Unleashing peace of mind: My journey of doggie surveillance with a smart display

Yes, your smart display could have a second life as a pet monitor.

Do you worry about leaving your pet home alone? Perhaps they get up to no good once you close that front door, something you’d like to nip in the bud? 

There are many in the same situation. A survey commissioned earlier this year by Ring found that more than one third of dog and cat owners check on their pets via a camera when they’re away.  

What’s more, nearly two-thirds of those owners were able to stop destructive behaviour by speaking to their pets via the device.  

A shepsky on the sofa being strokedCredit: Saga Exceptional
Being able to use my smart display to monitor my dog while I’m not in the house really appealed to me

This is music to my ears. While my shepsky, Shyla, is a pretty well-behaved pooch, she’s had her moments.  

Like the time she ate through an unopened package, enjoying a good chew on the heel of a new pair of shoes. There’s also her love of anything mint. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve come home to find an errant pack of mints, or a tube of toothpaste, half destroyed on the lounge floor.  

As a rescue pup, she’s also sometimes a bit nervous about being left alone, so the thought of being able to keep a close eye on her while I’m out really appealed to me. 

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Setting up doggie surveillance

I didn’t want to have to fork out for a special pet monitor – yes, they do exist – so I decided instead to use my Echo Show. 

Obviously, you can use whatever smart display or camera you have, whether that’s an Arlo, Ring or a Google Nest hub, but for the purpose of this experiment, I used my Echo Show 5. It’s the smallest smart display from Amazon, but I figured it would be a good starting point. 

Setting up an Echo Show as a pet monitorCredit: Saga Exceptional
I used a book to ensure my Echo Show was in the best position to view my dog

My smart display currently resides in the kitchen, but I know my pooch spends most of her spare time lazing about in the lounge, either on the sofa or the floor, so I repositioned the device to get the best view of Shyla I could. 

Let doggie cam begin

When I first drop in on the live feed, I’m not sure what I’ll see. Shyla is a tad nervous and loves being around company. She also goes crazy whenever you come home – whether you’ve been away five minutes or two hours – making me believe that she’s sat at home pining for me. 

As I saw on my makeshift pet monitor, though, she mostly sleeps or plays with her toys when left home alone. There was one time when I did catch her howling, which is what she sometimes does when she’s left on her own. The great thing about using a smart display as a pet monitor is that I could check back on her later, and when I did, she was curled up on the sofa, relaxing.  

Shyla often goes out of the camera’s view, which can be quite frustrating. And my hope that she was behaving off camera was dashed one evening when I came home to find what had been a tub of pesto pasta on the floor, demolished. Perhaps she already knows that if she wants to misbehave, she has to move away from the living room!

The solution to this is to set up multiple devices throughout the house. Although it would mean monitoring multiple live feeds, the peace of mind it could provide is definitely worth the effort.  

A feed of a shepsky dog sleeping on a sofa taken by an Echo Show smart display used as a pet monitorCredit: Saga Exceptional
Unfortunately, I was unable to catch Shyla up to no good on the monitor – but I did enjoy watching her sleep

While I may not have been able to stop her eating the pasta, I found that watching ‘Shyla-cam’ was really soothing. Seriously, if you ever need a bit of chill time, I wholeheartedly recommend watching some footage of a dog sleeping – it’s very relaxing.  

The most enjoyable aspect of using my Echo Show as a pet monitor is observing that, for the most part, Shyla remains calm and unconcerned when left alone. It’s reassuring to see that she doesn’t fret too much about my absence. 

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It’s good to talk… to the dog

Now let’s not forget about the two-way chat ability on the Echo Show. Once the live feed is set up, you’ll be able to talk with your pet. Just don’t expect any answers…  

Buoyed up by a video I’d seen on Instagram where an owner stops their dog mid-chew on a trainer, I thought I’d try and communicate with Shyla to see if it helped her feel less alone when I was out. After all, surely a reassuring voice from her owner would be calming for her? 

I wasn’t sure how it would play out, since I’ve attempted to grab Shyla’s attention through video calls countless times before, but one afternoon while I was out and about, I decided to give it a shot. I pulled up the live feed on the Amazon Alexa app from my Echo Show, and started calling out Shyla’s name. To my utter amazement, she actually came over to the device, clearly trying to figure out what was happening. 

