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.


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'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 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?


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 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.


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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Product Review: Terrain D.O.G. Hunting Dog Leash

Terrain D.O.G.'s Hunting Dog Leash is made from their super durable Brahma Webb. This durable, weatherproof, grippy material is waterproof and requires zero care. The hunting dog leash features an extra snap attached to the handle, along with a floating ring. This allows you to quickly attach the leash to a tree, and can also be used as a slip lead or even a two-dog leash. The hunting dog leash is 6' long, and is available in three colors.
weatherproof biothane leash with extra snap and floating ring

I had never heard of this brand before, but I walked into one of my local shops and they had a whole Terrain D.O.G. display of things that I immediately wanted. They have a really wonderful range of products, from center ring collars to long training leashes in this biothane Brahma Webb, to padded harnesses, to leather collars and leashes.

Their product range is so extensive that I knew this couldn't be a brand new company. Sure enough, Terrain D.O.G. is a Weaver Leather brand. While I absolutely love small businesses and independent entrepreneurs, I was happy to see a familiar big brand. I've been buying Weaver Leather stuff for my horse for years, so I trust them to make decent dog stuff too.

Weaver's Brahma Webb is an easy-care synthetic material that is waterproof, weatherproof, and easy to clean. It doesn't absorb odors, or anything else. This material is also nice and grippy, it doesn't feel like slick plastic and it doesn't get slippery when wet.

The Hunting Dog Leash is a heavy piece of equipment for large dogs. It has big snaps on either end. While I like lightweight hardware for sensitive dogs, the snaps on this leash work well for the weight and size. I do need to be careful not to smack my dog with the snap on the handle end, though.
Bright blue synthetic waterproof nonabsorbent dog leash

The leash is equipped with a floating ring and a snap on the handle specifically so it can be attached to a tree or a fence post in a hurry. I've found a couple more uses for those features, though. The handle snap is great for attaching accessories. It also work well to attach a second dog. Boom, two dog leash!

The floating ring means this leash can be used as a slip lead. However, it does not have any sort of stopper to prevent the leash from loosening up. The grippy material and width of the ring also means it doesn't slide freely, which makes it less annoying that most floating rings, but also means it cannot be used for leash corrections. It's more of an emergency slip leash.
Multifinction biothane synthetic dog leash


  • Non-absorbent waterproof and weatherproof
  • Extra snap on handle end
  • Floating ring
  • Multiple uses/functions


  • A bit heavy for small and medium-sized dogs
  • Only comes in three colors

Bottom Line

This is a super-functional leash that will last forever, and it's affordable too!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Caturday: What is the Most Affordable Raw Cat Food?

I've been crunching some numbers to determine whether commercial premade raw cat food is cheaper than canned food. It seems plausible, cans are heavy and bulky, and feeding an all-canned diet becomes alarmingly expensive very quickly. I love collecting data, and I wanted to share my findings with you. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list, it represents what is readily available either online or in my local stores.


The foods included on this table are those for which I could find price, serving size, and servings per package. If I was unable to find the answer to those between the manufacturer's website, and various retail sites, I didn't add it. Serving sizes were determined using Solstice, a 13-pound cat that needs to lose some weight, and the feeding charts provided on the food packaging or manufacturer website. If they had a feeding amount calculator, I used it. Food prices were the lowest price I could find for the largest package available.

Freeze-Dried or Frozen?

My experience with raw dog food has led me to believe that freeze-dried pet food is super expensive, and that frozen raw food is much more reasonable. I was therefore quite surprised to see freeze-dried food as the three least expensive options. It's very interesting how the food prices cluster, first there's three freeze-dried foods at a similar price point, then five frozen foods followed by four freeze-dried foods. I'm sure these are coincidental though, since the price points for each cluster range quite a bit.


Is premade commercial raw cat food cheaper than canned cat food? Nope. Not even close. I am currently feeding primarily 4Health grain-free canned cat food at a cost of $0.79 per can, with some other brands mixed in when I can pick them up on uber-clearance for $0.30-.60 per can. Each cat eats one 5oz can per day, so their monthly feed bill is $23.70. It costs me $47.40 to fed The Hellions each month.

On Sojo's Complete, the most affordable raw cat food I could find, it would cost $0.98 per day to feed one of my cats. That's a monthly feed bill of $29.40 per cat, or $58.80 for both. Though the price difference between the various foods is just a few cents, it adds up really fast. Feeding Grandma Lucy's exclusively to two cats would cost me $67.80.

On the other end of the spectrum, I am truly amazed at how expensive raw cat food can be. Rad Cat is available at my local pet stores. It would cost me $4.25 per day to feed one cat. That's $127.50 to feed one cat for a month, or $255 to feed both. Yikes!

While crazy-expensive raw cat food is not going to be a staple of James and Solstice's diets anytime soon, I do like to vary their diets quite a bit. They aren't allowed to have frozen raw food because they can't eat it without making the entire house smell like a slaughterhouse, but I'd like to introduce them to the concept of freeze dried cat food.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Food Friday: Rolled Dog Food

Yes, dog food comes in roll form. I've shared several different brands recently, and now it's time to discuss the whole concept of dog food rolls. Why do they exist? What are they good for? Are some better than others?

