Most helpful positive review
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful product for working dogs
on January 8, 2013
Update- August, 2013.
I purchased tracking collars for my other two dogs and am glad I did. I use the collars every day, whenever we go out trail running or hiking. Great investment. Not only do I know where my dogs are at all times, but it is fun to see how far each dog travels. I have started training my youngest dog for Search and Rescue (SAR)- avalanche and wilderness. It is very useful for training- I know where the dog is, where she has been, and how well she may have searched and area. Perfect working application. All in all, this product has worked very well so far- with daily use for almost a year. It was a costly first investment, but well worth it.
I finally bought this product on sale at REI after I (for not the first time) lost track of my husky, but this time he ended up following someone home and nearly ended up at Animal Control. I employed my tracking dog to find him, and did- but it was a bad situation. I thought I wouldn't need to pay so much $$ for a collar, and could train him to come when called or avoid losing sight of him, but things happen out in the woods, and I finally decided to spend the money I am so glad I did.
I currently only have one collar which I use on my widest ranging dog- my husky. I uploaded free maps from the orienteering club and state websites and have detailed maps of our normal running routes and mountain hikes. The GPS tracks great, I especially like the symbols of a running, sitting, and treeing dog. I can tell when my dog is running, which direction he is going, and what he is doing- running, standing or "treeing quarry" (which happens when they find a moose). This means I am able to call the dogs off whatever they are bothering, without needing to see what they are doing in person. I can also call my dog back if he goes down the wrong trail or I want to turn around, and then know when he has turned around. My husky loves to lead the way, and this puts me at ease, letting him run a bit free-er in safe areas.
The range on the signal isn't so great in the mountains, but I will carry the extended antennae next time and see how that works. I know that the signal will be lost no matter what antenna I am using if my dog ends up on one side of a mountain ridge and me on another, but at least I'll know where to start looking, and can get high enough to get a signal if I need to. In the mountains, I tend to lose a signal if the dog gets over a mile away. In the woods, he can be about 2 miles off and I have still been able to track him.
Keep in mind, pet owners, that the collar does not control the dog, it just tracks him. There is nothing I can do, if he can't hear me, to get him back if he is heading toward a road. It is great for wide open spaces and allows me to give my happy runner freedom to explore, but it does not have an e-collar feature like the newest "Alpha". I may upgrade to the Alpha at some point if and when I decide I need an e-collar.
The collar is a bit bulky, especially with the antenna hanging off the side, but my dog doesn't seem to mind at all. He is 80 lbs, but the collar also didn't bother my 55 lb dog. It seems like the device on the collar could be a bit smaller, but it's held together great, in rain, snow, and sub-0 temperatures. My dog has probably covered 2,000 miles of running using the collar and no problems so far. So despite its bulk, the collar appears to be well constructed.
Battery life on the collar seems great- never had a problem and I put it on the charger when I am not using it. The GPS has lost power after about 6 hours of use, but I can carry additional double-A batteries on longer trips to take care of this. If we go out on a really long trip, like an extended backpacking journey, it will be a shame to not have a way of charging or replacing batteries on the collar. I am not sure if this is possible, although remote solar may do the trick. Another option to save battery is to have a longer amount of delay between readings. I haven't tried this yet, but will weigh in if I try this.
The screen on the GPS is hard to read. Lower quality than say, and iphone or e-reader. It can be annoying to see in the dark (it's dark here all winter) but it works and I haven't had it effect my ability to track my dog. Also, the Astro would be absolutely less useful if I didn't have the detailed trail maps. Without the maps, I don't know if my dog is on or off trail, where he is running to, or how best to get to him. So, you will need to go online and search or pay for topo maps to get the best use out of this (already expensive) tool.
One of the funnest parts of this device is to look at the dog's track and my track after a run. My dog usually runs at least 1 mile more than me, sometimes a whole lot more. You also can see the dog's thought process as he runs the woods off trail. Dogs have an amazing sense of direction.
All in all, this purchase has paid for itself already in lost time and energy worrying about my dog and calling him. Often, when I would think he is "lost" he is actually quite close, running a different route. That is how I used to lose track of him sometimes, turning around to look for a dog that was actually in front of me already.
I don't want to promote irresponsible pet ownership with the product, but for those of us with huskies or similar dogs who like to wander a bit, it is very useful. I think you will find that your dog is actually keeping pretty good track of you, he just doesn't show himself real often. For me, it has been a purchase I would make again, and I may buy another collar for my youngest dog, just for peace of mind. Great product, and works as intended.