Keeping Track Of Our Furry Friends

  • February 13, 2018
  • By Judy Thompson

Pictured above: LINK AKC Smart Collar™, available on

From the monthly column "Just Judy's Thoughts"

The old reliable way of identifying our dogs was to have them wear a collar with an ID tag engraved with contact information. Just last week I found a small Yorkie wandering around the neighborhood, and thanks to her collar and tag I was able to contact her owner. But for some show dogs this is an issue, as constant wear on the neck can damage coat in that area, so exhibitors choose not to have their dogs wear collars on a continual basis.

We can easily have our dogs microchipped by a veterinarian for a minimal fee, and using a scanner, the owner’s contact information can be displayed. In my opinion, every dog should be microchipped. But if a dog without a collar is lost and found by a kind-hearted soul, what are the chances that person will know the dog is chipped? And what are the chances that he or she will take the dog to a facility that has a scanner?

Now the AKC, working with an affiliate, has introduced the Link 
AKC Smart Collar, which employs GPS tracking enabled by a cellular network. I had a chance to see it displayed at the AKC Nationals in Orlando. At first it seemed like a miracle of new technology, but there are certain downsides to consider, including that same issue of coat damage around the neck.

The device is convex and about four inches long and a half inch thick. It is attached to a matching latigo leather collar, or you can attach it to your own collar. Sizes vary from extra small (9"-13" neck) to extra large (20.5"-25" neck). For the extra small size the device has a nylon sleeve and that gets attached to a collar. In my opinion, the device is a bit too large to be comfortably worn by small Toy breeds, and the sleeve didn’t seem very durable.

I was impressed to see that an owner can see a map on their cell phone app which will pinpoint the dog’s location. You can set up designated safe zones and receive an alert if your dog leaves that zone. You can monitor your dog’s daily activity, organize his vet and vaccination records and set reminders. 
You can also turn on a remote LED light and set up ambient temperature alerts for when your dog becomes too hot or too cold. That last tool is a wonderful safety feature.

I have seen it priced as high as $149 and as low as $99. It requires a service plan with a cost of between $6.95 to $9.95 a month. Do you have multiple dogs? In that case it can get pretty pricey. Plus, each device needs to be charged, just as you need to charge all your other devices.

Is there a less expensive way to use GPS tracking for your dog? Though it is meant for finding lost phones, wallets, purses or keys, I have seen folks attach the TrackR to their dog’s collar. A free app uses Bluetooth technology and then can set off a ringing tone. With the app running in the background, you can see on a map where and when you last had possession of the missing item (or dog?). Yet the range is no more than 100 feet, so in most instances you will need to rely on the network of other TrackR owners. You receive a private notification when a TrackR app user passes by your lost item (or dog!). The cost ranges from about $75 to $90. Batteries need to be changed, which some users say was difficult to do.

The Tile Mate Key Finder works in a similar manner, but the battery has a limited life span and cannot be replaced. That is priced from $20 to $50. The battery is a Lithium metal battery, and we have all seen how wrong that can go. So it doesn’t seem like a good idea to use a key finder to keep track of your dog.

Speaking of collars, I got some excellent training advice long ago, about collars and leads. Your dog will know when you switch collars that he is 
now in a different situation. My dogs have different collars and leads for 
different activities.

In our home, they wear no collars at all, as I do not want there to be any loss of show coat around the ruff. When out for exercise, they wear a martingale collar, nylon and chain, which is always attached to a leather six foot lead and has an ID tag. I never have to clip or unclip, it can just be spread over the head. It tightens just enough to prevent the dog from slipping his lead, but unlike a choke collar, it can never get too tight if properly sized. At a conformation show, I take them out for exercise in that collar and lead, and then I switch to a show lead, which I use only in the ring. Beads or knots are helpful in that lead so that the thin, slippery lead is easier to hold onto.

In an Obedience ring, they wear a buckle collar and a six-foot lead. Tags are not permitted, so I purchased collars embroidered with ID information. In classes in which the dog works off lead, you just never know when a dog will decide to run out of the ring, and I surely want him to have my contact information at all times when we are away from home at a show venue.

During therapy visits a four foot lead is mandated for my therapy dog. For my organization, a heart-shaped tag must be worn during visits in order for insurance coverage to be activated, but this tag may not be worn at any other time. So yet one more collar and lead combination is hanging with the others.

Finally, don’t get me started on those odious retractable leads. I’ve seen too many dogs take off at a gallop, and then when they reach the end of their wire they get that unexpected painful jerk on their neck. They don’t provide enough control over a lunging dog, 
and for that reason are not permitted at AKC venues. 



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