Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Guest Review: Retrieva GPS Tracking for Dogs

Our next guest blog comes courtesy of the lovely Paul Smith / @moolife, who has been one of the trial group for Retrieva's GPS collar. A microchip is an indispensible way to identify a lost dog that's been handed in, but for Paul being able to track his dog (and the people walking him) is a crucial feature. Read more in his own words:

Overall the Retrieva GPS collar is a life saver, which makes it invaluable.

It incorporates several levels of safety as well as three ways to locate your dog. It's not cheap, but what price do you put on your dog if you consider him or her to be part of your family? I used to use the product offered by a company called Zoombak. They no longer supply the UK market, and whilst their product was very 'clever' it wasn't really suitable for dogs since it wasn't integrated into a collar and wasn't waterproof. I'd first met with the Retrieva people when they showed their prototype at Crufts nearly two years ago. When Zoombak left the UK market I became a one of Retrieva's first customers trialling their product (I paid for my unit so I am able to be impartial!)

Functionality

The device offers essentially three functions (on top of being a collar!).

Firstly, and probably the reason to purchase, dog locating. The device contains a GPS receiver and a GSM phone. Put simply, this means that the collar can see where it is via GPS and then report that position to you via text message. When the dog is visible from the sky the device locates with pin point accuracy. We've had no problems at all. Should the dog not be out in the open (ie perhaps if it had been stolen) you can switch the device (via text message) to another mode that allows search by radio wave - haven't had to use that (thank God). If those two aren't good enough, you can also get details of which phone 'cells' the device is talking to. It's also capable to set a 'geofence' which sets a boundary around where your dog is. For us this hasn't proved particularly useful but I know they are working to improve all the functions.

Secondly, the collar is made of an anti-cut material. Given the collar's price I haven't set about cutting it to see how tough it is, but it certainly seems strong, and has some sort of thin metal cabel embedded in the fabric (still comfortable though).

Thirdly, and this is very clever, the device has a panic button. I do feel more secure knowing that if my wife felt in danger or was injured when walking the dog she could press the little red button and it would send out an emergency text with her exact location to me. Very clever.

In use

In use the device is working well. By total coincidence the first day we used the product our dog briefly went missing. We were still panicking, but the collar worked a treat. There was an anxious wait for about a minute until the text came through with the location, but we put the GPS co-ordinates into my phone and got a map up on google and found him straight away. So that's one expensive collar delivering a result straight away. He'd never been far away, and I'm sure we'd have found him eventually but it was the best money I've ever spent.
The instructions are quite complicated. But persevere, once you've used it a few times the 'code' you have to learn to text to the collar is quite straightforward.
Build quality

The product seems very sturdy. We've had it a week or so, and so far had no problems. It's definitely water proof, and seems comfortable for our dog, although it's quite bulky it is ergonomic so fits round is neck.

Customer care

So far this has been excellent. They emailed yesterday to say they were making changes to the software based on a few suggestions from other triallists. They are also very quick to respond.

Cost

Not cheap. About £250 for the collar and charger, and then £10 a month for the connection to the phone network. But as we've found already, it's a drop in the ocean when you're faced with losing a family member. Economic times are tight, and I feel awful when I hear about people abandoning their dogs due to the economy, but the reality is that most people would still do anything for their pet. As you can tell from my review, I'm a real product advocate. I love it and hope other people will consider using one too. It's probably not for everyone - we use it because our dog has access to open countryside and it's impossible to 100% guarantee that he couldn't run off.

If you live on a farm or similar this device is probably perfect. Perhaps if you have a lap-dog in a flat it's not quite so useful. You can buy them from www.retrievatracking.com

Please note that Paul is not a member of the Retrieva team and is speaking solely from his own experiences. If you have a product review, a doggy topic you'd like to talk about or any other ideas for a guest blog, please drop us a line!
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