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Fi Dog Collar Review 2020: Is It The Best GPS Smart Dog Collar?

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The Fi Dog Collar is a GPS smart collar for your dog, which uses a combination of Wi-Fi and GPS to track your dog’s location, as well as tracking the number of steps your dog has taken in the day. Perhaps obviously once you think about it, the ‘Fi’ in Fi Dog Collar is pronounced the same as the Fi in ‘Fido’ or Wi-Fi. I’ve worn the Fi Dog Collar every day for the last few months, so it’s about time I wrote a review of this GPS dog collar and let you know what I (and my humans) think of this pet gadget.

How does the Fi Dog Collar work?

The Fi Dog Collar uses the AT&T network for locating your dog when he or she is out of the house alone, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-based safe zones, which would typically include:

  • Your home – where your dog’s Fi Collar base station should be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi
  • Proximity to you – or more specifically, within bluetooth range of your phone
  • As needed, additional base locations (such as your office, or dog sitter / parents’ home), and the phones of other trusted people, such as your dog walker, friend, spouse, kid, etc.

What is the Fi Dog Collar made from?

The Fi Dog Collar has a nice, solid construction to it. It’s definitely a lot heavier than my regular webbing collar, as it has a matchbox-sized GPS unit and durable metal hardware, including a quick-release buckle and loop for dog tags and leash attachment. 

Fi Collar metal buckle
Fi Collar metal buckle

Fi state that their collar is chew-proof and generally dog-proof – and it comes with a 1 year warranty, which is reassuring. I’ve worn mine pretty much every day for the last couple of months and it has picked up a few light scratches as you can just about see in the photos, and I’m sure it will pick up a few more scratches as I spend more time on the trails and nosing into brambles, that sort of thing. If you do damage your collar’s fabric, or you want to change the color, you can buy a replacement nylon webbing part for less than $30. I’d be tempted to go for the jazzier and higher-visibility yellow collar if I was to need a new one.

Due to the weight, I didn’t start wearing my Fi Dog Collar until I had grown to 30lb and was a 4+ month-old pup, as my parents didn’t want me wearing a heavier collar when I was younger and smaller – plus, I was more of a baby dog at that point so I wasn’t able to go out on as many adventures as I do now.

Is the Fi Dog Collar waterproof?

Yes! If you’re going to invest in a smart GPS dog collar and pay a lot more than a regular dog collar to buy one, then you definitely need it to be waterproof and stand up to not just rain but your dog jumping into ponds, lakes, puddles, etc etc. I’ve tried drowning it in the pond but haven’t been able to. It’s personal preference but I prefer to have my baths naked, so I haven’t tried it in the bath, but if the Fi folks say it’s waterproof, then I guess you could have a bath with it on, too (but why would you feel the need to, unless you hate baths that much that you may escape from home mid-bath?).

fi collar review trail and kale
Kepler wearing his Fi Collar on a recent trip to Oregon

How long does the battery last on the Fi GPS Dog Collar?

One of the outstanding features of the Fi Dog Collar is that the battery can last up to three months between charges. The three months battery life is based on if your collar does not spend much time outside of the range of your home base station, i.e. you don’t get out much. The length of time the battery lasts naturally depends on how active a dog you are and how much time you spend out of the range of the house base station, which will require the collar to use more battery power in connecting to your parents/dog-walker’s phone via Bluetooth, and picking up GPS signal when out of range of their phone and your home base (if you have a Fi subscription to effectively turn your Fi Dog Collar into its own mobile device – more on that, later).

As a Border Collie, and therefore pretty much by definition one of the most active dog breeds, I do drain the battery quicker than the stated three months maximum battery life – at least based on my first couple of months of using my Fi collar- my parents charged it after around 8 weeks. But still, 8 weeks for a collar worn by a busy puppy doing 2-3 walks a day is a long time to go between charges (especially when considering my parents have to charge their smartwatches pretty much daily!).

What is a ‘safe zone’ for the Fi Dog Collar?

The Fi Dog Collar comes with a Fi Base, which is also used to charge the collar.

