Friday, June 14th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Friday, June 14th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Today’s top dog collars and the technology behind them

Today’s offerings of electronic dog collars cover a wide range of options for tracking dog movement afield. (Contributed photo)

When you leave the house in the morning and say goodbye to the family, shotgun in hand, dog in tow, you can probably get away with coming home without the wild game or the shotgun and maybe you can even be a bit late yourself.

But you’re not coming home without the dog. Don’t even think about that.

Luckily (for you and the dog), keeping track of your canine companion has never been easier, although there are some decisions you’ll have to make. Just like much of today’s technology, dog collars – tracking and training – can leave you shaking your head, especially if you’re new to the field.

Here’s a primer on what’s out there, how it works and the best applications of each.

Down to earth or an eye in the sky
Most e-collars designed for use on hunting dogs of all types can track not just dogs, but also locations of hunters. (Contributed photo)

Your first decision will either keep you grounded or have you reaching for the stars – hunters can go with a telemetry-based collar, a beeper/locator collar or strap on a GPS unit. Clay Thompson, a senior category manager with SportDOG says there are pros and cons to each of them.

There are still some telemetry collars on the market, but use has declined since the refinements of GPS trackers. They still have some good applications, Thompson said, and the limitations are in the hands of the user.

“It really takes someone who’s spent a lot of time tracking a collar,” Thompson said of the ability to use the technology well. Telemetry collars send a radio frequency to a tracking receiver held by the hunter. The system, through the volume and intensity of a series of beeps, will tell you the direction of the dog and some experienced guides may even be able to tell how far away the dog is. While there are systems available for dogs, including the Marshall PowerPoint & PowerMax Tracking Collar and Tracking Receiver, telemetry is really the instrument of choice for falconers who frequently use the units to track their birds.

Beeper units

Beepers are much more common and work by using a motion sensor to determine what the dog is doing (either moving or on point) and can be programmed to produce different sounds based on that information. If, for example, your dog goes on point 150 to 200 yards ahead of you in thick cover, the beeper begins emitting a loud tone that you would use to locate and move towards your dog; the tone differs with a dog on the move.

The SportDOG Upland Hunter 1875, for example, has nine possible sounds including beeps, hawk calls, bobwhite quail calls and high-to-low falling beeps. It’s audible to 500 yards with an instant locate feature and allows you to track up to three dogs.

The Garmin Delta Upland XC has a range of a half mile (audible for a quarter mile), with four hunt and two point beeper tones. It’s also expandable to three dogs.


If you have any experience at all with today’s smartphones and live by your Google Map, then a GPS unit will be more familiar to you and will give you much more information on your dog’s whereabouts. Even with all the technology we hold in our hands, it’s still a bit of a mystery to most.

The GPS misconception, Thompson said, is that the handheld sends a signal to the satellite and the satellite sends it to the collar, ultimately giving you your dog’s location. Thankfully, it’s really not that complicated and your dog doesn’t have to carry a satellite ground station around its neck – that would really slow the chase down.

Take a look at your handheld unit. The short, stubby rod is the GPS patch antenna. Its job is to listen for satellites. Your dog’s collar has one, too; it’s listening for those same satellites orbiting between 11,900 and 12,500 miles above the earth.

(For the truly curious, it starts with a “constellation” of satellites orbiting the earth. There are currently five in orbit – the U.S. GPS, the Russian GLONASS, the European Union’s Galileo, Japan’s Michibiki and China’s BeiDou. Units sold in the U.S. rely on the 31 U.S. GPS satellites and the 24 Russian GLONASS craft.)

“As you’re out hunting and tracking your dog, you’re constantly talking to different satellites,” Thompson said. “You may have as few as four (which you need to have an accurate location on the ground), or you may have eight or 10 satellites from all the different constellations. But as one of them is rotating out of line of sight where you’re no longer receiving its data, another one has come in to take its place.”

With 55 satellites to choose from, you’ll likely only lose signal when you are in incredibly dense canopy or you’ve gotten down inside a canyon and you’ve lost line of sight to the four satellites that you need. Those are edge cases, Thompson said.

