Many dog owners wish they could feel their best friends close to them all the time. To make that wish come true, many ingenious products and services have been hitting the market, from a smartphone app that makes it easier to take your pet's portrait to custom manufacturing services for dog figurines and a tracking service to ensure pet safety.
There were about 10.35 million pet dogs in the nation as of October 2014, according to estimates by the Japan Pet Food Association. They outnumber the nation's approximately 9.96 million pet cats. In fact, 15 per cent of all households are canine owners, meaning roughly one in seven households has at least one dog. This statistic has likely led to the surge in various new services for dog owners.
Setting up great photo ops
Dogs can be awfully hard to capture in photos, since they don't like to stay still or readily look in the direction of the camera.
A free smartphone app called "dogg.me camera" was developed to solve such problems. The product has been available since December from Tokyo-based One Brand Inc., which publishes a specialist magazine for dog lovers.
The app has a special function: It makes a sound that attracts a dog's attention so that the would-be subject of your photograph turns around to face the direction of your smartphone.
The software was developed in co-operation with Japan Acoustic Lab in Tokyo, whose expertise in phonetic and acoustic analysis has been successfully employed in criminal investigations and other instances.
Noting that dogs can easily hear sounds within higher frequency ranges than humans, the developers conducted experiments on 27 canine breeds, from chihuahuas to toy poodles, to find the ideal sound effects.
With the aid of the right sound, the app sets up the perfect photo opportunity. The five sound types include the whinnying of a horse and a chime. Photos taken with the app can be uploaded to the app's social network for dog owners.
If only your dog could be made into a plaster figurine, you could always keep a miniature replica of your pet within view on your desk.
You can now make that happen at LoFt Lab 3D Studio in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, which opened inside the LoFt Yurakucho variety shop at the end of May. The 34-square-meter studio is fitted with 102 cameras to surround the subject and take photos from 360 degrees, which can be used to create a faithful miniature reproduction of your dog. Each item is manufactured by custom order.
A standard model, about eight to 10 centimeters tall, costs from ¥30,000 to ¥45,000. A premium model, from 15 to 20 centimeters tall, runs from ¥67,500 to ¥97,500. The prices do not include tax. Photo data is stored for three years, during which "reprints" can be ordered.
A watering area and air conditioners at the studio make it comfortable for pets brought in by customers.
"If you make a portrait [of your pet dog] as a 3-D figure, you can have a realistic image of your dog that you can keep forever," a LoFt employee said.
Watching out for safety
Some owners tend to worry about how their dogs are doing alone at home.
In March last year, NTT Docomo, Inc. started a service called Petfit designed for such people. Thanks to a special tag attached to the dog's collar, owners can remotely check on their pet's activity status - such as whether they are sleeping or moving around - via PC or smartphone.
The tag has various features, such as a sensor that detects acceleration in a dog's movement and a thermometer for measuring air temperature around the animal. The device is also equipped with a global positioning system, which may come in handy if the dog goes missing.
The annual fee for the service is ¥7,500 plus tax. Users also need to purchase a data communication terminal that costs ¥16,400 plus tax.