First time ecollar question

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First time ecollar question

Postby dgkula » Wed Nov 18, 2020 9:05 am

Hi,

I have a 4.5 month old GWP and would like to get a collar for her. I live in MA and she does get out there while hunting to the point where I cant hear her bell in thick cover. I'm using a little jingle bell from New England Bells and am going to get a larger bell (Sunkhaze medium nickle) so I can hear her better as she gets further out.

I'm torn between the Garmin 550 pro plus and the Dogtra 2700 T&B. A LOT of people on forums have tracking capability as a "just in case" and there are stories of dogs running off for hours and in some cases days that seem to cause people to buy these tracking devices. In my limited experience, my biggest problem is likely to be finding her when she is on point - but thats going to be within 100 - 200 yards so a GPS seems like overkill and I am thinking that the locate button on the T&B should do it. It doesnt sound fun to have to use the Garmin handheld (or an add-on Garmin watch) to locate the dog, looking down at something versus looking where I'm going listening for the locate tone.

But then I come back to these stories about dogs that would have been lost without the ability to find them 3 miles away with a GPS. Is this really likely? Did people lose dogs all the time pre-GPS?

Anyone have any feedback?

Thanks!
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby Densa44 » Wed Nov 18, 2020 10:50 am

Hi David, welcome. There are people here that know a lot more than I do, so please keep that in mind. I wouldn't put a bell on a dog or an e-collar on a puppy. Secondly my dogs work with no collar. The reason is I don't want them getting hung up somewhere where I can't help, but I'm old and you're not so that may not apply.

If the dog will come when called (a great use of an electric collar) you don't really have a problem.

I'd recommend that you join a club or find a way to get some help from a more experienced handler before you put an e-collar on your dog. Remember that you can't put that drive and enthusiasm back in if you take it out.

There are some experts here and if they live near you they can cut years off of your learning curve and perhaps save your first dog. Welcome to the addiction.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby ryanr » Wed Nov 18, 2020 1:52 pm

I don't think you'll regret getting a GPS collar and I have the 550 Plus and it's worth it. E-collar and GPS in one easy package and I think you'll find you enjoy hunting without the bell a lot- I know I do.

I'll give you a little story of my younger GWP. As a pup she was good about coming when called and generally stayed close. She was about 8 months old and we were at a vast, rugged State Gamelands looking for spring woodcock. We were finding lots of them, along with my older dog. She was exploring and using her nose when she crossed a tiny stream and up into a young stand of beech. I'm thinking she's smelling a grouse and let her explore a bit. A minute or two later I call her and nothing. Wait a second, call her again, louder this time. Nothing. Hmm, this is a dog that up until now does not take off or wander. She's so good I haven't even collar conditioned her yet. Exact opposite of my older dog. We cross and go looking for her and still nothing after 20 minutes of calling her. Now I'm really worried. I put my coat down near where I saw her last and continue searching. It's been almost and hour and now it starts snowing and I'm getting cold. I decide to hike the mile back to the truck and grab another coat. Just as we're getting back to the truck, this little, wet wirehair comes bounding along behind us happy as a clam. I collapse to my knees, hugging her and practically with tears of joy and relief. After that I put the GPS collar on her instead of the older one (only reason I hadn't done do before was I was afraid I'd accidentally use the e-collar function on her. A week later she had 3 deer take off in front of her and she was off to the races and was quickly out over 900 yards in the middle of a thick forest of laurels and pines. Still not fully collar condition but at least I knew exactly what direction to head. She actually tracked herself right back to me. Eventually your GWPs prey drive and desire to hunt is likely going to override the desire to stay close. Get the collar and have some peace of mind. (And yes, I collar conditioned her immediately after that, ;) )
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Nov 18, 2020 5:24 pm

Howdy,

I am a GWP guy for closing in on 40 years now and a Garmin guy for about the same.

Using a 550+ and Instinct watch currently and like em both. Would buy them both again. I still have a 550 and use it for training because I don't have to wait for the GPS connection but the 550+ has near identical training capabilities once it is up and running. The 550 operates better in the house.

I have raised my last two GWP pups using the Garmin GPS and it has in a word been, Excellent. I use the mini collars so my pups can wear them at an early age and it has allowed me to let them explore in cover and learn with minimal interference from me while doing it. I hunt cover a lot and rely heavily on the GPS point location feature guiding me to my dogs.

I will never be without it.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby Dmog » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:36 pm

I do not have experience in the forest hunting grouse, woodcock and such. The bell just would be too much noise for me. I currently use a Garmin Pro 550 plus with tt15 mini's on both my dogs paired with a Garmin Fenix 5. I am very happy with this set up and an improvement over the Dogtra pathfinder I ran for 2.5 years. You can loose your dog pretty easily in the trees, corn, sorghum, grass, and brush. I have had a few tense moments before GPS on very windy days when a dog gets out of voice range. I notice my tone recall lets them know to recall but they have to find you which they typically do once they circle down wind of you. The Dogtra had more range to potentally find a lost/injured dog but the Garmin with the watch lets you keep tabs easily and avoid that scenario.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Nov 20, 2020 2:27 pm

Personally, I'd go with the new Alpha 200i. They have redesigned the training buttons, you get dog location either of two ways and it has mapping GPS. It seems to answer all of the problems of the 550+ and the Alpha. Take a look anyhow.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby reader4 » Sat Nov 28, 2020 6:37 pm

You've already got good advice here. I was in your same boat a few months ago and I'll chime in with my experience so far. I went with the 550+ and TT-15 Mini. I haven't used the new Alpha. I am always carrying my phone and the 550+ syncs automatically with Garmin Explore so I can use that for mapping and tracking dog location if I want. Actually, the best use of this was when I dropped the transmitter without realizing it -- I could see it's last location on Garmin Explore. A lost cause turned into a 10-minute walk right to the spot!

