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Link Activity and Location Tracker Review

Link is a tracker module that you can attach to any collar or harness to track your dog's location and activity. It's worth mentioning that the company also had two previous products called Link AKC and Link Plus, which came integrated into a collar, so keep an eye on which product you are reading a review on because all these tend to be called “Link tracker” in different articles. The one we tested is their latest design that came out in 2021.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Subscription Plan

You need to have a subscription plan to use the tracker. They offer monthly, annual and biennial plans that you can check out here. The tracker is only supported in the US and uses Verizon. You can use this map to check the cell coverage in your area.

Location Tracking

Link tracks the dog's location by utilizing GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Cellular technology. This basically means that it uses GPS to determine the location (needs clear sight of the sky), but it will not transmit the location to your phone without cell coverage. Since it uses a cellular network, it doesn't have a range; it works from anywhere as long as your phone and the tracker have cellular coverage.

The Link can piggyback on your phone's Bluetooth or your Wi-Fi when nearby to preserve battery life. You can also add the tracker to the so-called “Puck”, a portable Bluetooth bacon that can also be used to mark a safe radius when the tracker is within reach. The Puck works from a battery for up to two years, so it's ideal for back-country trips.

Adventures

You can start a so-called “Adventure” when you are on a walk or hike. This records the pet's track and allows you to name the adventure, add photos, and have a quick snapshot of the time and distance. It even marks on the map where you took photos!

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Past Adventures are stored under one tab, so you can quickly scroll through your memories and favorite trails.

“Track my Dog” Mode when the Dog is Away

If your dog is lost, you can start tracking them in the app. It shows the dog's last known location with a paw print and should update the location in a few minutes. If you leave this screen or turn the screen off, the tracking turns off as well.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Safe Zones

You can set up safe zones and be notified when the dog leaves them. The website mentions that you can set up temporary safe zones while, for example, at a park, but this functionality wasn't available on my phone. I was able to drop down a pin somewhere but not to set up a zone.

I created a home location based on the Wi-Fi reach, so it is not a physical location boundary, but the dog is Home as long as the tracker is connected to the Wi-Fi. I also set another one around the portable Puck, which I assume marks the dog “safe” as long as a Bluetooth connection is established between them. The Puck can be very helpful for RVers or others being away from places with Wi-Fi.

Fitness

You can set custom exercise goals (daily active minutes) and see how your dog progresses towards it during the day. The tracker logs in moderate and intense activities with an accelerometer. They also use machine learning to learn movement patterns from each dog, so tracking data should get more accurate the longer it's worn.

You can easily see historical data on activities by swiping through days or checking them in a monthly view, where the app also shows you the current streak, how many days you achieved the goal in this month, and your longest streak.

The dashboard on the home page gives you an excellent snapshot of the active minutes, steps, number of adventures, and miles. However, these are only updated hourly, so it might take time to see the latest information.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Training

The tracker also has training functionalities that you can associate with different behaviors for better control from a distance. The module has a tone and a vibration function that you can start from the app and can teach the dog to come back when hearing/feeling it. The vibration can especially benefit deaf dogs or older dogs losing their hearing.

To clarify, the vibration feels like a weak phone buzz; it is not a shock collar by any means.

The Tracker Unit

The device itself weighs only 1.1 oz (31 gr), while its dimensions are 2.25” x 1.4” x .8”, which is not a small unit even on a medium dog, like Mia. The tracker comes only in one color, but it can be customized with different wraps. You can easily add and replace these stickers when you want a different design.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

It is impact-resistant and water-resistant up to 3 feet. I like that it has a universal micro USB charger, so there is no need to have one more unique charger or charging station at home.

Battery life

The battery life depends on how you use it and how good the coverage is in your area. They claim that battery life is up to 20 days with “normal” use, while it should last for 36 hours with Live GPS on. (More on this later)

LED Light

There is a LED light on the collar that is pretty bright. It is bright enough to make the dog highly visible at night, even if the tracker is facing away from you.

The App

The app is compatible with iOS 11.0+ and Android 7.0+. The UI is easy to navigate, looks nice, and provides easy-to-read summary data on different screens.

