Our new Fi smart dog collars
Among our rescue dogs are two who have become quite accomplished escape artists. We’ve had no luck keeping them contained in spite of multiple upgrades to the fences, so we decided to buy a couple of Fi Smart Dog collars for this pair of canine hooligans. We like the collars so much, we figured a Fi collar review was in order.
Dexter is the young one, full of energy and mischief. We believe he’s a Belgium Malinois. Penni is the large Shepherd we found a couple of years ago. Dexter escapes and wants to run and we’re convinced Penni goes along just to keep an eye on him.
So imagine these two large dogs running loose in your neighborhood.
They are super friendly but not everybody is a dog person and just the sight of these two could be terrifying.
So we needed a way to keep better tabs on them. We have a few acres and sometimes they are out playing in the back and everything is fine but we do lose sight of them. Now with the Fi collars, rather than panicking, we can tell immediately if they have left the property.
Deciding on which smart collar to buy
They aren’t cheap and the purpose of buying them is important so we spent a good bit of time researching them. You’ll see them referenced as GPS dog collars, pet trackers, smart dog collars, etc. We looked at many of them with the intention of helping us manage our two escape artists.
Halo 2+ Wireless Dog Fence and GPS Dog Collar
This was the one we went into this effort thinking we would be buying. We’re big fans of Cesar Milan and took a hard look at the collar he has brought to market. In the end, the price point was a bit high but, more importantly, the battery life was too short.
There are a lot of fantastic features this collar offers:
- Multiple GPS geo-fences. So a GPS geo-fence, or virtual fence, around your home, but also maybe around a dog sitter’s home, around an RV for when you are traveling, a dog park, a dog-friendly beach, etc. Super nice function to be able to define multiple fences. It supports up to 20, which seems a bit much, but a very nice feature nonetheless.
- Escape prevention and training feedback: These are customizable settings to beep, vibrate, or give a “painless static pulse” to train the dog to avoid the virtual boundaries that have been set.
- Waterproof, slobberproof and chew resistant
- Tracks activity levels of your dog
The two detractors for us were the price and the battery life. I also thought the reviews were a bit sketchy:
- Halo pricing
- When we were looking, the price was $999 per collar (we need two). Looks like the price has dropped or they are running a special.
- In addition to the collars themselves, there is a subscription service of either $.15, $.33, or $.99 cents per day. Which kinda drives me crazy. Can you just say $4.50, $9.99, or $29.99 per month, please? They do say that in the fine print, but why not just put that out there? I don’t think anybody is paying by the day.
- So for us, two collars and a year’s subscription for each would have been about $2,700
- It’s well worth noting that that price is far below the cost of an actual in-ground fence so economically this still makes sense. And, of course, it’s difficult to pack up an in-ground fence for when you travel.
- Halo battery life
- Each charge lasts 20 hours, which means you are putting that collar on the charger every day. Every. Day. For our lifestyle, putting dog collars on the charger every single day is just out of the question. A non-starter. Just ain’t gonna happen.
- Their FAQ on how long a charge lasts:
The Halo Collar will last for 20+ hours on a single charge, depending on factors such as having the most up-to-date firmware and how much time you are spending in the app. You should remove the Halo from your dog each night, and charge it overnight so you can start the next day with a full charge
- Halo reviews
Tons of positive reviews. It seems we may be in the minority insofar as being resistant to charging dog collars every day. My primary concern around their reviews is that they are posted on their own website so (could be) essentially cherry-picked. When I tried to filter to see less than stellar reviews, clicking on one, two, or three stars resulted in “sorry, no reviews match your criteria”. There are only 4 and 5-star reviews on the site:
Overall thoughts on the Halo 2+ Wireless Dog Fence and GPS Dog Collar
I love the functionality and the fact that it’s backed by a guy that we, as dog rescuers and dog lovers, feel a strong affection for, but I can’t abide by the battery life. The price I could stomach but that battery life would be a real problem for us
Other smart collars we looked at
After the (painful) decision to not move forward with the Halo, we did a broad search of the other smart collars and focused on the battery life as a deciding factor for us. Again, this is a lifestyle thing for us and may well be different for you. But we wanted, needed really, something on the order of weeks of battery life, rather than less than 24 hours. We were often disappointed:
Tractive GPS collar
Up to 7-day battery life, based on usage, coverage, and activity. Our dogs are extremely active, so I suspect the amount of running around they’d do on our land would cause a lot of pinging and updating so I strongly suspect we would not get the full 7 days from a single charge.