The middle of a young aspen/alder stand is a hard place to see or hear, especially if it's wet or windy, and pups have to spend time learning how to range appropriately for the conditions. I have stories just like ryanr ... During an early hunt when the collar was in for repair my 6 mo pup suddenly wasn't there. It was rainy, windy and thick. Just like ryanr, I spent the better part of 45min looking before deciding to circle back to the car where I found the pup hopping along out of the woods - evidently he'd found a deer to chase. I got the collar back a couple days later and a similar situation happened on the next hunt. I watched him get a half mile out before he started to track back. I could intercept his path by watching the map so it didn't turn into a 3 mile hike. Since then he's been conditioned to recall and I introduced the tone for so it's much easier to manage.

I also hated monitoring the transmitter when I first got it. That was a "me" problem. I wanted to keep him within a good range and check his chasing habits. Since he was young it would have been better to just walk along while someone else shot but I didn't have that option. Couple months later and I almost never have to think about the GPS. It's there if I need but not a central part of the experience.

I also log my hunts and having the GPS helps me track where and when things happened. I could do that with any app, but I'm already getting it from the collar. Nothing extra to think about.

EDIT: One other reason I like having GPS is the presence of wolves. In our state, almost no gundogs (if any) have been killed by wolves while hunting -- generally it's only hounds -- and one key reason seems to be greater proximity to us humans compared to far-ranging hounds. Being sure my dog isn't that far away gives me some extra measure of comfort since our grouse woods overlap almost perfectly with our wolf populations.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby Dakotazeb » Sun Nov 29, 2020 11:09 am

I'm not going to advise you on when and how to use an e-collar. But I can give you some first hand advice on which collar to get. I ran a Dogtra T&B on my Brittanys for several years. They worked flawlessly. However, as my hearing started to go I couldn't hear the beeper very far away. Also, on windy days it was difficult to hear the collar. Three years ago I bought a Garmin Alpha with the Mini TT15 collar. But now that Garmin has come out with the 550+ I wish I had that unit. The Alpha works just fine but has way more features that I'll ever use or learn to use. My advice is to buy the Garmin 550+. You should never have to worry about losing your dog with a GPS collar. Great piece of mind.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby Attidog » Tue Dec 01, 2020 1:55 pm

I agree with all above. But will this also, you're pup is 4.5 months old now and stays close, mine did too. But you don't know when that independence will come out and at how old. I also didn't think I need a GPS and didn't want a bell either. My JGHV bred longhair was a very close worker as a pup - just as she was bred to be - constantly checking in and still does. She was about about 6 months old when I had her out hunting pheasant and we bumped a deer - I saw it - she was within about 20 yards of me one minute and then gone the next - 20 minutes before dark in 6,000 acres of densely brushed parcel. Her recall was always excellent and was trained to recall on whistle but I called for about 15 minutes for nothing.

Decided I needed to get supplies for a possible overnight search so left to go back about a mile to truck. I left jacket about 100 yards from where I last saw her like I remembered reading - it worked! Came back about two hours later and she heard my whistle about 100 yards from the jacket - she had nicked her ear on a thorn and was bleeding horribly so I could see definitely that she had found and was on my jacket cause it had plenty of blood on it.

I got the Alpha a couple weeks later and it gave me piece of mind when she again chased a deer 2+ hrs from home a couple weeks later - again about 10,000 acres. But at least I could see that she started coming back from 800+ yards out and what direction she was in to go get her.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Tue Dec 15, 2020 10:36 am

"A bell quits when you need it the most". Old dog trainers saying. Get a Garmin Alpha 200i and be done with it. At some point in time it MAY save both your dog's life and yours. I had that happen last October.

Your pup is only a baby now. As it grows older it'll develop more independence and go farther. Bet on it.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Sat Dec 19, 2020 2:17 pm

I have an ecollar on the dog every time I train and only need the GPS function while hunting, which is why I use the small Garmin sport collar for training (small, wear around neck or in palm of hand) and the Garmin Alpha for hunting. I don't like the menus on the Garmin but it's small and I've figured out what I need and how to get it. Granted, a collar/GPS combo is one unit but also costs a lot more than a single function unit, and when something stops working you're not out both units. Granted, my dogs have to wear both receivers but they never complain.

As far as bells go I use the small swiss bell made by Scott and obtained from Gun Dog Supply ($5). There you can hear any number of bells' sounds. I like the swiss one because it is low tone and has no sharpness to it. I live on a farm around large animals who want to hear where the dogs are and not have them sneaking up behind them which spooks the stock. Our four dogs have these bells on 24/7 around and in the house and are never an annoyance. For my hunting (sagebrush, canyons, etc.) often I can't see the dogs and I can keep track without having to rely on the GPS. Depending on the wind you can hear where your dog is from long distances. If you're hunting a couple or more dogs it's a real pain to always to be having to check the GPS. I have to check it often enough and without the bells it would be intolerable.

I understand the bells are annoyance to other hunters so hunt by yourself. I've never felt game was disturbed by the bells. I've lost dogs in fog and darkness and other abnormal conditions and it's very comforting to know you can hear your dog or find it on the GPS regardless.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby JONOV » Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:26 am

I use a bell and a GPS in the woods. It's nice when the dog is close but out of sight when it goes silent. The on-Point or stopped indicators on electronics aren't sufficient IMO, if you don't want to be glued to the screen.
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Re: First time ecollar question

Postby dgkula » Thu Jun 10, 2021 10:36 am

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Bought a 550 pro plus and TT mini collar and it is just perfect.
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