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Over the past nine months, the Fi dog collar has proven a reliable location and fitness tracker for both of my dogs.The GPS collar for dogs relies on a home base and LTE-M signal to monitor your pet at home and away, and it can help you locate them when they’re lost.Fi continually improves upon its collar design and app, and I plan to stick with it.Although I had an early issue with the D-ring on one collar and found a glitch with the app, Fi quickly addressed my concerns.When dogs wander, it can create a lot of anxiety for their owners. I’ve often worried about my dogs getting lost or injured. Nowadays, though, advanced GPS tracking collars offer pet owners reassurance and help ensure the safety of our pets.The rechargeable Fi GPS collar is on such tracker. It helps you know where your dog is at all times, while also acting as a canine exercise tracker. The collar, which has a GPS-enabled brick on a replaceable woven collar, pairs with Fi’s app to show you where your dog is at all times. After a 30-day trial, Fi’s subscription is $99 annually. Use the collar without a subscription and it’s functional when you’re with the dog or when the dog is home, but not when your dog is lost or you’re separated. The Fi collar uses a home base, LTE-M cell signal, and GPS to achieve tracking speed and accuracy. It’s the first dog collar to use the LTE-M cellular network, which reaches 30% farther than 3G/4G/5G/LTE. In an open field, GPS tracking is accurate within 7 feet.Fi was released in spring 2019, and the company continues to upgrade both its hardware and software. My original Fi collar had a faulty D-ring that began to bend. When I reached out to the company, it confirmed that there had been an issue with production specs. They sent a new collar with a D-ring that has held up well.The woven polyester collars are high quality, rated to 100 pounds plus pull strength, and the only collar most dogs need, with brushed metal buckles and D-ring. It comes in four colors and sizes. The collar is tough enough to survive dogs like mine who routinely bend their metal tags. It’s also waterproof — tested for 30 minutes at 1.5 meters deep. For nighttime walks, owners activate a light for added visibility; you choose the light color (red, green, or blue).Pair the collar with the charging base you plug in at home. Then Bluetooth connects the collar to your smartphone and you connect the base to your Wi-Fi. You can also add multiple pets — each gets a profile, and you can invite other “owners” via Fi’s app (iOS/Android). When it is within range, the collar connects to the base. When out walking with your dog, the collar connects to your smartphone. If your dog is wandering alone, the Fi connects to the LTE-M network. Activate Lost Dog Mode, and the collar connects to GPS and lights up.In the app, you can set a circular home “zone” as broad or confining as you prefer and request alerts when your dog leaves that area. If you’re traveling, take the base, connect it to Wi-Fi at your destination, and set a new home zone.Fi also tracks your dog’s daily, weekly, and monthly exercise. Create your pet’s profile, select its breed (pure or mixed), weight, and age, and set a daily step goal. Fi tracks step count each day, providing graphs of exercise over time, and charting how your pup measures up to other dogs.
I’ve used Fi with my dogs, Maple and Cedar, for the past nine months. It’s such a great tool that we’re sticking with Fi indefinitely. When they wander, I know where to find them. The app shows me where they are in real-time, and I can scroll through their recent walks to see where they’ve been. Even more, it shows how long they were in a location and whether they were moving or resting. Last summer on a road trip to Denver, I left Cedar in a fenced yard. Thirty minutes later Cedar hopped the fence, and Fi notified me he had left his Denver safe zone. I knew where to find him before he made it to a busy road where he could have easily gotten hit. At first, I laughed at the step-count feature, but now it’s one of my favorites. In winter, our goal is 10,000 steps. I’ve seen that goal is easy for them in the summer. I also know both dogs’ exercise history, including monthly steps and miles, and the days they didn’t make their steps. When I leave them with a sitter, I know if they are getting their steps in. It’s fun to compare them to other Fi dogs too. What makes this GPS collar stand outFi doesn’t have the precision location tracking of a GPS bike computer or $300 to $600 pet tracker. But it’s community-focused and user-friendly with excellent battery life. Fi says you need to recharge it every three months if the dog is always home, every two months if you go on walks, and every three weeks if your dog is quite active. In my experience, those are accurate estimates.When we first got the collars, Cedar managed to peel the metal nameplate off his Fi. Although the unit continued to function perfectly, the company replaced it. Fi has reinforced that plate’s attachment since. According to the company, a Fi collar should last hundreds of charges and at least five years.When my battery life seemed too short, or my dogs were showing up in the woods behind my house even while not at home, Fi’s customer service was exceptional and helped me troubleshoot.
In the woods or a city with tall buildings, Fi is less accurate. Not surprisingly, a GPS connection kills the battery much quicker than a phone or base connection. Expect the battery to last two days with GPS. Like other trackers, if you activate Lost Dog mode and your dog is out of service, they won’t show up. But the app alerts you as soon as they wander back into range. Out of cell range, the collar still tracks your dog’s steps, but occasionally mileage is lost if Google Maps doesn’t register the full distance. Advanced fitness systems, like GPS smartwatches, have their own cartographic data. Fi does not. However, as they collect more data, the system improves. Fi is a fun and functional too. I got this collar so I’d always know where my dogs are, and I can find them if they’re lost at home or when we’re traveling. If you’re looking for a GPS and fitness tracker that doesn’t require a base station and can be connected to any collar, the similarly priced Whistle Go Explore Health and Location Tracker ($130 retail and $9.99 month for the subscription) is a great alternative, but it lacks the battery life you’ll get with the Fi. At best, the Whistle can operate up to 20 days without a charge.I’ve continued to use Fi collar because of its reliability, the ability to track my dogs whether they are by my side or not, and the company’s excellent customer service. The ability to monitor their step count to ensure they get sufficient exercise every day is a big bonus, and it gets me out the door too.