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MyFitnessDog -- the future of boomers, pets, and technology

New York State catches up to the dining habits of boomers and their pets.  In June this past year, the state legislature in New York passed a bill to let diners bring their dogs into the restaurant, imitating practices in California, Europe and elsewhere and overturning prior rules, if not actual practice. Thirty-seven percent of baby boomers own a pet, dare we say that might be a dog? Or two to three dogs?  It seems pretty simple now to acquire an emotional support letter that bypasses the rules prohibiting pets on planes that are not trained service dogs. And a number of major retailers (store manager willing) now permit dogs inside the store.  Apartment buildings and hotels now have dog-friendly specials (the Westin Heavenly Dog Bed) and even dog-friendly cocktail hours.

The Internet enables a dog-eats-well and pet-traveler-friendly world. Forget about the Internet of Things – the Internet is a giant narrow-focused guidebook for what-you-need-is-what-you-get.  From map of wheelchair-accessible restaurants to a guide to gluten-free dining to family-friendly hotels in Paris to child-free vacation locations.  So too, dog owners regularly update the global guide to restaurants that welcome dogs. In case you wondered, there is no equivalent guide book for dog-hair-allergic travelers or diners who want to avoid dogs during dinner. The burden is on the one with allergies or other pet-avoidance reasons. They must call the airline and discuss seating requests and request waived change fees. Why is it so tough to avoid the pet-friendlier lifestyle? In the airline world, like everything else on the plane, see how money can be made from fees for bringing animals on board.  Hotels and airlines want to be full, restaurants want customers.

Observe -- a not-so-healthy tech for the couch potato boomer dog owner. Owning a pet does not necessarily mean being out and about actually walking Fido. In fact it doesn’t necessarily require being anywhere near Fido. Robots are still a futuristic fantasy in elder care, but the robotic pet sitter has arrived. Along with the remote ball-playing iFetch and app for watching your dog walker, uh, actually walk your dog. Dog lost? Consider facial recognition apps of dogs’ faces like PiP and Finding Rover. Or remote programming of smart doors that permit passage of Fido and Fifi -- but reject your neighbor’s pets. Consider Pet Health, a $60 billion market segment. Or Whistle, the equivalent of My Fitness Pal for monitoring a pet’s level of activity – not just where is Fido, but is Fido fit and getting enough exercise? 

Perhaps pet and health markets should cross paths. Boomers are empty-nesters and the 1-2-or-3 dog night keeps them company as they age. But baby boomers are also the not-so-healthy generation – the vast majority are overweight or obese. And it turns out that their pets are overweight too -- driving a profitable boom in diet dog and cat food. Consider that the oldest boomer turned 70 in January – some wonder whether Fido’s future is secure, to the point of starting funds and foundations to care for pets when aging boomers cannot. Should the boomer fitness and pet tech markets find each other? How about Whistle (MyFitnessDog) partnering with MyFitnessPal, or perhaps WeightWatchers partners with iFetch? 

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