GPS Biggles

Nobody wants to lose their dog, and when you’ve got Beagles this is a constant worry. We’ve been looking for some kind reliable tracking technology for a while, so that if our two ever get too far away from us we can hunt them down. After a lot of research we decided to go for the Retrieva system. We got a tracking collar for Biggles and a compatible mobile phone (more on that later) and this morning we took them out for a quick test drive. As we’ve only just got all the kit, please consider this as a quick brain dump of my first impressions – I’ll do a thorough review later on.

OK, so first a bit of background on the Retrieva system. Obviously you can get full details from the Retrieva website, but here are the basics.Your dog wears a tracking device either in the form of a special collar or a harness. This device is waterproof, tamper resistant and principally uses GPS (satnav) and GSM (mobile phone) technology to send information about your dog’s location to a compatible mobile phone. When your dog goes missing you text the collar to put it into “red alert” mode (Star Trek analogy) and use special software on your phone to track the naughty article down.

Here’s Biggles modelling the collar. He seemed perfectly happy to wear it and it didn’t diminish his ability to jump up and grab a tea towel from the kitchen table, so no problems there.

IMG_0591

We loaded him and Beanie into the car and headed off to the park this morning. Very shortly after our departure my phone received a text from “Biggles” informing me that he was no longer at home! It was a very thoughtful gesture by our little boy. Like all youngsters he clearly has a natural ability to use SMS!

I had a quick try of the collar’s locator functions in the park, and they worked well so things are looking good. As I said I’ll give the collar a more thorough trial over the next few days and write a detailed review.

Finally, here are a few shots of what Beanie and Biggles got up to after their walk:

IMG_0583

IMG_0569

IMG_0563

What is it about Biggles that incites this behavior? Lynx for Beagles?

News – A Big Event and GPS Tracking Collars

A couple of bits of info that might be of interest…..

The Best Beagle Event of the Year – Sunday 3rd May 2009

Firstly (in case I’ve forgotten to tell anyone personally) the Caledonian Thistle Pedigree Whippet Racing Club are holding Scotland’s first open race on Sunday 3rd May 2009. It’ll be attended by Whippets from across the UK and it sounds as if there’s going to be TV coverage!

The club have had a Beagle division for the past few years. We think this is the only Beagle racing club in the world! If you need a reminder of how much fun Beagle racing is for Beagles and owners alike take a look at this montage of clips and images from the 2008 season:

By popular request (from the Whippet owners!), the club are including the Beagles in their special event. No experience necessary, and as it’s a handicap race every Beagle that enters has a chance of taking home the trophy! So anyone that’s already been to the racing make sure you sign up for the big race (contact Maggie on 01236 830 273). And if your Beagle has never raced but you’d like to give it a try get in touch with Maggie!

POSTER-BIG-EVENT

You’ll find more information about Beagle Racing on the Scottish Beagle Club website or the Caledonian Thistle Pedigree Whippet Racing Club website

GPS Dog Tracking Collar

The next bit of news is that we’ve finally got hold of some GPS tracking collars for Beanie and Biggles. The collars are lockable and made of kevlar so can’t be removed by dog thieves. If the dogs leave a preprogrammed perimeter (e.g. our garden, or a safe area of a park) or go out of sight during walks we can track them on special OS mapping software on our mobile phones. Hopefully we’ll be in a position to post up a review within the next week – so watch this space!

Review: Comfy Collar

We tend to buy a lot of stuff for our dogs. Some of it’s great, while some of it ends up in the bin after a couple of minutes, so I thought I’d post up some reviews every so often.

Given that Beanie’s currently recovering from an op to remove half of Glasgow from her stomach and has a sizeable scar that needs protecting, it makes sense to start with this:

The “Comfy Collar”. It’s an alternative to the traditional Elizabethan collar (aka lampshade) that’s typically given out by vets to prevent licking of wounds. The collar has an outer sleeve made of what appears to be vinyl, and an inflatable inner tube. The sleeve has a zip so that it can be removed for easy cleaning, and also a little hole on one side to provide access to the valve. The valve is recessed so it would be quite difficult even for a talented accomplice (such as an eleven week old pup called Biggles) to mess with it.

Fitting is straightforward: inflate it, thread the dog’s ordinary collar through the three loops on the inner edge (you can just see one of them in the picture), put the collar on the dog and finally use the velcro strap to adjust overall tightness. Here’s the finished item, modeled by my glamorous assistant Beanie:

OK, so is it actually any good? Well here’s the good and the bad as far as I can see:

  • It’s lightweight, and doesn’t obstruct the dog’s field of view at all.
  • It does indeed seem to be more comfortable than the standard lampshade – Beanie behaves pretty normally with it on and can eat, drink and sleep soundly.
  • It does a fine job of preventing access to the scar on Beanie’s abdomen, but it might not do such a great job if you need to protect the genital area or rear paws, and it absolutely doesn’t stop the dog scratching its head. For Beanie right now that’s all a plus, but for some injury sites I think the lampshade would do a superior job. Of course a lot would depend on the flexibility of your dog, neck and snout length etc.
  • Getting the right fit with the velcro strap is crucial. If the fit is too loose, the dog may be able to swivel the back of the collar round to the front, and gain access to its wound. If it’s too tight I’d be concerned about how much pressure it was exerting around the dog’s neck.
  • It might not be a good choice if you have other dogs in the house and can’t keep them segregated. The collar’s inner tube seems to be pretty tough, but I think the collar would make a great chew toy. In fact Biggles complained a lot the first time I put it on Beanie – why was she getting the new toy instead of him?

If you want to give the Comfy Collar a try, I’d recommend getting it from Pawsitive:

http://shop.pawsitive.co.uk/

Their price for the collar is about the best I found, they dispatched very quickly and their service is superb – which brings me to my final point about the collar: take great care in picking the right size. The size you choose determines not only the fit around the neck, but also how wide and fat the “tyre” is, and therefore plays a part in how effective it’s going to be. If your dog’s neck is anywhere near the upper band of a size, I’d recommend going for the next size up. Also, double check the label on the collar itself when it arrives! In our case the manufacturer slipped up when marking the sizes on the outer packaging – thankfully Pawsitive could not have been better in helping us finally get the right collar for Beanie.