Hiking off leash with your dog is great fun, but having a way to know where he is at all times makes it even more fun! There are several products out there that allow you to track your dog–and the Garmin Astro is my favorite.
Why The Garmin Astro?
There are a few other tracking devices for dogs, but the Garmin Astro gives the best tracking coverage. Many systems require cell service–which can be really spotty. The Astro uses GPS satellites, and the latest (Garmin Astro 430) uses both GPS and GLONASS reception for better satellite tracking in challenging environments.
This gives you all the advantages of having a GPS to help guide you on your hikes and keep you from getting lost, with the added advantage of being able to keep track of your dog as well!
Several Versions Of The Garmin Astro
There are several versions of the Garmin Astro, the latest being the Astro 430. Each version has significant improvements, but don’t despair! Your older version, if you have one, is still awesome. And the newer collars will work with some of the older versions. I have an Astro 220 (there has since been a 320 and the 430). When I adopted another dog and needed another collar I was worried that I wouldn’t find one that would work with my handheld. But luckily, some of newer collars work with the older versions of the handheld device, or you can find the older versions of the collar on eBay.
Each version really does have significant improvements, but they are pricey–so I’m not upgrading until I need to. I’ve been using the same unit for almost 12 years, and it has held up really well. I use it nearly every day–so that is a lot of use! And I drop it, sit on it, put it in and out of my pocket constantly. It just keeps truckin’ along.
I have never had a collar wear out or malfunction, either. And my dogs put them to quite the test! Through brush, into holes they dig, into water while swimming–they aren’t easy on them!
Tracking Is Great!
The tracking with the Garmin Astro is great! As I said, the newest, Garmin Astro 430 can track up to 20 dogs at a time (good grief!). It gives you an update where they are every 2.5 seconds. It has a range of about 9 miles, although, as it is line of sight, it gets interrupted if the dog goes over a large hill, or is burrowed into a hole.
You can look at the main screen and see a compass arrow pointing in the dog’s direction, and a readout of how far away he is from you. If you toggle to the map screen, you can see where you and the dog are on the map, and a line showing the route you took.
The readout also features a little icon, showing you if the dog is running, on point, has treed, or is sitting or lying.
If you are with friends, or do search and rescue work, the newer units
can be set up to communicate, so you can see where the dogs are on separate handheld units. So if you are separated, you can still check on all the dogs. You can set it up so search base personnel can see where the dogs are searching while you are still in the field.
But My Dog Is Small, Can He Use An Astro Garmin?
Garmin has luckily come out with the T5mini collar for smaller dogs. It is only 7 ounces, as opposed to the 9.2 ounces of the regular T5 collar. It fits dogs with a 9.5″ neck size. So it won’t work for your chihuahua I’m afraid, but it will work for many small dogs.
Are The Maps Included?
Yes! The newer Garmin Astro 430 comes with preloaded TOPO US 100K mapping, plus a free 1-year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription. This is a great improvement! I had to buy the maps separately.
It also has a micro SD card slot to load other map options (sold separately). One of these is a turn by turn driving selection, so you can use the same handheld as a driving GPS system.
What About The Batteries?
The handheld unit works with AA batteries, or with a rechargeable battery. The dog collars are rechargeable, and come with the charging unit and a vehicle charging adapter.
The battery life is very good. For the handheld unit, Garmin states it is up to 15 hours. For the collars, it is up to 20 or more hours! I’ve never actually checked these numbers provided by Garmin, but I know the batteries on both the handheld and collars need replacing/recharging infrequently, so I think they are pretty accurate.
What Other Cool Features?
The collars are water resistant up to 10 meters underwater. My dogs have frequently checked out how water resistant the collars are, and I’m happy to say it has never been an issue.
There is an LED light on the newer collars that can be turned on with the handheld so you can see your pooch up to 100 yards away in the dark.
The 430 is bright orange, so you can find it easily if dropped. My 220 is black and gray, and I can vouch for it being hard to find if I put it down or drop it! Luckily my Search and Rescue dog is trained to find articles with human scent on them, so he finds it for me!
The workmanship is great, so both the handheld unit and the collars hold up very well to rough use.
Do I Recommend The Garmin Astro Dog Tracking System–YES!
I can’t imagine hiking with my dogs without the Astro tracking collar! It gives me great piece of mind, as I know where my dogs are at all times.
It provides good reception, good battery life, holds up well. It updates where your dog is every 2.5 seconds. Maps are preloaded. I highly recommend it!
Really, the only downside is the price. It definitely is an investment. But my dogs are worth it. My peace of mind hiking is worth it. My not getting lost is worth it!
The $649.99 price includes: *Astro 430 handheld unit *T5 Dog Collar with lithium-ion battery and 1″ collar *5- inch standard and 13-inch extended range antennas for handheld *18.5-inch and 22.5-inch extended range antennas for T5 collars *Belt clip *Charging clip *USB cable *AC adapter *Vehicle charging adapter *Manuel
Click here to buy the Garmin Astro 430 Dog Tracking Collar?
If you hike with your dog off leash, or do any outdoor, off leash dog activity (hunting, Search and Rescue, camping, etc.), I highly recommend a tracking collar system for your dog. The Garmin Astro series is the best I have found–reliable, sturdy, uploaded maps, great GPS coverage, useful for multiple dogs).
Let me know how you like your Astro 430 when you get one! Or if you have an earlier version as I do, how do you like that! Leave a comment below, or email me directly at email@example.com. And happy hiking!