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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dog Tech: LinkAKC Doesn't Work

My LinkAKC smartcollar finally arrived on Friday! It's so beautiful, with such unique package design. Too bad I'm going to have to send it back. See, this is a smart collar that works with a smartphone app, and the app doesn't work, making Link AKC a $150 plain leather collar with a big awkward hunk of plastic.

The Hype

Canister packaging for non-functioning smart collar with buggy app.LINK AKC is a smart collar with an unprecedented amount of hype behind it. I preordered mine back in December, and since then I have received AKC's smartcollar newsletter every other day. Yes, every two days I get an email packed with awesome stuff about how great this collar is. Over the last three months I have received 44 different promotional emails about the product I had already ordered and committed to buying. I didn't mind though, because I am a giant nerd and couldn't wait to get it.

The Arrival

The packaging for the collar was wonderful. Very easy to open, but secure with proper protection for the electronics. No horrible plastic to cut through, and the whole thing seems pretty eco-friendly as well.

The collar is a very nice stitched leather piece that is a bit stiff like all new leather. It feels a bit big on Godzilla, but looks great on Zip. The actual tracker and its holder also seem bulky on Godzilla's neck.

The Setup

Smart collar with useless smartphone appPutting the tracker onto the bracket and the bracket onto the collar was super easy and straightforward. I downloaded the Quick Start Guide to my phone, which instructed me to assemble the collar an then download the Link AKC app.

This is where things ground to a screeching halt. I should have been mere minutes away from creating an account, selecting and purchasing a service plan, and pairing the collar with my phone via Bluetooth. Upon opening, the app prompts the user to either sign in with Facebook, or create an account with an email address. I tried Facebook first, and after loading for a full five minutes, the app finally prompted me to choose a user picture. 

Smart collar cannot be paired with phone because the app doesn't workAfter selecting a picture of me and my dogs, it was time to activate the collar. The next screen prompted me to activate a service plan, with three possible options. I chose one, and was taken to a blank screen. Nothing ever loaded. Went back and tried again, same thing. Went back and selected a different service plan, same blank screen.

Being fairly tech savvy, I first tried uninstalling and reinstalling the app. No luck. Rebooting my phone had no effect either. Next I tried creating an account with an email address. The app informed me that I already had an account with that address. Login with my password failed, so I tried to reset the password. The password reset also failed. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling again, just in case. At this point I had been trying to get the Link AKC app to work for well over an hour.

Smart collar with app that doesn't work properly so it's basically an expensive paperweight.Tech Support

 Saturday morning I called Link AKC tech support and spent 20 minutes on hold waiting to talk to someone that couldn't help me. They didn't know why it wasn't working, said it was a known issue, and that they would pass my information along to the engineers. There is no timeline for when this could be fixed, and in the meantime my smartcollar is just an expensive paperweight. Unlike Whistle, Link AKC does not have an online version you can access via computer. The collar will only work with the smartphone app, and the app doesn't work so the collar doesn't work. It is literally useless.
Whistle is better than Link AKC in every way because Whistle actually works.
My LinkAKC collar is currently packed back into its lovely intuitive packaging awaiting its return to the company. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and I have no way of knowing if it will become functional before that time is up. This smart collar is a huge disappointment. Companies need to be careful how much customer enthusiasm they drum up, as it easily changes to customer rage when the product fails to meet expectations. Link AKC has failed to meet my expectations in every possible way.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Caturday: Barncats

We were having an enormous rodent problem at work. The barns, the sheds, the tack room, pretty much everything resembling a structure was thoroughly infested with mice and rats. It got so bad that I could spot half a dozen mice in the barn if I kept still for more than a few minutes. I'm a wildlife advocate, but seriously, rodents suck. They eat small amounts of your food, or animal feed, and then pee in the rest of it so nobody else can use it. Gross, gross, gross.
Cat sitting in open door of red barn

As a wildlife advocate, I am generally opposed to keeping outdoor pet cats. They kill tons of songbirds, and really mess up the local ecosystem. My cats stay indoors, where they can be happy and healthy without murdering small animals. Would they be happier and more stimulated with access to the outside? Probably, but to me personally it's not worth their potential impact on the wildlife I share their neighborhood with.