What's in a Roll?

Grain-free dog food roll
Grain-free dog food roll
While several dog food companies have recently added food rolls to their product lineup, dog food rolls have been around for at least 15 years. The recipes vary quite a bit between brands, but the basic formulation is the same. These are all shelf-stable salami-like products that need to be refrigerated after opening.

All complete and balanced dog food rolls that I've encountered so far have had ingredients lists that start with meat, followed by some type of flour. The grain-inclusive ones usually have rice flour and/or pea flour. The grain-free rolls just have pea flour. 

Surprisingly, all the dog food rolls I've encountered also contain both eggs and added sugar. Some also have molasses, broth, and potato starch. Eggs and sugar appear to be essential though, I've guessing they hep the roll hold its shape or something.

To Grain or Not to Grain

The biggest difference between a grain-free food roll and a grain-inclusive roll is the texture. The ones made with rice flour tend to hold their shape really nicely. They don't crumble easily, and are easy to cut into super tiny cubes for training treats. They don't tend to go moldy very quickly, but they do dry out within a few days of being cut off the roll, even when sealed in an airtight container. 

Grain-free rolls tend to be more squishy and less firm. It's tough to cut cleanly through a roll without a very sharp knife, and it tends to crumble when chopped very small. The grain-free stuff seems to hold more moisture, so it doesn't dry out and go hard. Instead it gets moldy. I had half an uncut roll go moldy in the fridge within a week. Not even gonna talk about when happens when it gets forgotten in a bait bag or pocket.

Let's Roll!

The added sugar means all dog food rolls are high in carbohydrates, so I wouldn't recommend making them a major staple of a dog's diet. They also aren't terribly economical compared to kibble and canned food. They make excellent shelf-stable convenience food, and also great toppers for kibble. I use them primarily for training treats. 

Natural Balance has been making their grain-inclusive complete and balanced dog food rolls since before I got Brisbane in 2005. Redbarn and Blue Buffalo both offer grain-inclusive and grain-free versions of their food rolls. Walmart's Pure Balance brand has grain-free rolls. It's worth noting that these are all complete and balanced dog foods. There are meat rolls with no eggs and no sugar added, like Happy Howie's, but these are intended to be used only as treats.

Do you know of any dog food rolls that I didn't mention here? Please share them in the comments!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Product Review: Pet Gear Happy Trails Stroller

Pet Gear's Happy Trails Stroller is specially designed for dogs. It has a weight capacity of 30 pounds. The swivel wheels make it easy to push while providing a smooth ride. There is a tray up top with cupholders, and a storage basket underneath. This stroller has a securely zippered front and back, and a mesh window in the canopy so you can keep an eye on your pup. It folds up for easy transport and storage. This particular model is available in three colors.
Pink chihuahua pet stroller

Pet Gear appears to be leading the way in the field of pet strollers. I bought this one at a thrift store for $5, and while it has certainly seen better days, I am very impressed with the design. I'm new to the world of strollers for dogs, so it's possible these are standard features.

The stroller is made from the same type of materials as the soft crates I used for the girls at agility class. It's basically a soft crate on wheels with a really nice sun shade. Mine is ripped, it's obvious the previous occupant chewed their way out, but that's quite common with soft crates. They only really work for dogs that are comfortable being contained. I think the durability of this crate is similar to that of my Noz2Noz softcrates.
Pink dog stroller
The front of this stroller zips up to keep your dog completely contained, or folds down to allow then to rest their chin and watch the world go by. The back also unzips, creating a perfect level spot where your dog can get in and out on their own. That was an unexpected and very appreciated feature! I really like the idea that Ru could retreat to his safe spot and hop in without having to get up and over the lip in the front.

There is a big storage basket on the bottom of the stroller, but it is completely covered by the passenger area. The only way to access it is by lifting up half the space your dog rides in. This isn't an issue for Ru, but would be if I was pushing around a larger dog, or one that didn't appreciate being hefted like that.

The Happy Trails Stroller folds down basically like a kid stroller. It's not super space efficient, but I have to admit that it's a million times easier than setting up any soft crate.


  • Very durable
  • Easy to push
  • Smooth ride
  • Lots of storage
  • Familiar and cozy to dogs familiar with crates
  • Back opening allows dog to get in and out safely on their own


  • Pink color gets dirty easily
  • Cargo basket only accessible by lifting passenger area

Bottom Line

This is Pet Gear's bottom-of-the-line stroller. They offer pet strollers with weight capacities up to 150 pounds, bigger wheels, and doors that secure without zippers. These things are purpose-built for dogs, not just dog carriers stuck on stroller frames. I've mocked dog strollers for years, now I'm trying to figure out if I can show up at a lure coursing event and park my chihuahua in this without getting laughed off the field.