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5 Alexa skills and features your pet will love

Amazon Alexa isn’t just a phenomenal voice assistant for the needs, wants, and personalized automations of human beings, but it is all that for our pets, too.

Would you believe us if we told you that you can use Alexa to play exclusively curated music for your dog, or that you can call up a virtual pet trainer in the event that your hound starts misbehaving? Well, guess what? You can! And the intuitive, interactive pet tech doesn’t stop there.

Alexa can use many of its default features, in addition to a slew of downloadable skills, to optimize the lives of our furry companions, and we’ve put together this guide to get you and yours informed about a number of Alexa’s pet-friendly capabilities.

Soothing music to stop the howls

Echo Dot (4th Gen) on shelf in kitchen.

A constantly barking dog is a very stressed hound (and an equally stressed set of neighbors). Furthermore, when we’re away, when there’s a storm, or when a stranger visits that your dog or cat isn’t used to, your pet may not bark or hiss, but they may still be anxious deep down. This is where fantastic skills like Comfort My Dog and Calm My Cat come into play.

Free to download and simple to activate (with a voice command or by using the Alexa app), both of these Alexa skills are essentially the same. If you know (or have a hunch) that your pet is stressed, you can fire up Comfort or Calm to begin playing a stream of soothing, pet-friendly music from one of your Alexa-compatible smart speakers or displays.

Better yet, you can use the Alexa Sound Detection function to build a customized Routine that automatically starts the skill up in the event that an Echo device hears your dog barking (currently no support for meows or hisses).

And if you’re not a fan of the yoga-adjacent playlists that Comfort and Calm bring to the table, you can always program an Alexa Routine that will start streaming music from a playlist of your own choosing, whether that be through Spotify, Apple Music, or another Alexa-supported streamer.

Cuisine assistance when you need it most

Feeding table scraps to Rover is a man’s-best-friend tradition as old as time itself, but the last thing we ever want to do is give our pet something that makes him sick. That’s where skills like Dr. Dog come in handy.

Around Halloween, you may be tempted to feed the pooch a little handful of one-bite Twix or Snickers bars (don’t do it!). Well, before you go ahead and make such a decision, with Dr. Dog installed, you can ask Alexa if your dog can eat chocolate. And once Dr. Dog replies with a resounding “no,” we hope you’ll shelve the human foods.

You can ask Dr. Dog whether or not your hound can eat a variety of different foods, from meats to veggies, but at the end of the day, this is an Alexa skill, and there’s no better advice than the words handed down to you by a professional veterinarian. Consider Dr. Dog the unpaid intern of the pet healthcare world.

A virtual trainer like no other

Oppo Find X5 Pro photo of a dog.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Pet training is a profession that can be easy to take for granted, especially when you look at how much a reputable coach charges per hour or session, which is why Al the Dog Trainer is an Alexa- and cost-friendly alternative to traditional training.

In the event that your dog is misbehaving, or you have a question about his behavior, how to get him to respond to commands, etc., you can call up Al the Dog Trainer (through Alexa) to explain what kind of issue you’re having with your pooch, and Al (an actual human being with a wealth of dog-training experience) will provide an insightful response as to how to deal with whatever your trouble is.

And if you’re having a really tough time with your dog, you can even reach out to Al directly! Now that’s an Alexa skill that goes above and beyond the parameters of virtual assistance.

Smart home cameras for the win

Our pets relish our company and are often devastated when we head to work or hit the road for a little getaway, so what can we do to remind them that we still exist and to still interact with them? That’s where a smart home camera comes into play, and thankfully, most reputable brands are all about interactivity these days. Let’s unpack this a bit further.

Let’s say you want to be able to simply land a set of eyes on your four-legged friend. Well, just about any smart security camera, indoor or outdoor, is going to give you the ability to call up a live feed from a remote location, and Alexa can help you jumpstart this real-time footage through some Routine customizations.

Using the Alexa Sound Detection function, you can program an Alexa Routine that will automatically send your phone a notification in the event that the dog starts barking. If this is an everyday phenomenon (your dog barking when you leave for work), it might be a good idea to create a window of time where Alexa doesn’t react to the sound — maybe between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. After all, he or she just might need to get through the initial stress of you leaving.

Then, in the event that your hound does start howling after that window of time, when you receive the Routine notification, you can use Alexa to pull up a live feed from a security cam. Arlo, Ring, and Google Nest are all excellent options for keeping an eye on the domicile, but so is a regular Echo Show display. And while you may not be able to rotate a Show 5 or 8, the Echo Show 10 sits on a rotating axis, which will allow you to pivot the lens around whatever room the barking was heard in.

Here’s a unique idea: If you’re thinking about investing in a robot vacuum, you could opt for one that includes an onboard security camera. Use Alexa to build a Routine that fires the vac up when the dog starts barking, so not only will your house get cleaner, but you’ll also be able to pilot the vac (using its companion app) to see what’s going on with the pooch.

Now let’s not forget about two-way chat abilities. Once most of these cameras start displaying a live feed, many models (including robot vacs) will allow you to converse with people (or animals) in the room, and they can talk back, too. And for many pets, nothing is more calming than the sound of their owner’s reassuring words.

Programmed treat-feeding

A dog and his human companions surrounding the Petcube Bites 2.

Giving our pets a treat is a simple but satisfying exchange that both parties can appreciate, especially when Alexa can aid in the give and take. While the smart assistant isn’t going to be able to open the pantry to fetch the bones down from the top-shelf, there exists an entire market of smart tech for pets that is more than fit for the job of nibbles distribution.

One of our favorite treat-feeders is the PetCube Bites 2, an automatic dispenser that can be programmed to fling treats at pre-determined times. In fact, the Bites 2 is also a great way to keep an eye on your pets and interact with them, seeing as the unit includes an onboard camera and the option for two-way chat. And best of all, the Bites 2 has Alexa built directly into the device, allowing the feeder to function like a standalone Echo peripheral.

Here’s our Alexa-optimized suggestion: Let’s use the above example (smart home cams) to get a Routine started. Every day, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., Alexa will simply ignore the sounds of your dog barking. But then after 10:00 a.m., in the event that the pooch starts rioting, you can program Alexa Sound Detection to listen for the barks, with the action being that Alexa disperses a treat from the Bites 2.

Of course, sans Routines, you can always use the Alexa app (and the Bites 2) app to manually distribute a treat at any point throughout the day, or use the camera and two-way chat capabilities to confer with your furry pal.

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