I rarely give a “don’t buy” rating to gear. I try really, really hard to find some good aspect to products, because so many times the issues are opinion and not fact. A particular phonecase may not be my taste, but it could be yours, or I might miss a certain feature that someone else never uses. But then there are times when gear fails so miserably that I can’t in good conscience recommend it, and unfortunately my experience with Tagg the Pet Tracker falls into that category. It’s a shame, as Tagg has some really great features, but those are badly overshadowed by some serious issues.
First, Tagg is built quite well. It clips onto a pet’s collar tightly, and it has two rubbery wings with the actual GPS unit in the center. My dog has a tendency to get himself tangled in everything, and he’s gotten his leash caught in the wings a few times, but the Tagg stays secured until you squeeze the sides to release it. It’s fairly lightweight and doesn’t weigh down Porter’s collar or stick out when he’s wearing it. There’s a base station for charging, and my only complaint there is that the charging LED is so bright it could be a nightlight.
The companion website and app are also quite nice. It tracks activity as well as location, and as far as I can tell the activity reported seems fairly accurate. The spikes in Porter’s activity seem to match up with when we are home, while the low activity spots correlate to when we’re not home and he mostly stretches out and sleeps. The app can alert you if the pet strays out of a user-defined “home zone”, and you can track the pet through GPS and Google Maps, but it only launches the website, not the app, even if you have the app installed. I got to know the app quite well, unfortunately…
So lets get to the issues. I had an issue with the Tagg not notifying me until Porter was well outside of the “home zone”. We would head out for walks, and we would go a solid two blocks before I received a notification that he was outside the geofence and could be tracked. I noted this, and did try shortening the range on the Tagg website, but didn’t see an improvement in the notification timing. This concerned me because if he ever did escape, having a two-block tolerance before notifying us was a bit wide.
Up until yesterday morning, this was not a deal breaker. But the accuracy issue with the Tagg reached a new, frightening level when I was sitting at my desk at work and a notification appeared that Porter was “outside the home zone.” This was very scary, because Sarah and I locked the house when we left for work this morning, and Porter was in our bedroom at the time. I pulled up the app, and it placed him down the street and around the corner (location 1). I hesitated, then it showed him on our street not far from our house (location 2). At that point I realized even if this was a false positive, I couldn’t risk it, and I ran to my car and drove home in a big hurry.
The whole time, Tagg was tracking Porter every three minutes. So I was receiving constant updates about his location, and nearly drove off the road when it put him in the neighborhoods behind our home ( location 3). To get there he would have had to either walk down the street and turn two corners, or he had to cut through our yard, down past a brook, through a public park and across the street. Either way it was quite far from our house, and that was the update that made me incredibly worried that this wasn’t a false positive at all.
I managed to make it home without driving off the road or getting a speeding ticket — only to find that our house was locked up tight, and porter was safely inside. The first thing I did when I got inside was pull the Tagg off his collar, and then I checked every window on the first floor to make sure he was definitely secured inside. Then I turned around and headed back to work.
I recognize that GPS can have issues, but this was a GPS fail worst case scenario. I only work a half hour from home, but what if I lived an hour from work? I couldn’t sit at my desk and assume all was well while my phone insisted my dog was loose and unsupervised. I started worrying that he’d broken a window to chase something, or even worse, that someone broke into our home, and he had escaped. It was hard to write this off as just a false positive when the tracker had him all over our neighborhood, not just a house or two off from the “home zone”. What made it truly unsettling is that his “path” was almost realistic; he was across the street, then he was on our street, then he was on the other side of our neighborhood. The whole time he was safe at home, but the pattern of false positives looked realistic enough that I couldn’t just assume all was well.
I really don’t know how Tagg could fix this, but if there is any chance of this occurring for someone else, then I can’t recommend the product. It is terrifying to see a notification that your pet is loose, so much so that when ANOTHER alert appeared briefly when I got back to the office after I had detached the tracker, I got scared all over again for a brief second. But unless the tracker grew legs and launched itself at the neighbor’s house, it was stationary and on the kitchen counter the whole time. A moment later it returned to the normal zone, so it was clear the false positive issues weren’t solved by removing the device from the dog.
Pet tracking is a good idea, but the execution in this case is unfortunately lacking!
MSRP: $99.95 plus $7.99/month service fee; available at Pettracker.com
What I liked: Hardware is quite nice
What Needs Improvement: Charging station light is ridiculously bright; GPS accuracy is very questionable and sent out 45 minutes of continuous false positives indicating my dog was loose when he wasn’t