Temperature Alerts

The Link senses the temperature of the dog's environment and can send you notifications if it's too hot or too cold. You can set the corresponding temperatures for the alerts within a reasonable limit to customize the alerts.

Vet Records

You can store vet records under the dog's profile. This basically lets you enter when they get a vaccine, set expiration dates, and take photos of important documents to store. In addition, you can set reminders to stay on top of their next appointments.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

The Link tracker has great potential to be an outstanding product on the market. It offers all functionalities that one might want from a location tracker and even more - like the temperature alert, which is a unique feature not supported by any other trackers we have reviewed so far. However, the product, the app, and the online help center (FAQ, information, etc.) are still a little rough around the edges, making the user experience somewhat frustrating when setting up the tracker.

It is called a GPS tracker, but both the tracker and the app itself need cellular coverage to communicate. The app doesn't even start if the phone doesn't have cell coverage, so there is no way to check even the dog's last known location. Many other trackers store some information from the accelerometer in the device even when not connected to a phone and send it over when the tracker is back on the network. Unfortunately, the Link tracker doesn't seem to save anything, so if you hike in spotty areas, you easily end up with 0 active minutes at the end of the day.

We had an ongoing problem with the active minutes in general, and the tracker only managed to correctly log in distance and minutes maybe 5% of the time even though we live in the suburbs where the coverage should be acceptable. I never expect a tracker to be 100% correct, but there were days when nothing got logged in even when we walked in the neighborhood, while it logged in part of the same route the next day. I also tried “forcing it” to record activities by starting an Adventure for every walk. It logged in our adventure perfectly and showed the exact path of Mia for our hour-long walk; still, we ended up with half the distance on the dashboard and maybe 15 Active minutes. This is only frustrating because the UI is built around motivating you to hit daily goals, showing streaks, and based on the app, we only managed to hit the goal maybe two or three times over three months which is very demotivating.

I also tried using the Link to track Mia while she was with a friend for a few days. I brought over and set up the Puck, but it never logged in a single step during her stay, even though the cell coverage should have been sufficient (not great but existent) in their neighborhood.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

It is also tough to troubleshoot anything or figure out how something is calculated on the backend since there isn't much information available online. There is also conflicting information even on the website's various pages; for example, one page says it has a 3-axis accelerometer while it is 6-axis on the other.

Just to bring a troubleshooting example: you can only add the tracker to the Wi-Fi if you first reboot it (charge it for 30 seconds and then unplug it) and open the app immediately after that and check if it says “XY dog is with you” as a status. The server won't save information unless connected in this state, and the list of WiFis only auto-populates with nearby devices in this rebooting phase. This is not mentioned anywhere on the website, in the app, or in the quick start guides, so there is no way to figure it out unless you message their customer support, who were super helpful in answering all my questions. Running into problems like this can make the user experience frustrating.

Our typical use of the tracker was 3-4 neighborhood walks a day, averaging around 60-120 minutes/ day. Mia is not wearing a collar at home, so the tracker sits right by the Puck when not outdoors. This use case should give us 10-14 days battery life, but it was more like 4-5 days in general. This might be caused by connectivity issues draining it more, as we mentioned the problems with the Active minutes. However, the battery should still work for five days when the tracker is used away from home, purely on the cell network, so it is still underperforming any expected battery times.

Another concern is that I ran into Mia being “disconnected” next to me multiple times during the whole walk. Being stuck in the “disconnected” state can be a problem since GPS tracking is not available during this time, but it also means that, e.g., you cannot turn on the light on the collar even though the dog is standing next to you.

Some of these situations were only resolved by charging the tracker once I realized that it had already powered down. Unfortunately, once the tracker disconnects for some reason, it doesn't notify you that the battery is running low, it still shows a suitable charge in the app even when it is turned off.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

The way the tracker handles safe areas is probably a weakness that would be important to many people. I assume they will come out with the ability to set up virtually fenced areas anywhere since this is something that all their competitors offer. The tracker sends you notifications that “Mia is away” and “Mia is at Home,” when disconnecting from the Puck/Wi-Fi. Still, half of these were usually false alerts, meaning if the tracker sat by the Puck at home all day, I would still get messages that Mia was Away.

