First, let me preface this entire piece by saying that in all my years as a dog walker – I never lost a dog. Not one.
Yet… Shelby and Lucy. *sigh* They’re such wonderful dogs, but dear god if there’s a gap in the fence? If someone leaves the gate ajar… if there’s any way to get out of the fence? They’re gone.
And if there’s a deer? They’re gone gone.
When they last got properly out? They were gone for 6 days. Six!! And that was in deep snow too, and they’re not built for that, and they were found over 5 miles away.
Needless to say, there have been a few near misses, and it’s getting to the point that we as a family have a mild heart attack any time we see a neighbours phone call pop up on our phone.
So, we looked into the tech collars. This was where we decided to go. And, as a result, here it is for you! With two of the finest test subjects in the country to give these devices a real run for their money.
I’ve included a little video demo too, of how to use, of the app, and of how I tracked a pseudo-lost dog who was wearing one!
Please note: This is not a sponsored post. We purchased these for ourselves – though do note that that will not change the fact that I’m going to give my fullest and honest opinion about this product.
How It Works
This is the simple bit, if you want the more nerdy bit? Scroll down, you’ll see it…
So, in essence. In the box you get;
– Charger base
– Charger cable
The other thing you need is the subscription to their service – which does kind of suck on such an expensive device.
It’s pretty simple to start up you just download the app, and follow the instructions. We did it with ease.
Fit the collar properly to your dog (Remember how to do that? No? Gosh, go read the “How to fit your dogs equipment post!) – because you know that you really do not want to find the collar with no dog attached to it!
And that’s about it… until you need lost dog mode.
The App is pretty straight forward, the bits you really need to know are:
This page has your dogs step count on it (a feature I love!) along with a really informative bar chart that helps you see day to day, below is one of our girls days – can you tell the day it rained and she didn’t want to go anywhere? Haha! You can also set goals! So if you’re trying to help your dog get a little fitter, or you’re working on helping them lose weight – these can be very useful!
Better yet, if you click that bar chart, you can see their activity hour by hour. Neat, huh?
Map & Lost Mode
Buried a little? But if you tap “Live” on the bottom bar and then click your pups “location” (like Home) there’s a little red wolf head on the top right which says “lost” – this means that the refresh rate goes up drastically to a few seconds apart, allowing you to much quicker locate your lost dog.
Oh! Then there’s the light. Do you know – I actually really like this feature! But I’ll tell you that later.
Then there’s the subscription side…
Okay, so without the subscription, you’re severely limited on what you can do with the collar.
What you get on the Free Account;
– Today’s Health Activity
– Your Dogs location when on Wifi or near the charging base.
– Location when next to Owner via the app.
– Walks with Owner.
Now… this might work for you! If you’re looking for basically, a doggy fitbit – but – that was never going to work for us. We would be dropping the core functionality of a tracker that I so desperately wanted.
We signed up to the 1 year plan even though it was the most expensive because we didn’t want to over commit? I mean, if the product proved pretty underwhelming (in England, I would say naff, but we’ll keep it professional… well semi-professional?) I didn’t want to be tied in for two years, especially when the difference was a maximum of $15.60 for the year.
So you can see, these are the plans, and before you ask if there’s a discount for multi-dog households? Nope. Luckily though, there isn’t more than one plan at the moment – it’s not like there’s a Silver, Gold and Platinum package that you have to pick between, it’s just how long you want to be a part of their plan and how much you’re willing to spend at a time!
1 Year – $99 ($1.89 per week)
2 Year – $186 ($1.79 per week)
3 Year – $248 ($1.59 per week)
The subscription gives you everything the free plan does, plus access to;
– Past Health Activity
– GPS location
– Walks without Owner
– Notification when dog gets out of Fence
– Lost Dog Mode
– Sleep Mode
We opted to go for the subscription for a year to see, as the difference wasn’t something we were concerned about, after all, we would be saving a whopping $6 a year for going to a two year subscription or $49 for 3 – but we weren’t sure what would happen if the device got upgraded or lost and if we’d be committed to pay, so we opted for the year.
