Tracking your pet with TrackR creates a false sense of security

It's spring time, which means we're all itching to get outside and enjoy the warm sun — and that goes double for your pets. Whether you try to keep close tabs on your pet or keep them fenced in your backyard, there's always a risk that your furry friend might make a break for it and go for a wander around the neighborhood.

Few moments are more nerve-wracking as when you realize your pet is lost.

Few moments are more nerve-wracking as when you realize your pet is lost. It was the fear of that moment that inspired me to test out using the TrackR Bravo as a means of keep tabs on my feisty feline — and assist me in tracking her down if she manages to get out.

TrackR produces a line of small and simple-to-use tracking devices that use Bluetooth and your smartphone using the TrackR app. It's slim enough to be tossed in a wallet or added to a keychain so that you can track down those vital items if you misplace them in your home.

What I found is that the TrackR technology certainly works for tracking pets, but not quite at the level was hoping it would.

Great in theory, flawed in practice

Setting up the TrackR in the Android app is easy. You're able to add and manage multiple trackers with labels for different items you may want to track — including pets!

So I went in, set up my tracker for my cat Shelley and then attached it to her harness. Given the slim size of the tracker, she barely noticed it was there which is great. It really does just look like any other dog tag, so we were off to a great start.

The TrackR Bravo's size makes it ideal for adding it to your pet's collar.

Once I was all set up, it was time to run my first tests. I threw the cat outside — and by that I mean I opened the back door as she darted between my legs — and went back to my office to work, with the TrackR app open at my side. From my window, I could still see my cat exploring the backyard, and could also see her location on my phone.

I did this same thing for a few days before it finally happened: I looked outside and Shelley was nowhere to be found. "Great," I thought, "now is the perfect time to really test the TrackR app."

So I loaded it up and… the cat and TrackR were out of range of my phone's Bluetooth radio. I was able to see her last tracked location, which was in my backyard about five minutes before I noticed she was missing, so I knew she couldn't have gone far. And lo and behold, when I opened the back gate, there she was waiting to be let back into the back yard. I found it took a bit of time for the app to reconnect with the TrackR again.

In the tracker settings, you're able to turn on features like "Device Separation Alert", which will have the TrackR alarm ring if you leave it behind — or in this case, when it walks out of range from your phone. But due to warnings of false alerts and increased battery consumption I left that feature off as it didn't seem like it would be effective for my needs.

Ideally, I was hoping the pet settings would include a feature that let me set an acceptable location range for the tracker, and if the app detects the TrackR has left that outlined parameters I get a warning alerting me that my cat is trying to make a break for it. Unfortunately, it seems like the pet icon is nothing more than a label, and the app treats a TrackR Bravo attached to your pet's collar the same way it would a set of keys.

It's better if we work together!

TrackR sporting some battle scars after Shelley's great escape.

All told, using the TrackR on my pet didn't work the way I expected it would, though my expectations were probably set a little too high going in. It does give me some added peace of mind, though, that if she does get out and lost I've got some technology to help track her down, and for that reason, I'm going to keep it on her collar going forward.

The crowdsourcing feature has the potential to be really useful — as long as TrackR beats out the competition.

This actually brings me to a key feature built into TrackR that will be really helpful if you plan to use their technology to track your pets — crowdsourcing. Like competitor Tile, TrackR relies on its users to create a sort of network of devices around your city or area to help pinpoint the location of its trackers. So let's say your dog runs away, but your neighbor down the block has the TrackR app on his or her phone. In theory, their phone will recognize your dog's TrackR and update its last known whereabouts in your app.

To this end, if you're planning on using a TrackR device to track your pet, your best bet may be to try and coordinate with other pet owners in your neighborhood to get them in on the plan with their own TrackRs, or at the very least have the app running on their phone. The more devices running the TrackR app, the better the odds of getting updated pings if your pet gets loose.

Beyond that, if you don't want your cat or dog to run away, common sense pet ownership still reigns supreme. Tie your cat up with a harness if you want to give them some unsupervised time outside, or better yet keep an eye on them yourself and enjoy some quality time outside.

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Marc Lagace

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.