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Smart Home

My pup is a pathetic guard dog. Can smart home security protect me?

My dog, Dolly, is no guard dog. So I had to turn to tech to feel secure.

Dolly and the Simplisafe motion sensor.

Chris Monroe/CNET

My dog, Dolly, is good at a lot of things. She's right by my side when I open a bag of tortilla chips to make sure my snack isn't poisonous. She lays beside the tub when I bathe or shower because she assumes I hate bath time as much as she does. She even caught a bird in her mouth once, surely to protect our property from an avian invasion.

But when it's time to protect my home from real dangers, like burglars or package thieves, my chubby terrier mix is trash.

Dolly loves people. It was what first drew me to her at the Louisville Metro Animal Services shelter. When my husband, Rob, and I took her in the outside play area, Dolly was right up against our calves. She looked at us with big eyes that said, "Pick me. Choose me. Love me." We brought her home that day.

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Dolly Lou Clark Thompson loves everyone -- maybe a little too much.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Her comfort around humans has made her a terrible guard dog. No one is a stranger to Dolly. One time, some delivery men brought a new washer and dryer. I held her in my lap while they installed the units in our basement, but she made a break for it as they returned to their truck parked on the street. When Dolly got to the sidewalk, she stopped at their feet and rolled onto her back for a belly rub. She likes our mailwoman, whom we sometimes run into during walks, even though mail people are the mortal enemy of canines. My best friend Autumn once did me a favor and stopped by on a busy Saturday to let Dolly out. Dolly had never met Autumn. But when Autumn used a spare key to let herself in, Dolly didn't bark or act alarmed. She welcomed Autumn with open paws and showed her where we keep the good snacks.

That's when I realized that our 23-pound blonde people-pleaser would be no good if someone did break into our home. It would take two people to break into my house: one person to steal my stuff and one person to cradle Dolly like a baby and give her scratches behind the ears. So Rob and I turned to smart home technology to make up for Dolly's shortcomings.

I had previously resisted getting a security system. The ones that companies install seemed too expensive and complex for our modest home. And the DIY systems required us to actually, you know, do it ourselves. That's asking a lot for two people who have bags of clothes we haven't worn in months because neither of us can make time to drop them off at the dry cleaner.

Then, my colleague Ry Crist asked if Dolly could help him test the SimpliSafe Home Security System. Part of the security setup was a motion detector that the company said wouldn't go off around the presence of pets but would detect people. Ry needed Dolly to be a test pet. She was game for her moment in the spotlight.

SimpliSafe's motion sensor ignored Dolly as Ry and I threw those treats for her to run across the room and retrieve. But as soon as Ry stood up from his test position on the ground, the alarm blared. Those tests, Ry's subsequent Editors' Choice review of the system and a decent sale at Best Buy convinced me to give SimpliSafe a try in my own home.

Once I made the time (aka paused my marathon rewatch of Bob's Burgers), the setup was easy enough for me to do myself. The monitors are unobtrusive. And Dolly hasn't set off the motion sensor when I leave her alone during the day. However, she does spend the majority of her alone time in the middle of our bed upstairs.

I love Dolly and her friendly personality. But I do sleep a little better knowing that she's not the only one watching my house.

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