SXSW break: Play with puppies, raise money for local shelters at pop-up dog park

Posted March 11th, 2017

Already exhausted from red carpets, panels and shows? Take a breather at the Mars Petcare's #Dogstin pop-up dog park, where adoptable dogs from Austin Pets Alive are available for cuddles and walks.

Throughout the first weekend of South by Southwest, Austinites can test out an urban dog park design as part of Mars Petcare's Better Cities for Pets initiative, which aims to create places for every dog and cat to live and play. The pop-up offers opportunities to learn about Whistle, a pet activity and location tracker, and Wisdom Panel's cheek swab dog DNA test.

The event doubles as a fundraiser for local shelters — for every 10 minutes visitors walk around the block with a shelter dog equipped with a Whistle 3 tracker, Mars Petcare and Whistle will donate $100 to local animal shelters. And the cherry on top? They're offering free ice cream bars, too.

Chloe Gonzales/American-StatesmanDexter, wearing a Whistle tracker, is the center of attention at #Dogstin, a pop-up dog park on Congress Avenue.

Whistle is a small device that attaches to your dog or cat's collar and uses Wi-Fi or cellular data to track their location and activity level, almost like a Fitbit for Fido. About 200,000 dogs are currently in Whistle's database, said Heather Wajer, chief marketing officer for Whistle.

"Most people don't know how much activity their dog should get," said Wajer. "We have a lot of data on the backend ... and so we know how much activity they're supposed to get and we make a recommendation for you."

The device also allows users to designate a home area, allowing them to find lost pets more easily.

"As soon as it recognizes the Wi-Fi, it knows that (the pet) is home," said Wajer. "As soon as it doesn't see the Wi-Fi, it knows that it’s away from home, and so it alerts and lets you know that it's away from home."

Visit the pop-up dog park from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday, rain or shine.

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