Besides running into these problems, the features that impressed me were the super-accurate location tracking while saving it as an adventure and the temperature alerts.

I used the Adventure functionality to track Mia's search tasks and compare the tracks to a high-end GPS tracker, and it performed surprisingly well! Although I couldn't find information on this, it seems it updates the location every 2-3 seconds, and it did an outstanding job showing Mia's exact track and location. I assume the Adventures are using the phone's Bluetooth because it can only be started when the dog is next to you, which is probably why they have different functionality and tab for tracking a lost dog.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

The temperature alerts are super helpful in giving me peace of mind when Mia is home alone or needs to wait in the car during training. However, the measurements can be a little misleading because the tracker tends to rotate the collar and be under the dog's neck, so it's tucked in nicely when they sleep. Once I got an alert that Mia was too hot while sleeping curled up in the car on a cold winter day.

Another smooth feature is that the app can handle multiple dogs; you can easily toggle between them with a drop-down on the main page. They are planning to release support for multiple users to give access to family members or dog walkers, but this was not supported yet when writing this review.

Functionality review

It should be once they fix the tracking problems and it becomes more reliable. The lost dog tracking worked okay; however, it updated relatively slowly and only showed one location, not a live track.

None of the trackers we tested so far worked in every situation we tried them, which is why we keep repeating that all these solutions are still only a backup for emergencies. You will get your dog's location more or less accurately in 90% of the cases (with some lag) if you live in an area with good cell coverage, making a big difference in finding your dog. Since the battery time is only a few days when the dog is away, you also have to keep in mind to regularly charge it to ensure it has sufficient battery life for starting live tracking in case your dog runs away.

If you can start an Adventure, it will accurately show your dog's track as long as you have a good cell network.

The Link should be great to track activity levels and quickly see the trends over time once the inaccuracies are fixed, and it logs in the data more accurately.

The accelerometer should do a good job estimating the activities even when the dog is indoors. Still, it's either not working correctly or not sending over the data to the phone at the moment. It would be nice to have information on how Activity minutes are calculated, what triggers active minutes, how the accelerometer measurements are adjusted to breeds/dog weight etc.

You should be able to use Link for remote monitoring from work or even from another continent. Setting up the Puck wherever the dog spends more time is a great addition if the dog regularly spends time somewhere else.

Remote tracking with Link works flawlessly for many people, but it didn't work for us, which again is something that I am sure they will fix shortly.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Using a tracker to keep the dog safe

We can't push enough that connectivity and the coverage can be spotty or interrupted by the environment and can cause problems outside of the tracker's responsibility. The technology also relies closely on your phone, providing accurate location - which is better for some phones and worse for others.

Having a tracker on the dog is a good backup and can be a life-saver in emergencies, but any electronics can and will have blind spots. We see many people getting lazy with recall training or keeping an eye on the dog because they have a tracker. Please don't expect a smart collar to keep your dog safe because only you can do that. Knowing their location or getting a notification that they left the safe zone will not keep them from being run over by a car before you get there.

To summarize, Link has the potential to become an outstanding tracker once it works more reliably because it has some very promising features. We have to keep in mind that this is still a new product, and it feels they went to market before they were fully prepared to do so. The tracker has already improved a lot over the months we used it, and many bugs are fixed, so I am sure they are working hard to smoothen out all the features and create a more reliable tracker.

I am looking forward to checking back on the Link tracker later because the features that worked smoothly were all on spot. Their UI is simple and easy to follow. The tracker itself is a robust module that handles running through the forests without any complaints, and the Wraps are a nice final touch to customize the look of the tracker and switch it up from time to time.

Link Activity and Location Tracker Review | Dog Gear Review

Where to buy

You can buy the Link tracker accessories and choose a subscription on their website and can also find it on Amazon.

Disclaimer: this review contains an Amazon affiliate link, which supports Dog Gear Review if you purchase the product after clicking on it without costing you anything extra. Using affiliate links will never compromise us writing unbiased, honest reviews!

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