The Tech bit – aka – Let Me Get Nerdy
It works based on a GPS Signal, specifically “LTE-M” (which stands for the super catchy, Long Term Evolution for Machines – explains it perfectly, right?) Which is a lower power and lower info, and longer range signal. This means that when your dog is out and shouldn’t be, you’ve got a better chance to find him or her. IT doesn’t depend on a single signal type and can leverage off of all the G’s (2G through to 5G) and LTE signals. So, in theory, this should give you fantastic coverage no matter where you live.
The signal is based on AT&T, so it’s pretty solid, do check out the coverage in your area. it’s pretty solid, I have to say, there are a few dark spots, but the east coast of the states is pretty well covered which makes it okay for us. So, just make sure you make sure it works for you.
It also leverages off of your wifi signals when at home, off of bluetooth and other signals in order to maximise its battery life.
These triangulate to pinpoint your dog. And essentially, when your dog is fine at home and nothing is wrong? The app will send a ping to your device (that you’re not notified about) infrequently. This means it doesn’t drain battery, but as soon as you hitch it to “Lost Dog Mode” the refresh rate decreases to approximately a minute.
The draw back of this increased refresh rate, is that it does decrease your battery life to a maximum of two days. But, to be very honest, if you have a full GPS location you should be able to track your dog down really quickly. Still! It’s the longest battery life currently on the market, so I can’t complain too much!
Let me cover some of the really useful features of this product for you;
Dog Walkers & Multiple owners
You can have more than one person on each collar (though I haven’t checked what the limit is, so if anyone knows, please do let me know!) so the whole family can track your family woofs (which will really help if they do go AWOL, right?). I also think (having been a dog walker!) it could be a great idea to add your dog walker to your dogs fi collar, this means you have back up. They may require payment if they’re asked to go fetch your dog – but it would definitely be worth it.
Lost Dog Mode
A quick refresh rate and a map means that finding your dog becomes easier, quicker and that the risk your dog becomes exposed to is a lot, lot less. This is the primary selling point of this device, and here’s a video of how exactly that works.
Light it up!
Now, I originally thought this was a big gimmick and a bit useless given it’s a very small light which if your dog isn’t looking at you, you have no hope of finding it – but it’s also personalisable! And that’s sucked me in a bit. So I can make Lucy Yellow and Shelby Green if I so choose! And when they’re out together it’s quite fun to see them running around in the dark. Not to mention that if the collar slips off, it’s a nice way of finding it if you have a larger yard!
The collar seems to be pretty smart, practically speaking it leverages off of your home wifi, your phone, and the base(s) in and around your home in order to use it’s signal to mean that it uses less battery power. It’s pretty clever, I have to say! And you can actually see on the “Select Dog” screen what it’s connected to. It does, however, mean your phone’s battery life will be taxed, and I do get messages quite often from Apple saying “Fi has been using your location, is this ok?” “Yes, Apple, I know I have a stalker app, thanks”.
After 8 months: After this regular usage, I’ve noticed some deterioration in the battery life of Lucy’s collar. We’re debating getting more nodes to spread throughout the property to stretch the wifi signal a little further so she doesn’t eat battery quite so fast. But, realisitically? I’m not sure it’s that. I have a feeling even if we got the nodes, it would make no difference.
Why? Because Shelby’s collar (they do roughly the same step count and travel similar areas) doesn’t have quite the same problem. It’s definitely interesting running the two parallel.
I’ll contact support at some stage…
If you have more than one base? Make sure to put them at the furthest points in your house! If you have one base, it can connect to 3 collars. This should enable the biggest range possible and the least interference between the charging bases!
Peace of Mind
For me? The thing that this offers is peace of mind. It means that I can not only contain my Houndini Hounds effectively, but if something happens beyond my control (like the oil guy opening the gate, oops) I can be notified, and quickly get the girls back in, back under control and not put them at any greater risk than absolutely necessary. Because, I’m not going to lie, when you stop hearing them howl (and trust me you can hear that howl quite a way when they want you to) your heart rate slows with dread because you know the distance has gotten to be quite a lot.
