You're in the backcountry, your dog is running far and wide (in compliance with local regulations, of course), and you don't have cell coverage. There are many variables that can impact your trek and adventure.
The majority of your trips if not all will be seamless and enjoyable, but it only takes one time going sideways to create a sticky situation. And heaven forbid if your dog gets hurt and is out of your line of sight, you will be reliant on a whimper or bark to locate them if that's even possible. If they are not close, the situation can get sticky quickly.
Many of my blogs are about preparedness and this is no different. The Boy Scout in me really feels that we have an obligation to ensure that I am responsible to the land around us and people (and 4-legged friends) that join us. If you think I am being melodramatic, I would encourage you to watch or maybe not watch Missing 411: The Hunted and the two other Missing 411 documentaries to go along with it. A bit extreme, but it's enough to think about safety and a safety net.
Garmin Device for Both Yourself and Dog
First, I understand that these products are expensive. And sometimes it's not possible to shell out a few hundred dollars for a nice to have, but if you have the means or are able to get the devices used from eBay, we believe that they are worth the extra cost.
We're a Garmin household. Through and through, we believe in their product lineup because of its durability, battery life, and functionality. And let's be clear, I am not sponsored by Garmin, nor have I been provided any products (however, <wink, wink> Garmin, if you're reading this).
I've written a few articles that talk about the Garmin product line and how we use it. We firmly believe that this device is a must-have for backcountry and hiking treks regardless of the dog tracking capability. It's an insurance policy for your safety: to prevent getting lost, allow you to communicate (if you have the InReach capability), and provide a GPS fingerprint.
If You Have the Device, Why Not Enable It
So if you're going to have a device that is strapped to your hip as that GPS footprint when you're outdoors, why not spend the extra money to equip your dog with the same capability. After all, they are family.
If you look at all the options for Garmin that are available, you'd typically find at stores like your local REI the Garmin GPSMAP which runs about $399 to 599 depending on the device.
From the Garmin website > Outdoor Recreation > Hiking GPS | Handheld GPS for Hikers | Garmin
The InReach Satellite Communications capability for the general handheld devices will cost you around $449 to $599.
Sporting Dog Handhelds
If you instead look at the Outdoor Recreation > Sporting Dogs > GPS Dog Collar | Dog Tracker | Dog Bark Collar | Garmin, you'll find the lineup of handheld and collars.
For the option for Dog Tracking, it will cost you around $399 to $699 for the collar plus the $249 to $299 for the collar. The Alpha 200i with the TT15 Collar bundle cost about $999 which includes the InReach Satellite Communicator. If you go with the Alpha 10 with the TT15 collar, you'll be set back around $699 for the devices.
*Although the Alpha 10 does not have the InReach Satellite Communicator capability.
Cost Difference Between Hiking v. Sporting Dog Handhelds
The handheld difference between devices with InReach Satellite Communicator capability will run $449 to $599 for the hiking device and $999 for the Sporting Dog tracking with Satellite Communicator capability. You're paying roughly $400 extra for the capability to track your dog when on an adventure.
But let's remember the benefits of having a GPS collar strapped to your dog:
Activity and Distance Tracking including when the dog stops. The sporting dog device will notify you if your dog is 'treed' or 'on-point' which is not really needed when hiking ... HOWEVER it is good to know when the dog is 'treed' because that indicates that they have chased something up a tree and we might want to keep our ears peeled.
Real-time GPS Location of your dog on the map, seeing exactly where they are and how far away from you they are.
GPS Location of your vehicle. When you 'Start a Hunt' at the beginning of your hike, yeah the language is off a little ... we're not hunting, but it allows you to mark your vehicle location.
And of course, Satellite Communication capabilities to text message functionality when off-the-grid and SOS for Search and Recovery assistance.
For us, having the capability to track the dog, know exactly where they are in reference to us, know when they have chased something up a tree, GPS location of your vehicle, and communicator capabilities is an awful lot of functionality for that price premium.
If you find you're outside with your dog frequently and spend quite a bit of time giving the dog freedom and liberty to run (where laws allow), the Garmin Sporting Dog devices might be for you.
We hope this is helpful and happy hiking!