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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Product Review: OneTigris Tactial Molle Harness

This Tactical Molle Harness by OneTigris is quite possibly the most customizable piece of dog gear I've seen. Made to look like military and law enforcement gear, this harness offers many of the same options with a civilian price tag. This harness is available in several colors, and four sizes to fit dogs with chests 15-40" around according to the manufacturer. In my experience it runs quite large.
Tactical MOLLE customizable dog harness

Tactical?

It's important to know that OneTigris products are made in China, and lack the durability of real tactical gear. They seem to be popular with gun carrying civilians, but not actual military or law enforcement personnel. The straps and buckles are not rated for lifting, and neither are the handles.

This harness is basically a base onto which you can add anything you like. It has two rows of MOLLE straps on either side, to which you can attach any sort of MOLLE pouch, bag, water bottle holder, knife sheath, holster...anything. The length of the harness means you can actually attach several of these things, but you must be careful to balance the load or it will slip to one side like every dog backpack on the planet.

MOLLE modular dog harness
There is also a wide strip of velcro along the back, for attaching patches or pretty much anything else.

The front strap is padded, and there are two straps that run underneath the dog, sort of like the Ruffwear Webmaster harness. The straps are nice and wide, but don't feel super sturdy. I would not lift my dog more than a foot or two in this harness.

There is a handle at either end, along with a leash attachment point. All of these are pretty flimsy, to be honest. Several users have reported them breaking with very little force.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable with any MOLLE-compatible accessories.
  • Easy to put on.

Cons:

  • Build quality is lacking, at least in some pieces.
  • Sizes run very large, Godzilla is in the middle of the listed size range for our Medium harness and it barely adjusts small enough for her.

Bottom Line

I think this would make a pretty awesome service dog harness. Accessories could be added as needed for various outings, and the velcro would allow easy access to some stuff without having to open bags. I may have to send it to someone who can test this theory for me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

AKC Farm Dog Certification

We recently helped out at an AKC Farm Dog Certification test, one of the first in our area. This new title offered by the American Kennel Club was just added last summer, and now herding clubs are slowly beginning to offer the test.

What is AKC's Farm Dog Test?

Australian cattle dog sitting on hay bale
The FDC test is like a rural Canine Good Citizen test. It's a chance to demonstrate your dog's ability to maintain good leash manners and a reasonably calm demeanor around various aspects of farm life. As one of the judges from our test stated, it's a bit like a test to see if you could work on a ranch and have your dog come along without causing trouble.

What Isn't AKC's Farm Dog Test?

This is not a test of your dog's herding or off-leash skills. It's not intended to be difficult or challenging for most dogs. Every single dog that came to our local test passed. The entire test is done on-leash, and unlike many AKC performance events, this one is open to any breed. We had everything from a Schipperke and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to an Akita and Berger Picard at ours. 

What Do You Have to Do?

The test will vary a whole lot from location to location, the rulebook gives clubs a ton of freedom to put together something that works at their location. The difficulty of the test will primarily depend on the person judging, but so far the attitude seems to be that farm dogs don't have to be perfect. You start by greeting the judge without your dog jumping on or biting them.

Most of the elements of the test can be rearranged as needed by the club hosting it, but they basically involve your dog walking on a loose leash, walking on a tarp, sitting on a hay bale, being tied up while you walk away, staying in a crate while you are out of sight, hearing background noises, passing a dog 10' away, staying still while you open or close a gate, passing farm animals chilling in their enclosures, and being able to look at farm animals and then disengage. 

That's It?

I know, right? The toughest thing for some of our testers was walking on a loose leash while wearing a flat collar. Still, everyone passed because our judges allowed handlers to talk to their dogs, praise them, and correct them as needed. Nobody got disqualified for peeing on course, whining a little when separated from their handler, or needing multiple reminders to walk nicely.

It's worth noting again that the test can vary a lot from one location to the next. You and your dog may be walking past horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, or any kind of livestock. Yes, a facility with only chickens can put on a Farm Dog Certification test. We had testers walking all over the facility, another club had their testers walking circles inside their barn. The common thread between the tests seems to be that the judges and hosts genuinely want your dog to pass. It's a fun, low-stress way to get an AKC title.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dog Tech: The June Smartcollar Update

It's time to check in with our favorite smartcollar GPS and activity trackers, and introduce some new ones! I started a Facebook group for discussing pet technology, check out Planet Smartcollar for active discussion about all the different smartcollar products, and real, unfiltered reviews by people who have actually used them.
Zip takes a dip in a stock tank wearing her Whistle 2.

