One of the most devastating feelings a pet owner can experience usually sets in the moment you realize your pet is missing. Panic, fear and an immediate search ensues; and with any luck, your pet returns home safe and sound.
But what if that doesn’t happen? Flyers get printed, you issue a dog amber alert, the humane societies and animal control offices get calls, and you drive around for hours hoping for a glimpse of your dog.
Now imagine you could press a button and find a physical location where your dog last visited or is currently near. The Tagg company seeks to provide this exact ability when your dog wears its tracker, which is called Tagg: The Pet Tracker. The small device attaches to your dog’s collar, and you can manage your settings and notifications online. The device is charged by placing it on a docking station, which has to be done only about once a week.
So, does it work? Let’s get the dog’s opinion first.
What the Dog Thought
Relax, I’m not going to start barking or using dog speak.
My dog didn’t even know the tracker was on her collar. She did all of her everyday routines as normal, such as rolling around in the grass, sprawling out on the tile, nosing her way through half-opened doors and begging for treats. The tracker stayed on her collar without fail, and the clips designed for the collar were almost impossible to remove. Unless you change your pet’s collar often, this is a good thing. If you have trouble getting it off, this means the tracker will stay put quite well on its own.
The pet tracker arrived in a small box with the docking station, accessories and a small instruction manual. I spread out all the items and opened the instructions to get started.
Getting the docking station set up was incredibly easy. Collar clips are included for small and large dogs, and the large clip fit my Labrador’s collar perfectly. The next step is to create or log in to your Tagg account to add your pet and define a home zone. Whenever your pet goes outside this zone, you should receive a notification.
Notifications can be sent by email, text message or through the company’s mobile application. I started the notifications using email only. The system sent me an email when the device was fully charged, and I attached it to the provided clips on my pet’s collar. The smallest zone I could define was much larger than I would have liked, and I moved it so that if the dog reached the street I would get a notification.
I watched my dog not only reach the street, but also walk down the street a few times! I did not receive a notification when she left my zone. I monitored this over a week’s time, and the results were the same. The lack of notifications and the distances of leaving the zone were not significant, so I can easily overlook not being notified. The dog didn’t go too far outside the zone, and I can think of much better things to do with my time than watching every step my dog takes.
Because my dog never goes beyond a few houses, I didn’t think she would provide the opportunity to fully test the tracker. I took the tracker with me to run errands one day, and I did receive email notifications letting me know the tracker left my home zone. However, those emails took hours to appear! The delay could have been due to their notification service or the email client I use, so I considered it a one-time occurrence. So I tried this tactic again another day, and the notifications were more prompt but were still delayed.
Since I had tested the email notifications, it was time to add text messaging. I entered a phone number on my Tagg account through the company’s website and took the tracker with me when I next left to run errands. The results this time around were immediate. Tagg sent a notification by the time I was a block away letting me know the tracker had left the home zone.
Through the text messages, it gave me instructions to continuously track or locate the device by replying to the text message. Every few minutes it sent me an update during the tracking session. It was very easy to start another session just by sending another text, and before I knew it, my tracking sessions resulted in 35 notifications.
When I returned home, I also had 35 emails waiting for me. They were sent almost instantly or within one minute, and they provided the same information as the text messages on my phone. Seeing the difference in the notification frequency and accuracy from email to text was impressive, and the text messaging feature is definitely the faster option.
The smallest area I could define as my home zone was too large. I live in a suburban area with a larger plot of land, so I imagine using this device in a crowded city environment would be difficult.
I would have liked to have been able to make my zone smaller to cover only my property and more accurately track my pet’s whereabouts. This will differ based on your pet’s habits and your own environment, so it might not affect you as it did during my testing. The map offered multiple viewing options, features and was very accurate in its display of my location and surrounding areas.
The setup, usage and interaction are incredibly user-friendly. I was able to start charging and using my pet tracker the same day. The clips for the dog’s collar were very easy to attach and difficult to remove. I view the removal difficulty as a huge bonus; if it’s that hard for me to remove it, it is very unlikely to become detached from my dog’s collar while she’s out on her own.
As for my dog’s experience, her behavior seemed as if she didn’t even notice it was there. Her daily routine, habits and rough play had no effect on the device attached to her collar, and she made no attempt to scratch, pull or dislodge the device.
The email notifications were delayed when used alone, but immediate when used with the text messaging option. Getting 35 notifications for one outing may sound extreme, but I did send text messages to initiate additional tracking sessions. I imagine that if my dog really was lost, I would be driving around and initiating tracking sessions constantly to find her location. The addresses that were sent on the notifications accurately reflected my location with the device, and I trust the device would be an incredible asset for finding a lost pet much faster than traditional methods.
One of the most important factors in finding a missing pet is time. The sooner you are aware your pet is missing, the more likely the pet hasn’t ventured too far and will be easier to find. The Tagg system notified me automatically when the zone was breached instead of requiring me to log in, request updates or take any action. This allows the owner to call a neighbor, relative or head home as soon as possible to find and secure their pet.
If someone else is watching your pet or your pet is being boarded during a vacation, you can change the address and home zone and leave the docking station with the caregiver. If your pet is lost, the caregiver can get text messages and you can receive a copy by email, or you could adjust the settings for what will work best.
We never want to think about our pets getting lost, but if it were to happen, the Tagg Pet Tracker will give you piece of mind knowing you can find your pet quickly and easily.
Disclaimer: I was sent this product for testing purposes by Tagg. I did not keep the device and was not compensated by Tagg in any way for this review.
Photos: Kristine Lacoste/Pets Adviser
Contest! Win a Free Unit!
The good folks at Tagg are giving away a free unit — plus three months of free service — to one lucky Pets Adviser reader! Leave us a comment below telling us why you should win, and we’ll pick our favorite.
UPDATE, 8/13/12: We have chosen our favorite comment. The winner of the free unit is “Ernie Dogs, CBO,” who wrote a great comment from a dog’s perspective. Says Ernie’s human companion Brenda, “Ernie is the one who prepared the comment, but I handle all of his correspondence (his paws and keyboards don’t work well together). I’ll be sure that Ernie uses it well!” Congratulations to Ernie and Brenda.