“An invaluable tool in the field, the Alpha 100 helps you achieve optimum performance from your sporting dogs. It combines proven Garmin GPS dog tracking with Tri-Tronics® electronic dog training technology. This easy-to-use integrated handheld system allows you to track and train your dogs in the field.” – Garmin
I have been frustrated with tracking collars for a very long time. I feel like I have to own and run several different collars at once to get what I want. I like to carry the fewest extra things possible with me on a trips I have been bouncing back and forth between tracking and training collars for a long time. For the last couple of seasons I have settled on the Dogtra Pathfinder for my needs (click above for a review of that system). It runs off of your phone, which I already carry, and that makes things quite simple for me. Overall I have been pretty happy with it, for training I have found it pretty useless but I have a Garmin Sport PRO that I use for training so it has never really bothered me (click bold lettering for a review of that system).
I have been frustrated with training collars and tracking collars for a very long time
Now for the nitty gritty. Despite how much I liked the Dogtra Pathfinder, its always bugged me how much of a pain in the neck it is to work the stimulation. Its an easy screen, but I have to take my phone out of my pocket, unlock the screen, select the dog, and then deliver the shock. In my opinion, by the time I do all of that it’s too late to effectively deliver a correction.
I have always wanted a system that both tracks and trains well without being too complicated. I originally used a Garmin Alpha before I switched to the Dogtra Pathfinder but I found it had way more than I needed and I wanted something a little more simple. Now with several years under my belt of using different collars I know exactly what I am looking for.
The Dogtra Pathfinder is no longer fitting the bill. After a couple seasons of use I now know that the Garmin Alpha is the way to go. Not only do you get powerful tracking, you also get easy to use stimulation with the built in raised buttons on the transmitter. The mapping features are also greatly overpowered compared to the Dogtra Pathfinder. Garmin has been leading the way with the consumer GPS market for long time and there is no reason to believe that after their acquisition of Tri-Tronics that they wouldn’t dominate the dog tracking market, and they have.
“Garmin has been leading the way with the consumer GPS market for long time“
I want to preface this review by stating that I have owned a Garmin Alpha in the past and got rid of it because I thought that the Dogtra Pathfinder would be a good replacement. I love the mapping features using ONX on my phone and it seemed like a good way to cut out carrying a transmitter since I was already carrying my phone. I was wrong.
The Garmin Alpha is an incredible tracking tool. When it comes to dog collars, if you have never owned a tracking collar you do not know what you’re missing. But let’s dive into the details.
“The Garmin Alpha is an incredible tracking tool”
The Garmin Alpha handheld for the most part looks like a standard handheld GPS unit. The main difference you will notice from handheld GPS units of the past is that it has a touch screen and three buttons across the top of the face. Its slightly heavy for a E-Collar transmitter but that’s easy to get over. For me it was a bit of a barrier because I have liked to hang my transmitter around my neck, this would be pretty cumbersome so if you’re a lanyard person and you want an Alpha, you’ll have to get used to carrying it a different way.
The transmitter is compatible with both the TT15 collar and the TT15 Mini collar if you have smaller or larger dogs. Personally I have smaller dogs so I use the mini collars and I haven’t found myself hampered with battery life. The only difference you will notice between the regular and the mini is that the mini is lighter and has a slightly shorter battery life. On multi-day trips if you don’t have access to charging this could be an issue. The collars are compatible with and function well with the Garmin PRO 550 Plus, The Garmin Fenix Watches, The Garmin Instinct Watches, and the The Garmin DriveTrack System. The collars are pretty basic E-collars at first glance, other than the fact that they have a whip antenna for the GPS function, I have never seen a dog who couldn’t get used to it in five minutes. They have tone, vibrate, stimulations, and a running light that all can be used from the transmitter.
“A system that is very quick and responsive for stimulation and also very quick for tracking functions.”
Now for the cool features, it would take me pages to talk about them so Im going to list them instead.
- Top mounted high sensitivity GPS / GLONASS receiver for increased signal reception
- VIRB CONTROL on the TT15 collar lets you start or stop VIRB video recording with the Alpha handheld (VIRB camera not included)
- Track Alpha TT15 and TT10 collars PLUS the new Astro T5 Collars
- 1 year FREE subscription to BirdsEye satellite imagery
- EMERGENCY ALERT lets you send your location and an emergency alert message to other Alpha users in the area
- Track and train your dog on the same screen from a single handheld unit.
- One handheld + one collar = less clutter and things to charge.
- Track your friends’ handhelds.
- Know when your dog is out of gun range.
- Know when your dog is running too big BEFORE your dog gets too far out.
- Know BEFORE your dog leaves the property OR gets too close to a highway.
- Know when your dog is on point (Pointing Alerts)
- Rechargeable batteries that have a long run time and charge quickly
- 3-buttons instantly selectable at the transmitter
- 18 levels of continuous/momentary STIM
- Audio Tone
- COMPASS Screen shows you dogs, direction, distance, speed
- MAP Screen shows your dogs with a trail on the TOPO MAP
- Free, pre-loaded TOPO Map. Not just major roads and waterways, but smaller roads, creeks, and streams, too. ($100 value)
- RESCUE MODE and Longer Battery Life means No More Lost Dogs
- 2.5 Second Update Rate means: you’ll know twice as fast when your dog is in birds or treed
- Expandable to 20 dogs.
- A touch screen replaces multi-dog toggle switches and intensity dials
- Customizable — set multiple specific stim types and levels for each dog
- Access custom settings immediately, easier and faster than manual controls
- Bright orange tough handheld. Feels good in your hand.
- Fully rubberized outer coating with an over molding
- Improved lanyard attachment
- Battery cap w/ Garmin “backbone” design
- Includes additional 13″ Long Range Flex Antenna – Double the range of the standard antenna
- 3-axis compass
- New Dog Set Up Menu / Universal dog settings including Update Rates and Dog types
- Dog Alerts: Tone-only, Vibration-only or Tone and Vibration
- GeoFence & Radius Alerts
- Dog Trails: Choose from three views: Complete History, Partial History, or no Trail History
- Map Screen option: Show / Hide Dog Status, Distance, Names, and Offscreen Dogs
- Zoom to MAP DOGS – automatically have all dogs appear on our map screen — no matter how far they are from you
- Power Button control screen – including button lock feature
- Wireless sharing of Dog info to other ALPHA handheld units
From a training perspective, I don’t love it. You still have to pair the collar to the transmitter and its not always lightning fast. The transmitter is also large and ungainly and you have to activate the screen, which will go to sleep after a short time if you want to switch dogs. It works well in the woods with one dog but its a little slow in the yard or anytime you’re working with multiple dogs.
Where the system really shines is its pure tracking abilities. You know exactly where you are, and exactly where your dogs are at all times. In addition, if you’re good with mapping you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, where you came from, and where you can’t go. You can see yourself, your waypoints, and your dogs on the screen all the time.
In conclusion, the Garmin Alpha is by far the best system on the market for anyone looking for a tracking collar. You can start with just this system and add to it later with other products such as the Garmin PRO 550 PLUS, the Garmin Instinct Watch or Garmin Fenix Watch, the Garmin DriveTrack or Garmin Temperature Sensors. Or, you can skip those altogether and just use the Garmin Alpha on its own. No matter which way you decide to go it’s a steal right now at $699.99 as package deal including a transmitter and collar.