I won't be leaving my pooch home alone with a plastic 'dog sitter' anytime soon

Jun 17, 2016 at 11:01 a.m. ET
Image: Tricia Shay Photography/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

All dog owners feel bad when they have to leave their four-legged friends at home. Those big, sad eyes as you pull on your coat — always a killer.

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Responsible dog owners will do all they can to ensure their pets aren’t left alone at home for long stretches of time on a regular basis. It’s not always easy, and it’s simply impossible to be with your dog 24/7.

A new doggy gadget claims to help reduce the guilt by keeping your pooch active for up to eight hours while you’re not around. The GoBone, claiming to be the world’s first smart bone, was inspired by engineering graduate Santiago Gutierrez’s dog, Rufus, and has raised almost $90,000 in Kickstarter donations from over 500 backers.

The GoBone is certainly extremely clever. You can put food or treats inside it, and it moves around the home on wheels. It’s designed to be personalized to suit each dog’s breed, age and weight, among other variables. It has an iPhone app, meaning iPhone users can remotely control the GoBone and connect to the gadget’s camera to check out exactly what the dog is doing. You can also use the smartphone connection to play with your dog when you are there. (It's kind of like the Nintendo Wii concept, where you wave your smartphone around to move the GoBone.)

As a dog owner, I’m curious — and naturally skeptical. I can’t imagine anything would make me feel OK with leaving my dog at home for eight hours apart from an actual other human person being there. Can a rubber device shaped like a bone really replace an adored owner?

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Anything that keeps a dog entertained when it's home alone (and cuts the risk of your shoes being chewed) is a good thing. The fact that you can keep an eye on your dog via the camera (you can even record videos) is pretty cool. But personally, I still wouldn't feel comfortable leaving my dog home for an entire day. However amazing technology is, it could never be as good as the real thing: that face-to-face, hand-on-back interaction dogs need so much. This pet needs company, end of story. And while some breeds may be happy to be left alone for fairly long stretches of time, many are not.

As for using the GoBone as a toy to play with your dog, yeah — that sounds like fun. But if I had a choice between using my smartphone to maneuver a plastic bone around my living room and going outside to throw sticks for her, it's a no-brainer. One of the reasons I have a dog is that I want to spend less time in the digital world and more time in the real world. My dog helps me stay active, and I relish our walks and hilarious games of fetch (she fetches it, then runs away with it). She keeps me grounded and teaches my children about the joys and benefits of a world away from screens.

I could totally see the GoBone being hugely beneficial for shelter dogs to help socialize them before they're re-homed, and it's perfect for small dogs who don't need a lot of exercise or whose owners are incapacitated. But for me and my dog, it's plenty of time together and throwing sticks on the beach that make our relationship work.

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