Whistle 2: Currently using.

I wasn't expecting to like Whistle as much as I do. I saw the Whistle 2 tracker as old technology, about to be eclipsed by bigger and better products. It has turned out to be pretty darned reliable. The tracking is slow, but it really does work. 

Just a few days ago I sent Zip over a hill to look for wandering sheep, and she didn't come back. Eventually I opened the Whistle 2 app on my phone. While the location points it sent were several minutes apart, I could clearly see that she was running back and forth on the wrong side of an electric fence over the next hill.She has probably gotten zapped going under it, and wasn't willing to do the same to get back to me. Without the Whistle 2 tracker, I wouldn't have even known which direction to start looking.

Whistle 3

I've been hearing good things about Whistle 3, faster tracking and a new app. I just ordered one for each of the girls, and will report back when they arrive. After months of research, and talking to people who are actually using different products, I am confident that this is the best 3G tracker currently on the market. It uses wifi, bluetooth, and GPS, and is waterproof. Whistle 3 is smaller than Whistle 2, it may even be small enough for cats. It requires a monthly subscription fee.

Scout!

I am cautiously optimistic about Scout, another GPS/bluetooth/cellular device. This one specifically allows you to set alerts for places you do not want your pet to go. With a virtual leash, tracking history, and three days of battery life, this could be the pet tracker I've been looking for!

Link AKC

Though I ultimately decided that AKC's Link collar wasn't for us, I'm still recommending it as the best all-around smartcollar on the market. Link has a virtual leash feature, as well as temperature monitoring. Though they recommend charging it each night, many users report that the battery is still at 75% at the end of the day. I've heard from a couple of people who had really bad battery life, or collars that wouldn't turn on until they had been sitting for three days to let the battery drain and then recharged them. Link seems to have really responsive customer service, they've replaced these defective units, and also the trackers that have fallen off collars. Yes, as I predicted, the tracker falls off sometimes.

Nuzzle

Nuzzle's smartcollar is an enigma that is poorly understood even by those that created it. I have yet to hear from a single user that reports consistent behavior from the device. Battery life remains well under a day, but often varies from 8-22 hours for no known reason. The app often grays out and ceases to provide updates, which the company claims is unrelated to the batteries, but paradoxically can often be fixed by swapping out the battery for a fresh one. The batteries take 5 hours to charge, but may only last 8 hours. Tracking can be hit or miss, and constant false notifications are totally normal. Nuzzle is still deleting negative comments from their Facebook page, and negative reviews from their website. They are currently 3 days behind on processing returns, because everyone who wanted a reliable and accurate smartcollar is sending theirs back. They've changed the return policy and are now claiming to only accept unopened products, so that 30-day money-back guarantee is another Nuzzle lie.

Pod 3

Pod 3 still hasn't shipped to anyone other than the initial beta testers, and also to Argos shops in the UK. Yes, you may have backed the project, but you can walk into a retail store and buy a Pod 3 weeks before you get your backer reward unit. Crazy. I had a very high opinion of this company, but they seem to be having a tough time rolling out their product, and they're not handling the PR well. Nobody is even totally sure why the company felt the need to run a Kickstarter campaign anyway, since they are an established business with capital and stuff. Whistle didn't crowdsource their product, they released it on time, and the thing seems to actually work.

Kyon

Kyon is now a year behind schedule, and the original Kickstarter backers have begun asking for refunds. It's pretty clear they will be missing their goal of shipping by the end of June. Will the Kyon rollout be like Link's, with lots of initial bumps but a solid product and excellent customer service? Or will it be like the Nuzzle rollout, with a shoddy product and worse customer service?

Scollar

The Scollar release date has been pushed back from August to December of 2017. Typical smartcollar project. The company was still discussing color options in May, I don't think this one has been finalized for production yet.

Wuf

Wuf is still claiming a release in Fall of 2017, but has not posted an update to their restless Kickstarter backers since April. Many are asking for refunds, as the project was fully funded in 2014. I am officially predicting that Wuf will end up as vaporware, like Buddy and DogTelligent.

Findster Duo

I'm hearing good things about the Findster Duo. This one has a limited range, but does not require cellular signal to work. You carry one piece with you, and put the other on your dog. Your phone connects to the piece that's with you. Findster does not have a monthly fee.

Trackums

Touted as "a smartphone for your pet", this project looks even more ambitious than Nuzzle. It actually has an LCD screen. It will have a virtual leash, geofence, 2-way communication, camera, and three days of battery life, all for $200. These are expected to ship in September 2017. Sound too good to be true? I'm expecting this one to be vaporware too.