GPS trackers give dog walkers peace of mind

GPS tracking devices are being used by a Calgary off-leash dog walking service to help them keep tabs on their clients.

Tracking devices make off-leash dogs easy to find

An off-leash dog in the Clever Canines program is equipped with a tracking device. (Tracie Nielson/Clever Canines)

A Calgary company that offers off-leash dog walking is using Global Positioning System technology to keep tabs on its clients. 

Clever Canines outfits its dogs with a harness that contains a small tracking device so they can offer a WalkAbout program, which is a mix of on and off-leash activity.  

Dog walkers take up to 10 dogs at a time, all trackable by GPS and cellphone tower frequencies. Walkers can keep track of their dogs on their smartphones, and the company's owners can do the same from the office. 

"It's easy. And it's so comforting," said co-founder Tracie Nielson. " I can sit at my desk and know exactly where the dogs are at anytime. I know where the walker is, where all the dogs are and I can even help if I needed to."

It might sound a bit odd at first, but the company's founders say it makes perfect sense. After a mutual friend spent two days trying to find his dog after losing it during a walk, they decided they wouldn't run a dog walking service without GPS.

Clever Canines offers a WalkAbout program, which is a mix of on- and off-leash activity. (Supplied by Tracie Nielson)

There is a variety of dog-tracking GPS products on the market, but many are made for hunting dogs, and some are quite bulky.

In its harnesses, Clever Canines uses the Garmin GTU 10, which is actually designed to track the whereabouts of fleet cars or loved ones on a long hike or bike ride. It's light, waterproof and small enough to fit in a zippered pouch in the dog's harness, hanging under their necks and just out of the dog's reach. 

Co-founder Joe Scorgie says the devices are especially useful for dogs new to the program and ones who aren't as well-trained.

"We had a new dog in the group and we wanted to try her off-leash. So she had her harness on with her GPS, and when [she] did go off-leash, she found another group of dogs other than our own and went off and played those dogs," he said.

"So with the GPS, we can locate exactly where this dog was, walk straight over there, put her back on leash and continue with our walk. And that whole thing took five minutes, where in the past it would take 45 minutes to an hour."

Scorgie doesn't expect GPS technology to become commonplace among dog walkers anytime soon. At $199 US a pop plus the $50 data subscription, it's not something all dog walkers can afford. But Scorgie says the peace of mind is priceless.

"As a business owner, the last thing I want to do is call a client and say, 'Sorry, even though you trusted us with your dog, we don't know where he is. Can you come and help us?'...And this, as a business owner — this lets me sleep at night."

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