement guarantee. If your pet does not engage with the Hub in that timeframe, you can return it for a full refund, minus taxes and shipping costs. See the CleverPet Engagement Guarantee for details.


CleverPet is a unique product capable of engaging and mentally challenging lonely, food-motivated dogs. There is no evidence that CleverPet makes pets more intelligent or that mastering the successively complex tasks required to keep earning food rewards transfers to other activities in a dog’s life. If your dog isn’t home alone or food motivated, it may not engage with the $300 device, in which case the 30-day engagement guarantee lest you recover the cost other than shipping and taxes.    

Is there a better alternative?

We couldn’t find anything else on the market that operates autonomously to engage and reward dogs for learning successively complex tasks. There are other training products but they require human presence. Automatic feeders don’t present food conditionally, but on schedule, so they don’t fit.

How long will it last?

From all appearances, the CleverPet will last for years. The sturdy components should hold up under continuous use. The smartphone app updates automatically, and the company says it’s currently working on new challenges and games. If your dog becomes a master at tapping a series of pads, eventually it won’t get much stimulation from the CleverPet, so hopefully the games are updated regularly. That said, if CleverPet should stop releasing updates, you could find yourself with a big $300 piece of plastic.

Should you buy it?

Buy the CleverPet if your dog is home alone for extended periods of time and is active, curious, and motivated by food or treats. Don’t buy it for dogs that are seldom alone, aren’t food motivated, and are content to sleep most of the time.


  • Based on solid science and positive reinforcement
  • Easy set up with app-based direction
  • Autonomous operation, just keep the food capsule filled
  • 30-day Engagement Guarantee refunds purchase price


  • Not all dogs respond
  • Food trays makes irritating noise when moving in and out
Smart Home

Miele stuns KBIS 2019 with wireless probe, self-descaling java pot, and more

Miele rocked KBIS 2019 with waves of new appliances and features. The annual Kitchen and Bathroom Industry Show is all about product launches and Miele's appliance reveal was like New York Fashion Week with a single designer.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Smart Home

Amazon’s wall clock is back on the market after Bluetooth snafus

Amazon's Alexa-enabled Wall Clock was a minor disaster when it was finally released in December because of widespread Bluetooth connectivity challenges. After some tweaks, it's now back on sale for $30.
Smart Home

The Nest Secure included a microphone no one knew about — except Google

The Nest Secure home security system has had a microphone this entire time that no one knew about, except Google. The company claims the mic was never turned on, but customers are outraged.

From folding phones to 5G -- here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked

Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event treated us to a real parade of technological excellence, from folding phones to new fitness wearables. Here's everything we saw at Galaxy Unpacked on February 20.
Smart Home

Leviton’s Wi-Fi Load Center and Smart Circuit Breakers give your home a brain

Is your home ready for a brain transplant? Adding individual smart plugs is quick, easy, and inexpensive, but the benefits are limited to one plug at a time. Leviton's Load Center and Smart Circuit Breakers can give your home a brain.
Smart Home

GE Appliances shows off wall oven with built-in air fryer, food dehydrator

GE Appliances is taking the air fryer trend to its logical conclusion and adding one to a wall oven. The company's new oven, on display at this year's Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, also includes a food dehydrator.
Smart Home

Google Home vs. Amazon Echo: Which one is better for you?

What happens when you compare the Google Home vs the Amazon Echo? Both smart speakers have good qualities, but what happens when you compare they're features side-by-side? We think one of these smart gadgets wins over the other.
Smart Home

OK Google, what else can you do? The best tips and tricks for Google Home

The Home functions in a similar fashion to its main competitor, the Amazon Echo, but has the added benefit of select Google services. Here are few tips to help you make the most of the newfangled device.
Home Theater

Reasons not to mount a TV over your fireplace (and other helpful tips)

Mounting a TV above your fireplace may be popular and it might even seem appealing, but we have some concerns. We've got a list of reasons why placing your digital picture machine over a fire should be avoided, if at all possible.
Smart Home

Colored fridges are back, baby! GE’s new appliances revive the 1950s trend

GE Appliances is coloring us surprised at KBIS 2019 by introducing new hues for its signature Cafe line of smart home appliances including four new hues launching this fall to complement its black and white options.