How Whistle activity goals help owners and dogs get more activity

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The number 10,000 is the Lady Gaga of numbers, the Beyonce of digits. It’s famous.

“Have you hit your 10,000 steps today?” I’ll bet you $10,000 you’ve heard this said at least once in your life.

We can thank FitBit for this phenomenon. The device and its “steps” metric have become commonplace in conversations about health and wellness.

But what makes this goal so powerful? Do activity goals actually help people get more exercise?

Well, we asked Science. And Science tells us… yes! Or at least, “probably yes”. Goals do help people get more exercise. The goal is essential to compliance and engagement, and thus essential to activity monitors. But don’t take our word for it, let’s dive a little deeper into the data.

Leveraging the huge pool of canine data we have here at Pet Insight Project, we asked our team of data scientists to see if having an activity goal (and a Whistle device to track it) had any effect on a dog’s activity. In other words, did the goal make the user want to score.

Understanding goal behavior

To answer this question, our team checked out user behavior around activity goals. They asked the question “Do dogs tend to have more active minutes below the activity goal, or above the activity goal?”

We looked at the minutes of activity logged during the millions of 'Whistle days' and compared them to the dogs' activity goal. Scoring a '0' means the dog finished the day with exactly its goal minutes, whereas scoring a +10 meant the dog ended with 10 more minutes than its goal that day, and scoring a -10 meant the dog ended with 10 less minutes than its goal that day.

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We recommend activity goals on the average amount of activity that similar dogs get, so you'd expect the majority of dogs to be smoothly distributed around the "0" where average activity = activity target. That being said, if activity goals had no impact at all, you'd expect the data to look something like this, with activity being evenly distributed around the goal:

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But when we looked at the actual data, what we found - drum roll - was a clear difference in how often a dog has active minutes above the Activity Goal versus below the Activity Goal:

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What we see here is a “jump” from below activity goal to above activity goal. This jump represents a clear pattern of goal-seeking behavior among Whistle users. The takeaway? An achievable goal is an essential part of a daily activity habit. We seek to accomplish goals, especially when the goals are just within reach.

At Pet Insight Project, we’ve spent loads of time thinking about goals, and how goals might be different across breed, age, and diagnosis. We’re asking questions like: as a dog ages, how do activity needs change? If a 4-year-old Labrador is a little overweight, how does this dog’s activity needs differ from an 8-year-old American bulldog that is carrying around a few extra pounds?

These unanswered questions are central to the value of Pet Insight Project. Involvement from thousands of pet owners - both enrolled with Banfield Pet Hospital and regularly wearing Whistle devices - make these questions attainable.

Based on what we’ve learned about how we respond to goals, it’s a good time to take a closer look at your pet’s activity goal. Your Whistle provides a recommended activity level for your dog - based on similar dogs - but don’t be afraid to bump your goal down to a more achievable level, or bump it up if you’re consistently crushing your goal. A reasonable goal within your pet’s reach will help get you and your pet out there walking, and well on your way to a healthy daily activity level.

In time, with new learnings from Pet Insight Project, we look forward to making more insightful activity recommendations tailored not only to your dog’s breed but also to your dog’s age, weight, and health status.

Happy walking, and thanks for your participation in the project. Woof!

BY DAVID ALLEN
PET INSIGHT PROJECT ASSOCIATE PRODUCT MANAGER

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