That said, I do love our barncats. The local shelter adopts out nasty-tempered cats as barn cats, they are free to approved homes, and come spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped. Keep them confined, fed, and watered for a week or two after bringing them home, and then turn them lose to rain carnage down on the local rodent population.

We got our first set of barn kitties in December. a set of three four-month-old littermates. They don't want to interact with people, but are perfectly content to lounge around nearby as long as we don't bother them. They tend to show up around dinnertime, and the three of them can nearly always be found together.

The impact of the cats has been tremendous. I have not see a rodent in the barn in weeks. Everyone who lives on the property has noticed a dramatic reduction in rodent activity in their homes. I spotted a kitty carrying a mouse last week. Go little hunters! Murder everything!

The cats have had an impact on other wildlife as well. I no longer see cliff swallows foraging on the ground near the feed bins, and the cats may be affecting our robust population of big fat fence lizards as well. That said, I know their range is limited, and they can't reproduce. They aren't pets allowed to roam and kill just for amusement, and the pest control they provide means no more traps or poison or spoiled feed. These little working kitties are performing the ancestral job that resulted in the domestication of cats to begin with, and that's pretty cool.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Food Friday: Naked Turkey + Pea Formula Kibble

Naked's Turkey + Pea kibble is a grain-free, single-protein dry dog food that is very allergy-friendly. We received this kibble in our first Naked Dog Box (this is an affiliate link), a subscription box that arrives every two weeks. Ours came free as part of a promotion, but we may keep subscribing because this is such a great concept. If you'd like to try it out, you can use the coupon code thedoggeek10 and get $10 off your first box!
Subscription grain-free dog food box

The Company

Ok, you know how some grocery stores have bulk bins, where you can bag up your own beans, rice, or whatever in any amount, for super cheap? The Naked Dog has taken this eco-friendly and wallet-friendly concept and applied it to pets. You can can kibble and treats in bulk, and if you visit one of their brick and mortar locations, you can even bring your own bag to fill! 

I often comment on dog food companies and how they use package design to influence their customers. If the bags aren't covered in pictures of wolves and claims about "ancestral diets", they're splashed with images of fresh vegetables and cuts of steak and chicken that look fresh from the meat counter at the supermarket, yet bear no resemblance to the actual ingredients in the food. Naked skips all that and just puts the food in a plain bag, so you don't have to pay for their graphic designer, artist, or photographer. Heck, you don't even have to pay for a bag if you bring your own!

The Naked Dog, also known as Protein for Pets, was founded by the same mastermind behind Dogswell. It's a company and philosophy I trust. I don't think they have their own manufacturing facility, but I really hope their stuff is co packed by Tuffy's Pet Foods. They're hard to beat for high-tech kibble production.
Turkey and pea kibble

The Food

Naked refers to their food as "stripped down", and I can see why. This turkey and pea kibble only has turkey and peas in it. They didn't feel the need to cram some fish or egg into every recipe, or load up on five kinds of carbohydrates. Admittedly, they did some ingredient splitting with four different pea-based entries on the list, but turkey and then turkey meal come first. This is a low-glycemic food that is extremely allergy-friendly, and it would be a good place to start when figuring out potential food allergens for your dog.

The Verdict

Zip loves this food, which is nice because she's not always super excited about dinner. I mean, it's just food, right? You can't herd it or fetch it. It's too early to tell what effect the food will have on her skin and coat, but she's been doing pretty well as long as we keep the fleas under control. Long-term I think I'd prefer to have her on something with a higher fat and protein content, but I think this food is an excellent and affordable choice for most pet dogs that aren't herding sheep all day.