It’s impossible to describe just how much my two dogs—Lily and Gus—love going on walks. The minute they see me even look at their leashes, they lose their minds. I mean, running, jumping, spinning, barking... I don’t think there’s anything in the world they love more.
Generally, dogs, much like humans, should get about 30 minutes of exercise each day, according to Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT, of Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota and veterinary spokesperson for Pumpkin pet insurance.
“Physical activity is important for environmental enrichment, helps keep weights down, creates an opportunity for bond building and ensures your dog (and you!) stays healthy,” Dr. Lee says.
I have to admit that I’m occasionally guilty of cutting my pups’ walks short if I’m eager to start my workday or the weather outside isn’t great. So to give myself a little encouragement to go the extra mile for my fur babies, I tried five fitness tracker apps, rating them on a scale of one to three paws: three paws for apps that made me really excited to take Lily and Gus on a long walk; two paws for apps that encouraged me to go just a little farther than usual; and one paw for apps that just made any walk a bit more fun.
For every mile you log using Charity Miles, you help earn money for one of the app’s charitable partners. It’s a great way for you and your pooch to give back while doing what you do every day—simply walking! The app lets you pick from dozens of charities, including the ASPCA, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and more. (I chose Feeding America.)
I love this app mainly because I’m a runner who’s completed several marathons over the years to raise money for charity. With Charity Miles, now my dogs and I can, in a way, share that experience. It’s motivating to look back and see how our miles added up for a good cause.
Pet parents can also pledge a certain number of miles and collect donations from family and friends to make their walks have an even bigger impact. I may do that to celebrate Lily’s fifth birthday in September!
If you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-use pedometer, StepsApp is for you. The one and only feature of the free version is the ability to track your steps, including total mileage, time and calories burned.
I really enjoyed the clean, user-friendly interface, but wished the free version of this fitness tracker app had a way to track specific walks with my dogs, so I could see how many steps we took together instead of just my own steps throughout the entire day. Otherwise, it’s highly rated in both the Apple Store (4.8) and Google Play (4.5), and it looks like the developers respond to every single review, which I have to say is pretty cool.
If you want to connect the app with Apple Health and/or your Apple Watch to pull in extra health data and take advantage of the GPS feature where you can track activities, you’ll need to purchase StepsApp Pro for $2.99. (Other apps allow you to connect for free.)
Similar to StepsApp, Pacer functions like a pedometer, but with the added benefit of allowing you to track specific walks using your phone’s GPS. You also can add friends on the app, which is nice for those looking to create a community of a fitness-minded pet parents. For some healthy competition, which of you can log the most steps? Extra treats for the winners (both human and doggo)!
Pacer also allows you to join challenges, like its Adventure Challenges, where you can tackle goals like virtually hiking Peru’s Inca Trail, totaling 20 miles. If you pay for the premium version, you’ll unlock additional Adventure Challenges like virtual hikes along the Great Wall of China (186 miles) and Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro (31 miles). I fully plan to “hike” the Inca Trail with my pups at some point this summer—and we’ll celebrate with DIY pupsicles afterward!
The premium version of the app costs $29.99 per year, or you can pay $99.99 for lifetime access which also unlocks a virtual coach, training plans, a PDF health report, GPS audio cues, personal record tracking and more.
I have to admit, I was very excited to try out this particular fitness tracker. I’m a sucker for fitness data and BabelBark is basically like a doggy Fitbit. It’s a full health monitor, allowing pet parents to measure their pet’s activity levels, set goals, add medication reminders, input vaccination records, connect your dog’s microchip—and more! This dog fitness tracker attaches to your pet’s collar, allowing you to digitally record their activity throughout the day, which syncs to your phone via the free BabelBark app.
Although I was only using BabelBark to track Lily’s walks, I kept her collar on all day. It was eye-opening to see how inactive she was the rest of the day compared to when we would head outside, further stressing the importance of those walks on her overall health. It encouraged me to go a little further on nice days and to squeeze in a quick walk in between rain showers on others.
While the waterproof version of the BabelBark tracker will run you about $50, the app is free. Pet parents also have the option of adding an Alpha Pack subscription ($29.95 per year) to their purchase, which gives them access to a 24/7 helpline for health issues, emergencies and lost pets—a great feature for those looking for a fitness tracker that goes above and beyond.
Sweatcoin is a fitness tracker app that converts your steps into currency that you can exchange for cool stuff like yoga classes and Apple watches. There’s also an option to donate your hard-earned Sweatcoins to charity. It’s currently ranked 4.5 in the Apple Store, boasting over 141,000 reviews.
Each day, you can opt for a Daily Boost, where you can select your most active 20 minutes in a day and Sweatcoin will double your earnings. After a few days of using the app, I was already able to unlock several offers, including a gift card and 50-percent-off coupon for wireless ear buds—although I’m saving up those Sweatcoins for even bigger prizes! Hopefully there will be something that both the dogs and I can enjoy together. These are their miles, too, after all!
The only downside is that there’s a limit to how many Sweatcoins you can earn in a day unless you purchase an upgrade, which costs $9.99 per year.