Safe zones are defined by a perimeter range around the Fi Base, as well as when the collar is away from home but within bluetooth range of a designated owner/dog-walker. Having the home safe-zone being designated by the Base location helps save on battery life as the collar doesn’t need to pick up and track from GPS when it knows it’s within range of the base station, which is a neat feature.

You set up the Base and the designated humans using the Fi app. Designated humans may include family members, your dog walker and any one else who may be alone with your dog. Designated humans need to have their phone with them and the Fi app installed for this to work.

If your dog is near one of your designated owners/walkers when out of the house, then you can then get notified via app notification and / or text message when they leave the safe (home) zone for a walk with that person. For example, the message my parents receive when my Dad takes me out for a walk is ‘Kepler just left home with Alastair’.

If I was to leave home without someone my parents have set up in the app, or if the person walking me does not have their phone with them, the message my parents receive will just say ‘Kepler just left home’. If you receive a notification like this, and you know your dog should not be out on a walk somewhere, then this may be the trigger you need to set off the ‘Lost Dog Mode’ and start tracking down the sneaky canine if they’ve escaped home. For me, the message comes through within around a minute of leaving the house – I have to be outside of the safe-zone perimeter, which extends beyond our front door (as our current home is not large) so there is sometimes a lag between me leaving the front door and triggering the notifications that I have left home.

It’s also worth noting that your dog is frequently at another location (such as a friend or family members’, pet sitters’, office, etc.) it may be helpful to have an additional Fi Base (currently $39) to avoid having to transport your home Fi Base and reconfigure wifi to each location. Also, if you have a large house/property then you may also benefit from having more than one base station (assuming each base station can connect to a wifi network – i.e. you can’t get one to have at the end of the garden if that’s out of range of your Wi-Fi).

How does the Fi Collar’s ‘Lost Dog Mode’ work?

If you activate Fi Collar’s ‘Lost Dog Mode’ using your Fi app, then this turns on live location tracking on your dog’s collar to help find him or her [note: you need to have a Fi subscription so that effectively your Fi GPS Collar acts as its own cell phone, to enable the collar to be tracked using phone signal for GPS, when your dog is not with an owner].

Lost Dog Mode also activates a red pulsing light on your dog’s collar to help make them easier to spot in the dark, and sends a location notification to you every minute so you can track them down. When we tested it (by having my Mom take me out without her phone, so it looked like I had taken myself for a walk), the GPS was accurate to within around 50ft or so. This was a fun game of ‘find me’, but it could save my life if I was to escape. 

I expect the accuracy would vary depending on how strong and reliable the cell service is in a location where your dog goes missing, but I would hope that it gets my parents close enough to me that they can either see me at a distance and / or call me back to them. It’s also worth noting that because the Fi collar relies on me being within cell service, it won’t be able to track my location in an area without phone signal.

When in Lost Dog Mode, the battery life of the Fi collar is up to two days, as it’s using GPS signals to refresh the location status every minute, which consumes a lot more battery juice than regular use.

Does the Fi Dog Collar light up?

Yes! One feature that my parents love is that at the push of a button on the app, my Fi collar lights up with a pulsing light. You can choose from 7 different colors including blue, pink, yellow and green. It’s just one one part of the collar so not anything super-bright or flashy, but it’s a nice feature for night walks, especially if it’s very dark where you are, you’re near an area with cars or other people, and you’re a dark-colored dog who is harder to see.

Activity Tracker for Dogs: Using the Fi GPS Collar to track your dog’s steps

activity summary Fi Collar review trail and kale
activity summary sreen

A nice feature of the Fi GPS Dog Collar is that it’s not just for tracking your dog’s location. My Fi collar also counts my steps and summarizes how many steps I did on each walk. This way, my humans can use the app to set a daily step goal for me, and track my daily step activity. 

