But all that aside, given that they come in all shapes in sizes, what is most fascinating about robot dogs is the range of features they incorporate. Some robot toys, as we’ve found, are packed with tech features that require a smartphone to fully unlock. Others are about the connection your son or daughter makes with the toy, and they can be useful surrogates when an actual pet can’t be accommodated. Kids can get the benefits of pet-ownership, like bonding and play, without the responsibility of, you know, actual pet ownership.
See more: Best Toys for 2-Year-Olds
Whether your child has seen a robot dog on TV or you’ve stumbled across them as an alternative for an animal, we’ve assembled a list of the best over a variety of price ranges. We’ve also broken down their respective features and offered a stark look at the shortfalls of each.
For the dad questioning whether his son or daughter is really going to stick with this whole robot dog thing, the Westminster Chi-Chi Chihuahua fulfills the want without requiring too much money spent on what might be a passing fad. It performs well for the price.
Pros: Branded by the same organization that has hosted a dog show in New York City for almost 150 years, Chi-Chi behaves pretty much like any other toy breed: It walks, nods its head, wags its tail, barks, and even has a playful pounce. It’s also affordable, so if your three-year-old or older child loses interest, you’re not out a lot.
Cons: Read on and you’ll discover what modern robotics allows these dogs to do. If your child is serious and has done a little research, there’s little chance this basic unit will assuage his or her desire.
This robot dog incorporates interactive features that your child will love. While by no means the most premium product, it nevertheless gives a good taste of what all the robot dog fuss is about.
Pros: “Harry,” as the company calls him, runs off of three AA batteries, which are included. Once he gets going, the Dalmatian pup barks, talks, and makes other dog sounds, all while walking around your space. Multiple sensors that run from tip to tail respond to your child’s touch, eliciting songs and surprises, while his special “Bump n Go” feature allows him to explore the room’s confines. It’s a ton of fun for ages two and up.
Cons: Pull the dog’s tail, and the “surprise” is flatulence. Some Amazon customers thought this was too much for a child. Others were fine with it. (We’re on the fence.) If you prefer to shield your son or daughter from bodily functions until the time is right, this is an easy veto.
As its name suggests, Little Live Pets’ My Kissing Puppy is designed so that your child can get close to it. First and foremost a plush toy, kids love to cuddle with it, and its electric components are a nice add-on.
Pros: “Rollie,” as he’s called, has over 35 sounds and actions that your child can trigger through patting his back, placing him on his side, and more. He also loves to snuggle and kiss. Finally, we liked the included adoption certificate, which can be useful for explaining the concept of responsibility to children. Because of its advance functions, it’s best for kids ages five and older.
Cons: While it does have plenty of padding, some Amazon customers complained that if squeezed hard enough, its firm mechanism could be clearly felt. If your child is a hugger, it might be best to opt for a plush toy without the robotic guts.
While some robot dogs are really just plush toys with a few special tricks, WowWee Chippies robot toy dog makes no bones about it: Chipper is a robot. Futuristic in plastic, this is the quintessential robot dog.
Pros: By ditching the cuddly exterior, WowWee packed in features to its unit. Pat his head and children delight in his sniffs, barks, kisses, and sneezes. An included remote controls his movements similar to an RC car, but pre-programmed buttons make him dance, sing, chase his tail, and roll. A built-in sensor also turns him into a guard dog for the room. Because of more advanced controls, Chipper is best for ages four and up.
Cons: Parents with multiple robot-dog-wanting children, take note: Chipper may come in multiple colors, but his remote only operates on one frequency, making individual control impossible with more than one unit. However, those with a single dog won’t face this issue.
Zoomer Playful Pup is a robot dog packed with features, and now that it’s nearly half off its regular price, your dollar stretches further. This is the best deal for the options on this list.
Pros: The Playful Pup responds to touch, woofing in excitement to pats, rubs, and scratches. He also responds to sound, and your son or daughter can give him a name that, once “learned,” will elicit a response. This same smart feature allows your child to teach the dog 25 tricks through voice command. Another thing we love: This is the first unit on this list that has a USB charger, which means you won’t be chewing through AAs. A child five years old and up will make a great owner.
Cons: With its myriad voice commands, some Amazon customers complained that the Playful Pup was too complicated for their children. As such, you may need to assist your child to get going.
While the Contixo Puppy is packed with features, it’s also one of the few on this list to have its own app. If your son or daughter is already using a smartphone, this allows him or her even more control.
Pros: With voice recognition, touch sensors, LED lights, RF sensor, and a Bluetooth speaker, the only thing the Contixo toy won’t do is wash your car. While it allows voice commands to execute tricks, our favorite feature was its custom trick function, which allows your child to program in a unique trick through the proprietary app and, with a command, lead the toy through it. Connected through its Bluetooth function, the dog will even dance to music that plays from it. It’s ideal for children ages four and up.
Cons: The only ding we have is the price, as it’s a lot to drop on a toy. But many will appreciate its added functions for the dollar, and you can justify it as a combination robot dog and Bluetooth speaker. (Just be sure you work out a schedule with your son or daughter ahead of time.)
Full-featured and fun for others beyond your child, the Joy For All Golden Pup is the most feature-rich on our list. As such, it also carries the greatest price.
Pros: While this is a robot dog, those customers who love it most were often people who, because of various reasons, could not have an actual dog—that’s how realistic these robots are. Details like a “real” heartbeat, a lifelike coat of fur, and voice recognition (and affection) set it apart and make it more like a real pet. This isn’t the most tech dog out there, but it’s the closest thing to a live animal barring a trip to the ASPCA. As such, it’s appropriate for ages five and up.
Cons: There are children who want a mechanized dog, and there are children who want a dog. We worry that this is more for the latter group, many of whom will probably get a dog. But if constraints don’t permit a real animal, this is a great alternative.
Not everyone is a dog person. And for those who prefer creatures who meow, we've found the ultimate robot cat. No litter box required.
Pros: Cats scratch and cats claw. Not this robot cat. It purrs, opens and closes its eyes, lifts is paw, opens its mouth and moves its head and body. It’s meant for older kids, and it responds to motion and touch.
Cons: It’s expensive and frankly, a tad creepy.
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