If you've got a dog, a Furbo will no doubt strengthen your relationship even if you can't be with them every hour of the day. You can treat them, you can chat to them, and you can even spare your neighbours' ears if they're partial to a good bark.
Treat tossing is good fun
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The Furbo Dog Camera is a pet camera which dispenses treats. Not such an uncommon thing - we've also looked at the Pawbo Plus, which does just that, and we've also put together a guide to the best pet camera - but Furbo's dog-specific makeup does help to make it a fair bit more unique. Initially funded through Kickstarter in 2016, and being treated to a big technology upgrade between then and now, does the Furbo have what it takes to satisfy a lonely dog (and an anxious owner) or is it a treat-shooting misfire? Let's break it down and find out.
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On the outside, the Furbo Dog Camera seems fairly simple. It's physically rather unassuming, resembling a fancy jar rather than anything too technological; if you're concerned about the aesthetics of your living room, that more subtle look will likely appeal. On the inside there's a microphone, a speaker, a camera and a treat-launching mechanism. That certainly appears to be it - but it's the quality of those components, and the smarts Furbo has offered to them, that really count here.
Take the camera: unlike, say the Pawbo Plus, this is a 1080p sensor, so it offers you a far more detailed view than lower-res cameras. It also has a 160-degree lens in front, spreading that high resolution over a wider area and allowing you to cover much more of your living room with a single eye. It's even capable of night vision, working in conjunction with built-in infra-red LEDs to offer a monochrome view even at night.
Then there's the treat dispenser, which doesn't just dribble those treats. It launches them, popping out a kibble on a semi-random path to keep your dog guessing. Each launch is preceded by a mechanical click, so it'll likely work very well for those who already use clicker training, and indeed reinforce that training when you can't be there. Furbo recommends 1cm-sized goodies, so you may have to shop around for the perfect filling.
Finally, there are the smarts themselves. Furbo is able to use that microphone to listen out for barking, giving you a heads up at just the right time to jump on and soothe your dog through the built-in speaker. Subscribe to the Dog Nanny service (an extra £6.99/$6.99 per month) and you get a whole lot more, like activity alerts, the ability to scale back bark alerts to just bouts of continuous barking, detection of crying and howling, and even security functions like smoke alarm recognition. It'll even let you know when your dog is looking right at the camera for a selfie, which is all kinds of cute.
Furbo: User reviews
User opinion seems to be overwhelmingly positive on the Furbo, but even those with great things to say comment that it isn't the easiest thing to set up. Many have also noted the very obvious fact that this is an expensive electrical item full of (presumably) delicious food. For some dogs, that's basically painting a big red target on it and asking for it to be destroyed, however good the seal on top might be, so most seem to have wisely placed it on a high shelf out of reach. Others have noted that the upper seal is good at keeping smells out, but not great at keeping treats in, with at least one errant cat knocking the whole thing over, spilling the contents everywhere.
That said, dogs seem to universally love the treat tossing function (funny, that) and the speaker has enough clarity that they'll come when called. The treat dispenser also doesn't appear to jam up, which is handy.
There's a slight delay on the camera (though that's going to be true of any system like this, as pictures take time to be processed and sent to your phone) and you'll definitely need to place the Furbo in range of strong Wi-Fi, as it can be a little sketchy in terms of connectivity.
The bark alerts appear to work very well. Some suggest they can be a little over-sensitive, but those same users also seem to suggest that their dogs do enjoy a good bark; others complain (perhaps rightly) that many of the Furbo's best features are gated behind that subscription. For a device that's already on the expensive end of pricey, paying extra every month is a big ask.
Should you buy the Furbo?
Despite a few niggling flaws, the Furbo is probably the best dog camera going. It's fun, it's effective, and it can really help you keep one eye on what's going on at home. If that connection is important to you, and you also want to dish out a treat or two, it's an excellent choice. Better sensors can be found in dedicated security cameras, you might even be able to get extra functions like panning and tilting, or features which help a little more with both home security and companionship for your pets, but we struggle to argue against the Furbo as long as you can afford it.
Alex is a freelance writer, editor and sub editor specialising in entertainment and technology; he is a father of two, and owned by three increasingly grumpy cats. Somehow he has been doing this for 24 years, and it's still fun. He specialises in technology-related subjects, with a focus on smart home and gadgets and is a regular contributor to T3.com, TechRadar, PC Gamer, and more.