I gather there is no proven science specifying what is a ‘healthy’ amount of steps for a dog, and of course that would vary between dogs’ individual needs. But it’s a nice feature, and like a human’s smartwatch step tracker, can be used as a prompt to make sure that if you’ve had a quiet few days and not taken your pup out for as much activity as normal, you may want to step it up. Equally, and importantly for a growing boy such as myself, the goal can also be used as a target to stay BELOW – ie. So that I don’t get too much exercise, as I need to make sure I don’t over-use my growing puppy body and risk an injury.

breed ranking overview Fi Collar review trail and kale
breed ranking overview

One nice feature that my parents find entertaining is the ranking by breed, which tracks the last month of steps and compares you to how other dogs of your breed are doing with their step count. There are options to set yourself up as a mixed breed, so I’m in a category with Border Collies and Border Collie mixes, for example.

Using the Fi app

My parents like the Fi app and find it clean and easy-to use. Some may say the app is overly-simplistic in terms of activity tracking as it doesn’t track much more than your dog’s steps and GPS location points, but they like the easy-to-use functionality – and – hey, I’m a dog, not a pro athlete (yet), so I don’t think anyone in my family feels the need to get much more granular in terms of the details of my activity just yet, tracking steps is enough.

In future, though, perhaps a good direction for Fi to investigate would be heart rate tracking – imagine the possibilities! We all know that for humans doing ‘X amount of exercise at a heart rate within a given range’ is better than just doing ‘X steps in a day’, so this would be an awesome feature. Not sure how they’d get a good heart rate reading past all my fur, though…

How much does the Fi Dog Collar cost?

The Fi Smart Dog Collar costs $149 at the time of writing this review – that includes either a grey or yellow collar and the main matchbox-sized GPS device mounted on it, together with the base station that you plug in at home. If you use our code GR2PHP via this link you’ll receive an extra band free of charge which is nice if you like to mix-up your look to keep your instagram followers entertained. 🙂

You may also wish to purchase a Fi subscription, as this is needed to access all the GPS-specific features used by the Fi collar, including the important ‘lost dog mode. The subscription costs $99/year, or $8.25/month, and gets your dog’s collar added as a device to the LTE-M low power cellular network, which was specifically designed for such devices, and offers 20-30% more cellular coverage in the US than 3G networks. My parents have this subscription, so this review is a full review covering the GPS-specific features of the Fi Collar.

Do you need a Fi Subscription to use the Fi GPS Dog Collar?

A subscription gives your parents access to the full capabilities of your dog’s Fi collar – allowing for remote access to your location and activity. The cost of the subscription covers the GPS/LTE connection to the Fi collar – effectively, making it into a mobile device.

Without a subscription, the Fi collar will still function – but if you go outside the range of your peoples’ smartphone or your Fi Base, then nobody can use the Fi’s functionality to locate you. This kind of defeats the point of one of the key functions of the Fi Dog Collar, that is, so that people can track you and have a much better chance of finding you if you wander off, so it seems that if you are considering getting your dog a Fi GPS collar, then you should get the subscription.

The Fi Collar is surprisingly small considering the tech inside, but alas too big/heavy for a cat to wear comfortably.
The Fi Collar is surprisingly small considering the tech inside, but alas too big/heavy for a cat to wear comfortably.

Can you use the Fi Collar for cats?

No. It’s far too big for a pet cat to wear, unfortunately – because a Fi collar for a cat would be great and I’m sure my feline brothers would like to wear their own gadgets.

Fi Dog Collar Review
Design & Function
9
Durability
8.5
Performance
8.5
PROS
Robust design
Exceptional battery life
Waterproof
Ability to set multiple safe zones and owners
CONS
Limited color options
Key functions require cell signal and a subscription
8.7
Overall Score

Fi Collar Review: Is the Fi Dog Collar the best dog tracking collar?

Certainly on features, the Fi Dog Collar is one of the best dog tracking collars out there. By virtue of the long battery life, streamlined design and robust good looks, we’ve found it to be a great investment that I wear every day and gives my parents peace of mind that if I roam further than intended, they can quickly track me down and get me back safely.

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Kepler
Keplerhttps://www.trailandkale.com/adventure-dogs/
Hi, I'm Kepler, the official adventure dog of Trail & Kale! I'm a frisky pup with a love of life, frisbees, and dirt. I write about dog gear and the essence of being an adventure dog 🙂
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