A dog's nose showing up on an Echo Show smart display used as a pet monitorCredit: Saga Exceptional
Shyla actually got up close and personal with the Echo Show when I called her name

I’m not entirely sure if it was comforting for her, though. My husband, who was at home during my little experiment, said that she went absolutely wild afterwards, zooming around the house. 

I don’t think I’ll “chat” with her like that again, but it’s good to know that I can grab her attention that way if I ever catch her in the middle of a sneaky food raid. 

Creating a soothing soundscape

Before I leave the house, I always make sure to turn on the radio or TV for the dog, since she enjoys some background noise.  

The brilliant thing about smart displays is that even when you’re not around, you can still play some tunes remotely. This is something I wanted to try because, honestly, I often forget to switch on the radio before I leave. Technology to the rescue. 

Top tip: To enable music remotely, find ‘Play’ at the bottom of the Amazon Alexa app. You can then select a recently played song, playlist or radio station, or choose to ‘Browse Music’. It will offer you the option of what smart device to play it on, so just choose the one nearest your pet and they’ve got some instant tunes.

So, there I was, running some errands, thinking I’d be a genius and turn on some music for my furry friend back home. Feeling all proud of myself, I decided to check in on the live feed – and what do I find? A grumpy dog, giving me the most epic death stare. Apparently, my brilliant idea of serenading her with random tunes had just rudely interrupted her beauty sleep. Lesson learnt: never mess with a dog’s nap time. 

Next time, I’ll work on adjusting the volume to a dog-friendly level. I wouldn’t want her plotting her revenge against my poor smart display. It’s all about finding that perfect harmony, both in music choice and decibel level. 

The final verdict

Apart from the minor inconvenience of having to relocate our Echo Show, there were no real downsides to this easy pet surveillance system. 

The only mildly annoying thing was when I found myself in areas with low mobile connectivity. That’s when things got a bit frustrating. The feed would hang there, desperately trying to connect to my living room, as if playing a game of hide-and-seek with my patience. 

A dog looking up while lying on a sofaCredit: Saga Exceptional
Shyla mostly slept, but she did definitely respond when I called her name

So, what did I discover about using a smart display as a pet monitor? Firstly, it’s a ridiculously easy way to put your existing device to work without having to dish out cash for a fancy pet camera.  

Secondly, it brings me immense peace of mind. Sure, I won’t catch every mischievous act, but it provides a quick and hassle-free way to check up on Shyla and ensure she’s doing just fine. 

And let me tell you, I learnt a thing or two about a dog’s life. Dogs truly know how to live their best lives – napping, eating, and occasionally going on daring food raids. It’s got me thinking about my next life… I definitely want to come back as a pampered pooch. Who wouldn’t, right? 

How to set up your Echo Show as a pet monitor

You can turn your Echo Show into a pet monitoring device in just a couple of taps. The first step is to enable the security camera option on the device. Here’s how:  

  1. Swipe down from the top of the Show’s screen. 
  2. Select ‘Settings’. 
  3. Select ‘Camera’. 
  4. Toggle on ‘Home Monitoring’. 
  5. After that, you’ll be asked to sign into your Amazon account. 

Top tip: All Echo smart displays have a slight upward slant to enable them to point at a human face. You can buy a stand for some models, which then allow you to tilt the display up or down in order to catch the main area where your pet will be hanging out. I also have a nice thick book underneath to give it the height it needs.

To view the live feed, you’ll need your Alexa app on your phone or tablet. Once in the app, choose the Echo Show you’re using. On that page, you’ll see a camera icon. Simply click on that and, t-dah, your pet monitor feed is live. 

Zoomed in image of a dog as viewed on a smart dispalyCredit: Saga Exceptional
You can zoom into the photo by double tapping on your phone or tablet screen

I like to turn my phone to landscape mode so I can see everything clearer, but if you want a closer view, you can also double tap to zoom in. To zoom out, use a pinching motion.  

If you have an Echo Show 10, you can also control the camera in the app, for instance moving it to the right to move the camera right, so you can see around the room with ease.  

Shop Echo Show smart displays

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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her

Updated:

Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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