Skype video call with my dog

DIY Home Surveillance For Your Dogs

The Problem

I don’t know about you, but leaving my husky home alone for the first time was daunting. I had visions of her howling the neighbourhood down or tearing up the house up, trust me, I’ve read all the stories! I know many of my husky owning friends dread leaving their dog home alone. Well, I have the perfect solution for you and best of all, it’s not going to cost you a dime.

I work from home, so from the day we brought Dakota home, she had somebody with her all the time, which was great… for the most part. I got to spend lots of time with her, train her and we all bonded very quickly. She was house trained by 9 weeks old. When we left the house, we’d take Dakota with us to visit friends etc. But because of this, it meant she wasn’t accustomed to being left alone.

The first time we were due to leave the house, we weren’t sure what to expect. But as she had a tendency to follow us around the house, our gut feeling was that she wasn’t going to like it.

I’d seen several surveillance camera’s that plug in to your home network, allowing your to tune-in and monitor your dog via your mobile phone. So off to the store we went, credit card in hand. There were several models available, all claiming to be the best, but we finally settled with a model by Philips, which cost around £100.

The next day we went out on a short 30 minute drive and left Dakota at home, for the first time. I immediately tuned-in and sure enough, Dakota was howling the house down and no doubt annoying our neighbours. Ok, great, we know she’s howling and clearly not happy, what can we do? It was extremely frustrating, the camera didn’t offer the facility to talk back, so although we could see and hear her, she couldn’t see or hear us, it was completely useless. The picture quality and frame rate was also particularly bad.

We didn’t leave her home alone again for several weeks, but during that time I’d been racking my brains trying to figure out how we can make leaving her home alone less distressing for both her and for us. I researched all the various cameras and even those that appeared to offer the functionality we were looking for, had terrible reviews.

The Solution

I use Skype almost daily for both voice and video calls and often I will use Skype via my mobile phone. So why can’t I just Skype Dakota while we’re out? But of course, who’s going to answer? It wouldn’t make sense to leave the call connected the entire time we’re out, as the battery on my mobile phone would be sure to die. But after a little tinkering, I figure out exactly how this could work and it couldn’t be simpler. The result is absolutely brilliant, exactly what we wanted and didn’t cost us a penny.

Now we can leave home and if Dakota is howling, we can talk to her and offer her reassurance and best of all, she can see us on the screen! Before you ask, yes, dogs can see TV screens and monitors.

Things you’ll need

  1. Laptop or PC with a webcam
  2. Internet access
  3. Smartphone
  4. Skype

The Basic version for the tech savvy

In a nutshell, you create a Skype account for your dog, log them in on your laptop and set Skype to auto answer calls with video. Then when you leave the house, you use Skype on your mobile phone to call your dog. You can then see exactly what they’re up to and even interact with them if necessary.

Step-by-step Guide

Although there appears to be a lot of steps, once setup, it’s very straight forward to use.

Note: Your Skype and settings may look a little different depending on what version you’ve got and whether you’re on a PC or Mac, but I’m sure you’ll be able to follow along.

  1. If you haven’t already, download and install Skype to your laptop or PC.
  2. Create 2 accounts, one for you and one for your dog.
  3. On the laptop, login to the account you created for your dog and goto settings/preferences, there are a few things you need to configure:
    1. Answer Automatically
      Set calls to auto answer
      Click on the calls tab and set calls to answer automatically.
    2. Answer with Video
      Answer with video
      Then click configure and set it to answer automatically with video.
  4. Now you need to add your personal account as a contact. From the main Skype window click Add Contact and search for the username your chose for yourself and add it as a contact.
  5. On your mobile phone download Skype from the app store:
    1. iPhone: Skype for iPhone
    2. Android: Skype for Android
    3. Windows Phone: Skype for Windows Phone
  6. Launch Skype on your mobile phone and login with the account you created for yourself and accept the contact request your just made from your dogs account. At this point; on your laptop you should be logged in under your dogs account and see your personal account as a contact. On your mobile phone you should be logged in under your personal account and see your dog as a contact. If not, go back and ensure you’ve followed the steps correctly.

That’s it, you’re now ready to make video and voice calls to your dog while you’re out!

Testing the Surveillance System

Now that you’re all setup, the hard work is done and all that’s left to do, is test the system and ensure it’s all working as planned.

  1. Set the laptop up in the room with your dog, plug the laptop in to the mains and ensure the power saving options are set so that the computer won’t put itself to sleep. Obviously ensure Skype is open and you’re logged in under your dogs account and the volume is turned up.
  2. Go to another room with your mobile phone and video call your dogs account. After about 10 seconds or so, the call should automatically connect and you should be able to see and hear everything that’s going on inside the room. Your dog will also be able to see and hear you.
  3. Give it a good test, see if your dog can hear you and whether he looks up at the laptop. Is the quality ok etc.

Note: If your dog is a chewer, it might be a good idea to put the laptop out of reach.

Tip: I set Skype on the laptop to full screen, so when I call, the video is larger for Dakota to better see me.

If you have any questions, feedback or if you run in to any issues getting this setup, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you get the system up and running.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

8 thoughts on “DIY Home Surveillance For Your Dogs”

  1. Great Idea but nowdays it cant possible! It is for windows secury I mean Microsoft Security. I was looking for the solution and I found “ panda! DIY System” Project and It is quite good..It is free cause you could make it yourself..good luck!

  2. Hello, you seem to know quite a bit about huskies. I have 2 brothers-siberian huskies, they are 7mos old and i have not walked them since they pull me, i have absolutely no controll. Also i am not sure which direction to go with house training, we did go to basic puppy training but didn’t go over house training only simple commands. Please help me.

  3. Brilliant idea, and thankfully a pretty cheap one too if you have all the tech stuff already ;)

  4. What a fab idea! We can leave our 10th old pup, Luna, in her run outside and she’ll only let out an occasional cry or bark. It did take a while for her to be like this ☺ However, with winter coming, I’m not so keen on leaving her outside in freezing conditions (yes, I’m fully aware she is built for this but she’s still my baby!) I will be using this fab idea for when we do start leaving her in the kitchen by herself. Thank you for coming up with a great, free option!!

  5. Carl Hague

    Great post Paul, I do similar with IP cameras, but they can’t see me

    1. The IP cameras are really good if you know your husky is calm and not suffering any anxiety. I had a look at the photo you posted and your husky looks very relaxed and chilled out. Plus you’ve got the benefit of being able to move it around!

  6. Edward Haley

    good idea. my husky learned by herself and hard work trainingi can leave her now no howling and never chewed but your idea is absolutely fantastic.

    1. Hey Edward, glad you like the idea. I’m glad to hear you can leave your girl by herself and not have to worry, ideal situation!

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