There are few things worse than that sinking feeling of looking around for your pet, and realizing he or she is gone. Not just hiding, but gone. Perhaps you’re like my neighbor, whose tricky latch on the side fence meant that whenever the gardener didn’t pull it shut all the way, the labs would push it open and go for a run.
Or you have one of those dogs who likes to dig, dig, dig, right under the fence and out onto the street.
Or you’re just unlucky, like a client of ours whose dog Tinker pulled his leash right out of his owner’s hand in our parking lot and disappeared for a month and a half before being found, slightly thinner but miraculously none the worse for wear, up in the hills, communing with nature.
They are all happy endings, though not without a great deal of stress and angst on the owner’s part. Not all stories end well, as we all know. Which is why I was so happy to get to be one of the first people to review the new Tagg the Pet Tracker, a GPS tracking device for dogs from SnapTracs, a division of Qualcomm. You may not know Qualcomm, but if you own a smartphone, you know their mobile technology.
First things first: The Tagg is a modern-looking, light device (1.15 ounces) about the size of a sportswatch. The device itself snaps onto your dog’s collar via a set of clips that are designed to remain on the collar- the box comes with four clips in total. By incorporating the antenna into the little wings on either side, they were able to get this device super teensy.
The Tagg charges on the small docking station pictured above. Once charged, battery life is as long as 30 days depending on usage patterns.
Users designate a geofence- a Tagg home zone, for those of us who don’t use words like geofence on a regular basis- on the Tagg website. When the device leaves this designated area, you are alerted by e-mail, text, or both within 10 minutes. After that, you are given updated locations every 3-4 minutes until the Tagg is back home.
This is not the first GPS device for dogs on the market, but it’s definitely a step up in terms of both looks and user interface.
1. It’s low-profile and attractive. I know utilitarians scoff at the fact that this bothers me, but the fact that so many of the GPS trackers on the market look like shock collars does bother me. They’re big, bulky, and ugly. The Tagg is cute, is flush on the neck, and very easy to get off and on.
2. The Tagg website is intuitive and easy to navigate. Setup is easy- it took me about 5 minutes, and I’m slow at that kind of thing. From the homepage, I can see where my home zone is on the site, check the battery level remaining, and track my dog if needed. There’s also a mobile app for Android devices.
Here’s the main dashboard, showing our Tagg zone, the battery charge level, and the latest status update on the device’s location. (Yes, I pixellated the map. After yesterday’s post I figured it would be prudent.)
And of course we took it on a test run. I couldn’t bring myself to turn Brody loose on his own recognizance so we cheated- I went with him. Forgive me. He darts a lot when he gets excited.
We went to the carwash to see what would happen. Now, the website does indicate it can take up to 10 minutes to get the first notification when your pet leaves the designated area, but I got my first notification in 7 minutes via e-mail. It pegged us accurately to the address of the carwash, including not only the address but a map of the location.
Then I got notifications every three minutes as we made our way to Petco and the library. Since I had text messages enabled, I also received text messages with Brody’s location in addition to the e-mails with the maps. These continued until we were back at home, when the device texted me that Brody was back in his home zone so it was going back into power save mode, thank you very much. No work required on my part to get all of that information, though you can manually track your pet via text or on the website if you desire.
As much as I like the look of the device, it’s the interface that really sold me. I liked getting the maps in addition to just the text address, since if you’re like me, I always need to see an actual map in addition to having street addresses to get my bearings when I’m trying to find somewhere. Or someone. The combination of real-time text messages and e-mails increases the likelihood that no matter where you are or which device you’re sitting by, you’ll find out quickly if there’s been a jailbreak.
The Tagg will notify you when the battery is low, so you don’t have to try and guess when you need to take it off to recharge. In addition, there is a “trip” mode so that you can leave it on when you’re out on a stroll or at the vet without getting e-mails every three minutes telling you that you are within 30 yards of the vet clinic.
Brody’s wearing his now, and none the antsier for it. We even took it swimming, which makes me happy because if that dog is going to get away from me, it’s going to happen at Dog Beach, mark my words. He’s a maniac there.
The Tagg retails for $199.95 ($10 more for the pink or blue units), which includes the docking station, clips, and the first year of service. For now it’s only available online, but if you check out their Facebook page you can see where the Tour de Tagg is stopping by on their many visits to local dog parks, and you can see them live in action.
The very first person I called when this came out was Tinker’s owner, by the way. He got the blue one.