We live backing on to woods where there are a whole bunch of deer, and they have a huge prey drive. If they get on the scent of a deer, it’s tough to get them to focus again when they’re on lead. So, I’m sure you can imagine what it’s like when they’re off lead.
Who Needs This?
There are a whole host of dog owners who can take advantage of a product like this, honestly, but here’s a quick rundown!
We do! We do… It gives me enormous peace of mind. So one real strong need is for the owner of Escape artists. Whether they slip their harness, have a sincerely unreliable recall, tend to run for miles… and miles… and miles. So think High Prey drive hunting dogs and sled dogs. So from Huskies to Coonhounds! Very useful to have around – just in case.
Other than that? These actually offer a doggy ‘fitbit’ style vibe where you can keep track of exactly how much exercise your gorgeous woof is getting! So, if you are looking to help manage your dogs weight, this could be incredibly useful for you.
Dogs In Training
If you’re looking to monitor how much sleep or rest they’re getting, this could work for you too – though I will say it might not be your most cost-effective answer. Another in training is if their recall is .. not quite 100%. This is a fab back up after your long line training proves successful… but make sure you get a good recall first, so check out our foolproof recall process.
Going on holiday somewhere new with your dog?
That’s a great one too! You don’t know the area, but you can definitely get some help if the place (whether it’s family, or airbnb!) is not as secure as you might think it is!
Track your walks
he other one you can do is to use it to track your dogs walks, which means if you’ve got a professional dog walker involved (or not professional, tsk tsk) you can check that they’re doing what you’re asking of them because it can track walks.
Nervous Puppy Parents
If you’re worried about your recall training *cough* Terrier owners *cough* – these can act as a fantastic peace of mind. You know you have back up! You know that even if they do just … disappear … that they can be found. So the panic you’ve experienced, or fear? Means you can calmly search for your dog and not get mad or upset with them (and I know you do, because I do, I’ve been crying furious tears at these two coonhound girls and then cuddled the bejesus out of them and kissed them and sworn they’re never leaving my side ever again – yep – I’ve been there!)
On that note – if you’re a dog walker, dog boarder, or similar – these could be awesome for you. I would have loved to have a collar for each of my dogs on a walk (label them like dog 1, 2, 3, 4) and that way you know your dogs won’t ever get lost, and you can screenshot the walk and share on socials or with the owners so they get a great feel for how far their dog has been. Or in the case of a boarder? You know for sure they’re not ever getting beyond your control – awesome, huh? Even if their Mom & Pop haven’t told you the full story about their escape artist antics!
They’re Not Just For Dogs!
Got a Savannah cat? A Goat? Or maybe a donkey? Yep, I’ve seen all of these under the Fi listings! It’s quite funny too, one of the goats is listed as a pug, because you can only select dog breeds. Made me smile anyway! But here’s an example of a Savannah cat on Insta who uses a fi tracker, talk about an innovative use…
Gosh I don;t know how much I harp on and on about how important sleep is, but genuinely it really is. I mean I’ve written about overtiredness and how important it is for bite-y puppies, but this is a whole new ball game… This allows me to actually put my money where my mouth is! And I loooooove it for that!
This can really give you great insight into your dog, their sleeping habits and subsequently the effect their sleep (lack thereof) has on their mood. Literally, I am not even exaggerating when I say that I’ve been looking at Lucy sideways wondering why she’s like a cat on a hot tin roof, I’ll check the app and find out that she missed about 2hrs sleep overnight – for whatever reason – and all of a sudden, I know the reason and I know she needs a few extra z’s.
My husband and I love this feature, we get weirdly proud of our little pups? It’s like “Hey! Have you seen Lucy’s over 32k! That’s her highest day yet!” and “Yes! But Shelby’s beating Lucy…!” hahah! We’re also using it to make sure they both get some good and roughly equal exercise. You can also see when they’re not active (and likely asleep) hour by hour. Also, for medical reasons? Data like this could be super useful!
You can buy more collars! And even better, they’re from small boutique sellers and not from like .. Kong or someone who has enough money already. Thankfully! Because I have to say, the standard ones leave a little to be desired. They’ve even released a harness to go with them which is really cool and clever.
