There was a time when picking out a dog collar had everything to do with comfort, looks, and durability. You chose a width, a material, a color, and an appropriate length for your pet, and you were finished. In today’s high-tech world, you can now also choose between several smart dog collars. Smart dog collars incorporate technology to provide additional features beyond the traditional collar. These collars can include features like GPS tracking, activity monitoring, and training tools. They can also be used to monitor heart rate, temperature, and other vital health signs. Some even let you set up and connect to smart invisible fences or provide two-way communication systems, allowing the owner to give the dog commands remotely.
A Smart Watch for Dogs-
Just like with a smartwatch for people, smart collars connect to an app on your smartphone so you can instantly see where your dog is and where he has been during the day. You might also want to see how much he has moved and how many calories he burned. Whether you just want to find a dog if it wanders away or want to increase your pet’s activity level and see how long he sleeps, there are several smart collar choices on the market. We will review just three of them, Tractive, Fi, and Whistle.
Tractive Smart Collar
Tractive is one of the more affordable choices available on the market today, so if price is a consideration, this might be a good bet. It’s also easy to use so, you don’t need to be a tech genius. This smart dog collar is a rounded rectangle small enough for a toy breed as small as 8.8 pounds. It weighs only 1.23 ounces and attaches to any dog collar. It’s also tough enough and waterproof for the most active dogs, so if your dog likes to swim, no problem. It comes with a rechargeable battery that lasts about seven days which is longer than some others. It recharges in just 2 hours, and the charge can last longer using a power saving zone.
The cost of the collar itself is about $50. Then Tractive offers two service levels, basic and premium, depending on your commitment and how often you are billed. You are billed between $5 and $13 per month, paying less if you pay for a year at a time. Both service packages include regular location updates every 2-60 minutes and unlimited live tracking every few seconds, which is much more often than other collar brands. The collar has activity, sleep, and wellness tracking, family sharing, worldwide coverage, 365 days of location records, and the ability to export the gathered GPS information. With family sharing, you can let others access all the data while you are working or away.
Like other smart collars, Tractive is connected to an app on your smartphone. The Tractive smart dog collar also allows you to set up virtual fences and safe vs. unsafe zones, so you will know when your pet strays or gets into the forbidden vegetable garden. Use the app to find a lost dog, or use the wellness tracker to get your pet’s health score. The app can tell you about any vitals or activity measurement changes because any activity changes can mean your pet doesn’t feel 100%. You can find out how many calories your dog has burned, how many steps she has taken, and how well she has slept during any particular day. Let’s face it, many dogs today are overweight and need more exercise.
Tractive uses various cellular phone company tower systems, so your smart collar will work anywhere these companies, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are active. The company says the collars work in over 150 countries.
Fi Smart Dog Collar
The Fi smart collar includes a collar in either yellow, gray, blue, or pink to fit dog necks between 11.5 inches and 34.5 inches. Additional colors and designs, including personalization, are available through a third-party vendor so that you can order a collar with your dog’s name on it. The smart device is incorporated into the collar itself. The tag is waterproof and stands up to 400 lbs. of stress, so big athletic dogs are not a problem. Battery life is great, lasting up to three months, so you won’t need to recharge as often as with other collars.
With Fi, you can choose between buying the collar and membership outright for $699 or paying a monthly fee between $3.20 and $4.40, depending on your commitment length. Membership includes a three-year warranty and 24-7 customer service.
You get GPS tracking via LTE-M cellular networks, a low-power long-distance network reaching about 30% more area. You can always know where your pet is and get alerts on your phone if your dog leaves your property so you can locate him quickly.
Setting up and using the app is less complicated than with other brands. You can add as many dogs and owners to your Fi account as you want and let other family members check in to help keep your dog safe when you travel. However, you can maintain your privacy through the app by controlling who has access to your property and pet. For example, if you change dog walkers or groomers, you can update access information easily.
The smartphone app also tracks your dog’s activity. This smart collar provides total activity and fitness information, including step counting, sleep tracking, and sleep-activity balance. You can even get an overall FI pet health score.
Whistle Smart Collar
Whistle offers three different collars, the Health 2.0 for $69, the Go Explorer 2.0 for $129, and the Switch Smart Collar for $149. The first two options are small, lightweight monitors you attach to your pet’s collar. The first provides basic behavior, activity, and wellness information. The second adds GPS tracking and escape alert services.
The Switch includes an integrated collar, rather than attaching to a collar you have. It comes with interchangeable batteries and an LED light which is unique and can help with locating a dog that’s lost. The collar, which comes in four colors, is sturdy and waterproof, and sizes range from 11.5 inches to 34.5 inches, so you should be able to find a size for your pet. Batteries are rechargeable and should last about three months but tend to run down faster if the collar isn’t connected to the local WiFi network. No base system is needed for this collar. It runs strictly on cellular phones.
The smartphone app for the Switch works through AT&T’s 4G LTE-M network, so checking availability in your area would be smart. With the app subscription, which costs between $5.95 and $9.99 per month, depending on commitment, you get location updates every 15 seconds. You can have up to three different safe zones with Whistle and get alerts if your dog crosses any of the boundaries you have set up.
With the health tracking features, you can set goals for your pet and get tons of information, including activity, eating, and sleep monitoring. The system can advise you when your dog’s daily patterns change, because changes in sleep, activity, or eating might indicate health problems. There’s even a veterinarian available through chat, phone, or email for free advice through the app.
The drawback to gaining all the extensive health information is a much more complex (and confusing to some) setup and operation system. Some reviewers said the Whistle collar system was confusing.
Choosing a Smart Collar
Choosing a smart collar for your dog will depend on a few factors. First, the cost of the different collars and their tracking services vary. Some also require longer commitments than others. If you’re unsure how much you will use a smart collar app, you might prefer a month-to-month commitment. Which brand you choose could also depend on what features you want and how tech-savvy you are. Some brands are more complex to set up and use but let you track and measure more health statistics and set and track certain goals. You may also want to consider which cellular networks a brand uses. For example, if a collar’s GPS tracking uses a system that doesn’t cover your home or annual vacation spot well, it might not be the best choice. No matter which you choose, if your dog is an escape artist or you want more information about their daily activity, a smart collar is a good investment.