The satellite locations firmly in hand, glance back on the handheld, as well as the collar, and you’ll find a long, whippy antenna. These two talk back and forth with each other on a radio frequency. As each finds their place on the earth, their coordinates are mapped on your handheld device, giving you a picture – with pretty good accuracy – of where you and your dog are. The mapping system gives you a point of reference. And now you’ve come to another fork in the decision road.

Where’s my dog?

Now that the dog and the handheld know where they are, they need to tell you. You’ve got three choices on how to pinpoint things.

A topographic map can be fully contained on your handheld and track more than one dog and handler on the same map. The SportDOG TEK 2.0 is a good example of this system. It can track up to 21 collars and handhelds and comes with loaded, full color 1-to-100,000 topo maps.

You could opt for a system that talks to your smartphone (but doesn’t depend on cell service) and plots your course on an app on your phone or even your Apple watch. Dogtra’s Pathfinder 2 works with Apple and Android products and tracks up to 21 dogs within a 9-mile radius. The dogs’ positions appear on maps on your smartphone.

Your third option doesn’t include a map at all, but a simple visual field that tells you where you are in relation to your dog (and others you may be hunting with). It depicts you in the center of the screen and where the dogs are in relations to that point, as well as showing you if those dogs are moving and in what direction. Here, SportDOG’s TEK 1.5 can report the location of up to 12 dogs within a 7-mile range.

And location isn’t everything, as each of these collars can be purchased with an e-collar option for training your dog as it works.

It’s a high-tech world in the woods these days, so while coming home without your quarry is understandable – it is all about the hunt and not the harvest – there’s really no reason to come home without the dog.

GPS Units

SportDOG TEK 2.0

Bluetooth Compatible; 1:100,000 preloaded topo maps; Included desktop application for handheld & collar updates

RANGE: Up to 10 miles

EXPANDABLE: Tracks up to 21 collars/handhelds

WATERPROOF: Handheld, submersible up to 5 feet; Collar, submersible to 25 feet

BATTERIES: Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries

BATTERY LIFE: Collar, about 24 hours per charge; Handheld about 12 hours per charge

SportDOG TEK 1.5

Auto scale or Adjustable (100 yards-75 miles); store up to 20 way points; integral, tilt-compensated compass

RANGE: Up to 7 miles

EXPANDABLE: Tracks up to 12 collar receivers

WATERPROOF: Handheld, submersible up to 5 feet; Collar, submersible to 25 feet

BATTERIES: Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries

BATTERY LIFE: Collar, about 24 hours per charge; Handheld about 20 hours per charge

Dogtra Pathfinder 2

Free real time tracking and training app (requires iOS 12.1 or Android 6.0 and above and at least Bluetooth 5.0)

RANGE: Up to 9 miles

EXPANDABLE: Tracks up to 21 dogs

WATERPROOF: IPX9K Waterproof Certified

BATTERIES: Rechargeable lithium polymer batteries

Beeper Units

Garmin Delta Upland™ XC

BEEPER TONES: 4 hunt; 2 point.

WEIGHT: Handheld: 3.7 oz; Collar: 2.3 oz

WATERPROOF: Handheld and collar – IPX7

BATTERY TYPE: USB-C rechargeable internal lithium-ion

BATTERY LIFE: Handheld: 80 hours; Dog device: 60 hours

RANGE: Training, 3/4 mile, audible ¼ mile


Telemetry Units

SportDOG Upland Hunter® 1875

BEEPER TONES: 9 beeper tones

WATERPROOF: DryTek® waterproof and submersible to 25 feet

BATTERY TYPE: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery

BATTERY LIFE: Charge in 2 hours, lasts 60-80 hours per charge

RANGE: Up to 1 mile, audible 150-400 yards


Marshall PowerPoint & PowerMax Tracking Collar

ACTIVITY MODES: Running and on point; point or hound

BATTERY TYPE: 2 standard 1.5 Volt, AA Alkaline batteries

BATTERY LIFE: About 6 weeks continuously

RANGE: Terrain dependent; western mountains 25-100 miles, eastern forests, 5-20 miles


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