I vacationed in Europe last month. I don't mean to rub it in -- it just happened to be the perfect opportunity to test the Petzi Treat Cam. It's a remote control treat dispenser with a built-in Wi-Fi camera, so you can play with your pet from anywhere in the world.
And it works! But not well enough for this cute little dog.
About a month ago, we dropped off Lilo, our little Shih Tzu, at a friend's house for safekeeping. We also brought the Petzi Treat Cam. See, we're pretty attached to this little ball of fur, and while we trust our friends, we were pretty excited to try out a gadget that might stave off a bit of the loneliness.
I opened the box, and out came a big, goofy plastic contraption, plus a white AC adaptor with a ridiculously short cord. I pulled off the front cover to dump in some of Lilo's favourite treats:
Then I plugged it into the wall, downloaded the Petzi app, and entered my Wi-Fi password. Done. That was easy.
The only hard part was figuring out where I could actually place the camera. The four-foot power cord wasn't enough to reach from any of my available outlets to any of Lilo's favourite stomping grounds. When I tried to put it up on a table, closer to my outlets, the non-adjustable camera couldn't always see her. Oh well.
The Best Part
I can press a button to fling treats across a room from anywhere in the world.
Seriously: no mucking around with a router, logging into a secure web portal, or anything of the sort. Lying in bed, late one London evening, I was able to send treats flying from across the globe.
The Tragic Flaw
If it's not actively flinging those treats, Lilo doesn't care.
What we typically see when we log into the camera: no pet.
It's been over a month since we started actively using the Petzi Treat Cam, first in Europe and then back here in the USA. Whenever you access the camera, it lights up and emits a little jingle to let your dog know it's time to play. There's no mistaking or missing that sound. But most of the time, Lilo won't come to check it out.
No, this smart pup waits until she hears the Petzi's mechanical gears grinding -- a sure sound that it's about to actually shoot out treats -- before she makes her move. She walks over, gobbles up the treats, and she's gone. What a little sneak.
This only happens when we're in the same room as Lilo, conspicuously using our phones. She likes playing games with US, just not with the Petzi by itself.
Sure, the Petzi has a microphone so you can also call your pet, but the audio quality is terrible. Definitely not enough to make her think this ugly plastic camera is a person who deserves her attention, much less tricks like Sit and Lie Down. There's also no screen to show her our faces, and no microphone for us to hear her barking. It's a one-way conversation.
Plus, the image quality is really, really bad. Here are some snapshots from the camera:
- There's no way to regulate how many treats come out. When we fulled it full of her favourite little nuggets (we usually give her a couple) it would often shoot out five or six at a time.
- Also, those treats really do shoot out -- enough to make your pet jump, though they come out at a pretty low angle and probably not hard enough to put out an eye.
- The treats hit the floor. Not a bowl. Our pup happens to be an excellent vacuum cleaner, but if not, we'd probably be finding crumbs in the carpet.
- So far, we've had the Petzi jam twice. Just picking up the unit and shaking it was enough to dislodge whatever got stuck, but it's still annoying to hit the fire button and have no treats come out.
- Lilo is a small dog, but the Petzi seems durable enough to stand up to larger ones too. It's a big cube of smooth hard rounded plastic, bigger than most dog jaws and without a lot of places for teeth to grip. I didn't test this, though.
- In addition to the terrible image quality, the video stream lags several seconds behind, and there'll be graphical glitches every so often too.
- You can't log into Petzi with more than one phone at a time. The second phone won't connect.
- I did not try to hack the Petzi and see if hackers can use it to spy on your home. Presumably, the chime and LED are hardwired so that you would notice, and hopefully the hackers would be nice enough to feed your dog.
- It's annoying that you need to click past Petzi's attempt to build a pet photo sharing social network, and select your specific camera from a list of all the other Petzi cameras you don't own. NO I DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN YOUR SOCIAL NETWORK, and NO I DO NOT INTEND TO BUY SEVERAL OF THESE CAMERAS. ONE CAMERA IS JUST FINE NOW PLEASE LET ME USE IT RIGHT AWAY.
Should You Buy It?
Probably not, unless your pets are very easily amused. Definitely not for $US170 (plus shipping from the US), the price of an much better home camera. With a bit more thought and some higher quality components, the Petzi could have doubled as a poor man's Dropcam and gone a long ways towards justifying the cost.
For me, the Petzi Treat Cam was only good enough to tell me that my pet was still alive -- and give her treats when she didn't deserve them.