The Tracking Part! aka Lost Dog Mode
This is the core functionality that you need in a tracking collar right? Well, suffice to say, I’ve used it in a genuine emergency – and it was really freaking good. I can say, confidently, that when Shelby went on her 2 mile round trip to chase a deer? That she was back within 20 mins, and the whole time we knew where she was – it was wonderful. The peace of mind it gave was honestly astounding. I hated being in the situation, but this collar? Made the world of difference.
And I’m not the only one that loves it either, I spoke to the community, and the reports are resoundingly similar, back in a fraction of the time that they would be out for before.
Room for Improvement
Do you know what I honestly think? Well, here it is! These are realistic representations of my issues with the product so that you know that you can rely on this info.
It’s not where I’d like it to be. They’re on a zendesk who know minimal about the product and if it’s non-standard – they can’t cope. They tend to give cookie cutter advice and don’t know how to diversely problem solve (but that’s the world over, really, huh?)
We experienced delivery issues too. We ordered on black friday 2020 and promptly got an email saying they couldn’t keep up with shipments… you know that moment that you read an email and your brow arches, quizically? It was that for me. Fi put out an enormously aggressive marketing program (for real!) on black friday, and then can’t keep up with the demand? Really? I mean, okay, Kudos for telling me up front, but holy hell. Really? Be ready! Or put in some sort of limitations so you can go “SOLD OUT!” when appropriate… Yuck.
In the end it took a month for both collars to arrive, and one arrived in a box so damaged I was sincerely worried that it wasn’t going to work – luckily it did.
It’s not enough…
When your dog does leave the home zone? I want my phone to go beserk – in order to ensure it’s gotten my attention!
Instead, I get a notification and a text message.
Which feels a little tame to me? I would like to see a ‘crazy mode’ alert that just makes my phone sing until I look at it. Because the quicker you know they’re not at home, the quicker you can potentially get your puppy back safe and sound, right?
Not optimised for Multi-dog household
The app is not really well formatted for owning more than one dog? It’s definitely set up for single pup-children, for example, the ‘rankings’ there is a bar chart which you can scroll through, but it only shows one dog at a time. It would be useful in my estimation to have both bars on the same chart, a nuance perhaps!
Ther also isn’t a subscription discount for multi-dog households, which I would have expected – but hey – it’s their business model I guess.
So if your dog walks off leash like Indie does in parks and appropriate spaces – then if you’re not within a certain distance of your dog (your Bluetooth range) it could easily make anyone connected to your account panic if the device refreshes whilst fido is outside of your Bluetooth range and ping you to say that your dog is alone…
One Thing That It Does Make Me Aware & Very Conscious Of….
There are a lot of puppies that are… somehow beating my two coonhound girls in activity with over a million steps in a month. And on 6 month old puppies? That’s just not going to be okay. I understand that some dogs are more active, but there’s no way these puppies are getting enough sleep, and that concerns me greatly.
Do I Recommend It?
I would! I really really love these collars. They give me such wonderful peace of mind.
And I cannot overstate that enough.
I can let my girls roam the yard, knowing that they’re safe within the perimeter, even if I’ve not seen them for a bit. I know that they’re home, and that they’re where they should be! Then, if/when they get out? It’s a cinch to locate them, track them, and bring them home.
I can’t put a value on that peace of mind when I own coonhounds.
I would also recommend charging it monthly at most. Where we have two dogs, we have separated their charge ‘times’ so that if they do get out together, we may have a little longer one on collar than the other on the instance that we don’t get them back quickly…
Also, sorry rest of the world, but this is an America Only product … at least for now!
Really Important Note!
Really really super duper important. Please do not think that this means you do not have to teach recall. Recall is imperative for all dogs. Honestly. Don’t put them at risk. This tool should be back up only, not something you depend upon on a daily basis.
If you’re struggling with recall, let me know!
I don’t blame you. This device has taken a huge weight off of my mind. So, if you’re looking for one, why not check them out on their website tryfi.com. They’re standardly $149 and if you use that link I will get a commission, it doesn’t cost you anything and trust me – I wouldn’t be putting this up if I didn’t love the product my two hounds are always wearing theirs.
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as the worlds best pet blog!