REVIEW – Question—Do you have a dog who can either jump over or dig under a fence and wander the neighborhood or do you live where fences are not allowed? If so, a barrier such as the SpotOn GPS Fence may help.
Let’s begin this review with a story. Throughout our marriage, my wife and I have always had rescue dogs as pets who’ve become life-long members of our family. These dogs have always been extremely smart and trainable. Except for Pepper. Pepper came to us 11 years ago from a shelter after she was found roaming the streets in a small Florida town. We took her in thinking she would be a great playmate for our other dog, Churchill. And we were right. Pepper and Churchill became fast friends. However, there was one big difference. Pepper has always been an escape artist, disappearing any chance she got. As she has aged, she still has that wandering eye, so we always keep her on a leash—even in our fenced backyard. So, when SpotOn offered their GPS fence (a dog collar with some serious tech), I thought, why not? It could help Pepper know her boundaries.
Nope. Didn’t work. I’ll explain later in the review. This brings us to Biscuit. Biscuit is the two-year-old mutt we acquired after Churchill died. He has been a great friend to Pepper and us. He is not the escape artist Pepper is and we want to be able to let him roam the backyard. Solution? Let him wear the SpotOn GPS Fence. So, we pivoted from our plan. Sorry Pepper.
What is it?
The SpotOn GPS Fence is a rather large collar made to help your dog stay in a designated area you design. It has some static/vibration prompts and beeping noises that tell your dog, “This is your boundary. Go no farther.”
The SpotOn GPS Fence has built-in GPS that allows unseen boundaries to be “drawn” as well as tracking power should your dog become lost (we could have used this one harrowing night a few years ago when Pepper escaped). The SpotOn collar reminds me of those collars you see wildlife experts place on wild cats in order to track their movements.
An app (via Bluetooth) lets you set and control boundaries (fences), vibration, and/or static intensities, turn things on and off, account for trees (Forest Mode), and track your dog (an extra cost option).
A few accessories come with the SpotOn GPS Fence collar—a charging cable with a charging base, 2 sets of vibration contacts, and a contact point tester.
The collar comes in three sizes: Small, Medium, and Large. Note that your property should be 1/2 acre or more for the collar to work properly.
In the box
- Re-sizable SpotOn GPS Fence collar
- Charger w/USB-C cable
- 4 vibration/static contact points
- Contact point tester
Design and features
Before I say anything, I want to point out that the SpotOn GPS Fence collar is designed and made in the US. How cool is that?
As previously stated, this collar is big. It was surprising to see how large it is. It’s also a bit heavy—I guess because of all the electronics required because this collar does a lot.
We got the Medium size and at first, it seemed big for Biscuit. However, the adjustment range is broad, so we were able to fit it on him with no issues.
When the SpotOn GPS Fence first arrived, I thought I could just put it on our dog and it would “zap” him if he got too close to the property edge. It’s not that simple. You first have to train your dog how to respond to both audible tones and static or vibration correction. This worked with Biscuit, but not with Pepper—so we switched dogs. Unfortunately, Pepper just ignored the vibrations. Maybe it was all her neck hair, but since she’s 13 years old and I didn’t want to push it. She did notice the tones, but again, she didn’t care, so I gave up on trying to train her. Biscuit, however, is hyper alert and while the tones don’t bother him, the lowest static setting got his full attention. More on static settings later in the review.
SpotOn has videos that clearly explain how to train your dog to react to audible and static/vibration warnings. It takes time to do this—it’s not automatic—except it kind of was with Biscuit.
In order for the SpotOn GPS Fence collar to work, a fence (or fences) needs to be created. It’s easy to do. Just hold the collar up to the sky to establish a GPS connection and walk the edges of your property or wherever you wish the boundaries to be. You can create as many fences as you wish, then name and save them. With multi-acre property, you could create a smaller fenced area for your pup and work up from there. You can also have a few different fenced areas depending on your needs. Fences can be created just about anywhere, such as a park or a camping site when you want to restrict your dog’s area.
