GPS Dog Tracking 101

GPS Dog Tracking 101

OK, so I promised to post about what I had come up with to track Holly’s track vs. mine when we’re out hiking (this all started because I’ve always maintained that a dog covers twice the distance her human does when on an off-leash walk).

After my partial success trying to use the GPS in my G1 phone for me (it just couldn’t get a lock under any kind of tree cover), and my trusty Garmin eTrex Venture HC for Holly (worked perfectly as it always does) I kept my eyes open for another cheap, simple, but efficient GPS device I could use either for myself or for Holly. I finally realised that it didn’t need to be a full hand-held GPS like the eTrex with a screen and maps and trip computers and the like- it just needed an efficient GPS chip that could get and hold a lock in most conditions and a way to record a track. Turns out that they make devices just like this- and they call them “GPS Data Loggers” and they’re sold mostly for use by photographers to geotag their pictures (if you remember I experimented with this using my eTrex a while ago).

So after much searching I settled on an AMOD AGL3080, a very neat little device about 3 inches long with no display other than three LED indicators and just 2 buttons that has been very well reviewed. And as an added bonus it is completely driverless- even on my Linux box! (this means it just shows up like a USB stick when you plug it in- even my eTrex needs proprietary software on Windows and quite a lot of fiddling on Linux to get the tracks off it- but this just shows up and the track files are right there- brilliant!). And I can add my own glowing recommendation for it- when I used it earlier today the conditions couldn’t have been much worse- thick clouds, thunder and lightning, wet trees with the leaves starting to come back in- and it locked onto a fix within 30 seconds and didn’t lose it once.

Anyhow, once I got this little wonder (which will be incredibly useful for the purpose it’s actually sold for as well- it will definitely find a home in my camera bag when it’s not tracking the movements of a small border-collie mix), I realised that Holly didn’t need to be carrying a full backpack just to carry this thing that weighs all of 2 oz (although we will keep using the backpack sometimes to give her more of a workout). So I looked around and found that the same company (Ruff Wear) that made her backpack (and her collar I’ve just realised) make a harness that is essentially the backpack without the packs, and after a bit of a look around I managed to get one (last years model, just like the backpack) on a fantastic website called GearTrade for $4.99! GearTrade is a place where people buy and sell used hiking and outdoor gear, and it turned out the harness was being sold by an outdoor store who I guess had had it returned (it had some dog hair on it when it arrived, but is in perfect shape). I got a $3 mini digital camera bag from Staples that fit the AMOD perfectly and attached it to the harness so it sits just between Holly’s shoulders and we were all set. That’s Holly modeling it above.

So, this afternoon we set of for Saxon Woods in the torrential rain to try it all out. Holly is just as comfortable in the harness as she is in the backpack- it doesn’t seem to slow her down at all, and with the AMOD wrapped in a plastic baggie against the rain and snug in it’s case on her back she had a lovely time chasing through the woods. I had my eTrex on my belt, which performed perfectly as usual, and which I always like to have with me anyway when we go hiking in an area we’re unfamiliar with (as we did by going north of our usual loop because of the rain) as I always mark the position of the truck before we set off so I always know where it is and how far we are from it. Our walk was shorter than usual because of the rain, but you couldn’t have asked for better conditions to test all of this set-up- and as you will see from the previous post, it worked perfectly. The only thing I have realised is that I need better rain gear for these little jaunts, I think I’ll go see if there’s anything on GearTrade….

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