If you want a pet without the responsibility, a robot dog is a viable alternative. No long walks, expensive veterinarian bills, or midnight potty breaks needed. The majority are aimed at kids, but you can find some realistic models designed for seniors.
This guide is designed to help you find the best robot dog. Our top choice is the Joy For All Companion Pets Golden Pup. This realistic robot dog is designed for seniors and people with dementia, bringing some of the benefits of pet ownership without the responsibility.
Considerations when choosing robot dogs
Recommended age group
Consider the age of the recipient before you choose a robot dog. If you're buying for a kid, be sure to choose one that's not too advanced or too simple for their age. Older kids won't be interested in a robot dog designed for preschoolers. Conversely, a child of four or five years will be confused and frustrated by a highly complex robot dog.
If you're buying a robot dog as a companion for an elderly person who can't have a real pet, choose a highly realistic model particularly designed with seniors in mind. These robot dogs are usually soft to pet, and they make realistic noises and movements in response to being touched or talked to.
Some robot dogs are more interactive than others. You can find models that simply move around on their own without any input. Some other models react to being petted, react to voice commands, or follow you around.
Kids who are longing for a real dog generally enjoy robot dogs that are trainable. These models "learn" to react to vocal commands, performing tricks such as barking on command or jumping. Trainable robot dogs add an extra dimension of interest and are likely to be played with more often than models that don't have this feature.
It's fairly common for robot dogs to have a remote control. Some models react to touch and voice -- that's either instead of or in addition to a remote control.
More advanced robot dogs may have sensors, so they can map out your home. Then they can navigate around it without colliding with walls or other obstacles, much like a robot vacuum. These models are often capable of returning to their docking station independently.
Robot dogs that can move around often have wheels rather than conventional legs. It's extremely difficult to program robots to walk convincingly, so it's beyond the capabilities of your average robot dog.
Robot dog prices
Basic robot dogs with limited interactivity can cost less than $20, whereas high-end realistic models can cost more than $200.
Q. Can robot dogs really reduce stress and loneliness in elderly people?
A. It might seem somewhat infantilizing to give an adult a robot dog to keep them company, but there's piles of anecdotal evidence to show that it can genuinely help. This is particularly true for people in nursing homes, those who can't leave the house much due to mobility issues, and dementia-sufferers. Of course, you need to choose one of the realistic dogs designed for older folks, and by no means will it be a replacement for real human interaction.
Q. How do I train my robot dog?
A. If you've chosen a trainable robot dog, you might be wondering how long it will take to teach it commands. This entirely depends on the model you've chosen, so your best bet is to consult the instruction manual.
Robot dogs we recommend
Best of the best: Joy For All Companion Pets Golden Pup
Our take: You can't help but fall in love with this adorable golden retriever puppy. It can show marked improvement in elderly people who are struggling.
What we like: Responds to touch and voice. Makes noises such as barking, breathing, and snoring. Has a comforting heartbeat. Easy to put in sleep mode, or turn the sound off.
What we dislike: Coat can shed a little at first.
Best bang for your buck: Westminster Chi-Chi Chihuahua
Our take: This cute little moving Chihuahua is an excellent toy for preschoolers, but it has little to offer older kids.
What we like: An affordable option. Walks around, barks, wags its tail, pounces, and nods its head. Includes a cute gingham bandana.
What we dislike: Barking sounds can be annoying.
Choice 3: WowWee Chippies Robot Toy Dog
Our take: If you're looking for a robot dog that's more robotic than realistic, this is a great option.
What we like: Includes a remote to control its movements, but it also reacts to being petted on the head. Can perform a number of tricks. Interacts with other robot toys in the same range.
What we dislike: Can be complicated to use.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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