Whistle Switch GPS
Up to 20-day battery life. Now we’re getting there! And it comes with an extra battery so charge that one up if you are traveling. Backups are always nice! The drawback here was an apparent reliance on AT&T LTE coverage for the “lost dog” capability to work.
FitBark GPS dog tracker
Up to “weeks” on a charge. That’s what I’m looking for. Price is right too. Below is the page where FitBark explains the battery life of their device, and how it’s affected by different scenarios. I truly appreciate this as it’s very helpful and reading this made me wonder if, perhaps, the others would have even less battery life under some of these stated conditions:
Why we chose the Fi Smart Dog Collar
In the end, we went with the Fi series 3 dog collar. It was a lengthy decision, made more urgent as our two canine escape artists escaped one rainy night and were gone for hours. We had a fear that the rain would keep them from smelling their way home. We stood outside, literally for hours, calling their names on the chance they would wander into range of our voices. Well, I yelled while my wife drove around all the neighboring areas.
They came home late that night exhausted, drenched, muddy, and scared. We were scared too and felt we had dodged a bullet. We ordered the Fi collars the next day.
We liked the Fi smart collars for many reasons:
Battery life: Up to 3 months. 1.5-2 months in normal conditions. We bought them on Jan 16th of this year, it’s now Feb 28th and we put them on the charger one night just because we felt like it. They were both around 50% when we did, and seemingly still had weeks to go before they were actually out of juice.
Below is a screenshot from their support page (which is very good, by the way) that describes the expected Fi battery life around several different scenarios.
Cost: The Fi smart collars are nothing up front (for the collar) and you simply pay a monthly subscription. All of the other collars had subscriptions as well. We opted for the 6-month subscription at $102 for every six months, so we paid $204 for both collars and got them the next day.
Functionality: These collars do everything want them to do. Lost dog mode is especially important for us. The activity tracker is nice and of course, GPS tracking to determine the dog’s location when they escape is essential. Setting up dog walkers, to enable the dogs to be walked by authorized people without worry.
The Fi App: Setting up the collars and then monitoring and tracking daily is done via the Fi app, which is pretty amazing. I’m sharing some screenshots below.
The Halo has an attractive capability that the Fi collars do not in that they train the dog through harmless beeps and tones to stay away from the virtual fence boundary. This is the only feature, in my opinion, the Fi is missing.
You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.~Robert Louis Stevenson
The Fi dog collar in action
About two weeks after we bought the collars, the escape artists did their thing.
My wife and I both got notices on our phones that the dogs were outside the boundaries so we immediately set the collars to “lost dog”, which also alerts our Fi dog friends around the area.
Their collars also light up so if it’s dark (it was) they are easier to see.
Then the GPS (after an agonizing two minutes that seemed like two years) locked onto them and showed us where they were. We went in that direction and found them. Quick and easy.
Fi collar packaging
Receiving the Fi collars was a real treat, even for us humans. Attractive packaging and easy setup. Dexter and Penni were up and running quickly.
The Fi App
Managing the collars could be difficult but the Fi App makes it easy to configure and then monitor our pups. Here are a few screenshots that allow us to keep tabs on what’s going on at any given moment. You may notice we are tracking three dogs. Our son has since purchased a Fi collar for his dog Rudy and we have enabled each other to monitor all the dogs.
Final thoughts on my Fi collar review
Investing in a smart collar for your dog can be a worthwhile decision for many pet owners, depending on their specific needs and circumstances. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether a smart collar is worth the investment:
- Cost: Smart collars can range in price from under $50 to several hundred dollars, so it’s important to determine how much you’re willing to spend before making a purchase. You will also want to fully understand the device cost as well as the ongoing subscription costs.
- Features: Different smart collars offer different features, so it’s important to choose one that meets your specific needs. For example, if you have an active dog, you may want a collar that tracks their activity levels and provides insights into their fitness. Lost dog mode is a basic need here as well.
- Safety Concerns: If you live in an area with high rates of pet theft or have a dog that tends to wander off, a GPS-enabled smart collar can provide added peace of mind and help ensure your pet’s safety.
- Health Monitoring: If you’re concerned about your dog’s overall health and well-being, a smart collar can provide valuable insights into their activity levels, sleep patterns, and food intake.
- Training Assistance: Some smart collars offer training tools like remote correction or behavior modification that can be helpful for pet owners who are struggling with training challenges.
- Battery Life: You may have picked up on the fact that this was of immense importance to us. If you are more willing to charge collars daily, your options are a bit more expansive.
Ultimately, investing in a smart collar for your dog can be a worthwhile decision if it meets your specific needs and helps keep your pet safe and healthy.