Shortly after creating a fence around our property, I needed to create a second fence because the back part of our 1-acre backyard is now under 2 inches of water from the small lake next to us becoming too full. This “Flood Fence” helps Biscuit not venture to that area.
The SpotOn GPS Fence collar has warning stages. First, a tone can be heard as the dog approaches the border (10 feet). If the dog gets closer, a more strident tone (5 feet) begins. Any closer and the vibration/static correction kicks in. Vibration is just that—vibration. Static involves static electricity causing a tingle. It’s harmless, but SpotOn recommends only using static correction if vibration alone does not work. It turns out that Biscuit only needed vibrations since he’s a bit high-strung anyway.
Before I could test Biscuit’s reactions to the vibration and tones, I had to get him used to wearing such a large and heavy collar. It took a couple of weeks of giving him a treat after putting on the collar before walking with it turned off.
So we had him in the yard with the Flood Fence and it took exactly two tries to teach him to avoid that part. I started by throwing his favorite ball into the wet and soggy back part of the yard. Normally he would run for it. After a couple of tries with the collar on, he would get to the border and quickly turn around and run away from the “fence”.
Interestingly, the tones didn’t have much of an effect. With more training, I can probably get Biscuit to relate the tones and vibrations, but I need more time for that. Bottom line is that the fence works, though it’s not effective with our Pepper—at least not in the time I have with the collar. Real trainers will probably say I’m totally wrong and I’m okay with that.
One of the high points of the SpotOn GPS Fence collar is tracking. My wife walks Biscuit around the neighborhood every single day (she’s an exercise nut). With the collar on, I was able to track him via LTE cellular signal. SpotOn says that LTE is best for weak signal areas. Does it work? You bet. Not only could I track Biscuit (with my wife) in the neighborhood, I could even see what side of the street they were walking on.
It was easy to follow the trail as they walked. I saw that she walked around one of the blocks 4 times. Seeing the track they walked was as if digital breadcrumbs had been dropped every six seconds. It was quite interesting. If you suddenly can’t find your dog and think he or she is lost or just wandering the neighborhood, it’s nice to know you can follow their every step and find exactly where they are—and how they got there (once tracking is initiated).
Note that there are some downsides to the tracking capabilities of the SpotOn GPS Fence collar. Tracking will shorten battery life. That becomes less of a deal if the collar is always charging when not in use. Also, you can’t save tracking info. As soon as it’s deactivated, the existing track disappears. That’s too bad.
Then there’s the cost. Tracking is via cellular, so it’s an added cost via a cellular plan. As of this review, it costs $96 for one year or $143 for two years (monthly or payment in full). The collar uses either ATT or Verizon, but the carrier does not have to match your phone’s carrier. You don’t have to have tracking, but the collar is not as useful without it. You are encouraged to choose the carrier when purchasing the collar but you don’t need to pay to activate it until you decide.
What I like
- Works as advertised
- Creating a “fence” is easy
- Many fences can be created and swapped.
- Wonderful tracking ability—especially if the dog becomes lost
- Made in the USA
What I’d change
- Tracking requires an extra-cost cellular plan
- Large and heavy
SpotOn has a slogan that states, “Life is better unleashed”. I’m not sure I agree with that. Unless you are in a fenced backyard, an open area like a ranch or farm, or in the woods with no neighbors or other dogs around, I say use a leash at all times. If the SpotOn GPS Fence fails for whatever reason, you are legally responsible. We have been freaked out too many times by large dogs running full force at us with no leash. We don’t know if they are friendly or not or even if they have their own GPS fence or barrier that will stop them. Having said that, the SpotOn GPS Fence pet gadget can be invaluable for owners with large properties where a dog may want to wander. With SpotOn, you can let your dog explore while being assured they are safer. The SpotOn GPS Fence collar is expensive, but it could be cheap insurance if your four-legged family member is prone to wander off.