As much as I wish I could write a glowing review of the Nuzzle GPS Collar, I just can't.
I feel like a beta tester for a product we paid $171 for.
Could the Nuzzle improve their firmware and make their collar a more solid product? Absolutely. I hope they do because until we see better performance, we will not be purchasing another for Lizzie.
Matthew dislikes misplacing things, so he's vigilant in keeping our pups locatable and protected.
Both dogs are micro-chipped and wear ID tags that clearly show their name on the front with multiple forms of contact information on the back.
But identifying and acquiring a GPS collar has been one of his goals since before we brought Bernie home over a year ago.
We quickly narrowed our choices down to just a few collars. Most of the companies were Kickstarters or still in the pre-order phase before manufacturing began, so we waited and lurked. We signed up for email updates and periodically checked websites for any news.
Our Choice: The Nuzzle GPS Collar
The Nuzzle website seemed to reflect a greater sense of reality.
The other dog collars had various problems. One was using a 2G cell phone chip that all cell carriers were phasing out, so that collar became useless. Another collar sounded great, but their website never reflected any progress toward production. When I emailed them specifically about when they would begin manufacturing their collar, their enthusiastic reply assured me that they were ready to go and production would begin in the next few months. I received that email response over a year ago. That company has not produced one of their dog collars.
The Nuzzle was also a flat fee. Most of the other GPS collars we researched required a monthly service fee to cover the cellular network costs. We liked the idea of paying for the collar and avoiding monthly service fees.
January 2017: We Place Our Nuzzle Order
The Nuzzle GPS Collar costs $189.99, so when we received an email from Nuzzle that they were beginning production and offering a modest discount for early adopters, we jumped at what seemed like an opportunity.
We paid $171 for our Nuzzle GPS Collar on January 18, 2017. A week later we received the news that our order had been delayed. The email text is below. We appreciated how transparent this company was in explaining the problems they were having and how they were addressing the issues.
May 2017: We Receive Our Nuzzle GPS Collar???
From January until May, we received a few more emails explaining production delays and anticipated ship dates. And then on May 5, 2017, we received the good news that our Nuzzle would ship the following week.
Unfortunately, our Nuzzle did not ship the following week. To be perfectly honest, I don't remember when we received the Nuzzle. At the end of May, I was wrapping up the school year and I paid no attention to new gadgets. If we received it in the beginning of June, I was outlining my ideas for creating this blog, so again, the Nuzzle was lost in the blur.
Irritation One: Sizing
Technically, sizing is not an issue with the Nuzzle collar. You can purchase the large or small collars for the same price. The large fits a 14" - 22" neck circumference, while the small fits an 8" - 11" neck circumference. However, you can also use their custom connector to attach the Nuzzle to any collar or harness you own.
We opted for the large Nuzzle for Bernie. When we tried placing the collar around his neck, we ended up using the tightest setting, which left a lot of collar hanging. Awkward!
We really wanted to use the Nuzzle collar because it's a bit more stiff. Our collar is flexible nylon, so the Nuzzle oftentimes slips under Bernie's chin, which is not optimal positioning for accurate location data.
And then we had our rut-row moment. We had placed the Nuzzle device on the Nuzzle collar. And then we couldn't figure out how to separate them. For us to use the custom connector with our nylon dog collar, we had to separate the Nuzzle device from the Nuzzle collar.
After several attempts, we placed the Nuzzle to the side and decided to email customer service. We were debating how we wanted to approach this problem. And then at some point in July, Matthew picked up the Nuzzle again, and separated the two pieces. We don't know how. We kind of felt like many of the characters in Shakespeare in Love declaring "I don't know. It's a mystery!"
Once we got the Nuzzle on Bernie's collar, we started using the app, and tracking our boy. At first it was fun! When you open the app, you can see one of three activity messages: Playing, Exploring, or Resting.
Irritation Two: Battery Life is Awful!
A major problem is the battery. It lasts for maybe 12 hours. Once it lasted just under 8 hours, which is terrible!
According to the Nuzzle website, the battery should last for three days. They do stipulate that the battery must be fully charged. We're charging one battery overnight, swapping in the morning, and before bed I'm receiving the notification that the battery is below 20% power.
How is this useful?
The main reason we purchased this GPS collar was to track Bernie if he ever got away from us. If the battery dies in just a few hours, how do I find my guy?
Irritation Three: Seemingly Random Notifications
I have my app set up to receive all notifications. When Bernie and I leave for our walk, I'll receive a notification that Bernie has left the base station range.
Now the base station is using blue tooth to communicate with Bernie's Nuzzle when he's home.
Groan. Blue tooth!
Every time blue tooth looses the connection with Bernie, I get the notification that he's left the base station range. Now when it's the middle of the night and the Bernster is right next to me in bed, I'm not concerned. But when I'm at work and I see these notifications, I get nervous.
And I get these notifications frequently.
I've also grown accustomed to receiving the notification that the battery is below 20% power.
Every once in a while I won't get that warning prompting me to switch the batteries and I get the message that there are no updates.
What bugs me even more, though, is the loss of data. I like seeing how Bernie's days play out. How much time he spends resting, playing, and exploring, but with no juice comes no data.
Irritation Four: Inaccurate Mapping
The Nuzzle relies on 3G cellular networks to map location and routes taken on walks. Thanks to the Nuzzle, I am quickly becoming familiar with the location of every cell tower near me. When Bernie and I take neighborhood walks, the lines on the map are usually longer and on the diagonal pointing directly to a cell tower.
The Nuzzle gets a basic idea of where we walked most times. However, there have been a few times where it's way off base. By blocks and blocks. Again, how is this useful to me if Bernie and I are separated? If I can't pinpoint his location, how do I get to him?
One afternoon when I was sitting at Starbucks, the Nuzzle had our location across the street and a few blocks over.
By removing the battery and then placing it back into its slot, I forced the Nuzzle to reconnect with area cell phone towers. When I refreshed the app, presto. There we were at Starbucks.
Unfortunately, Bernie can't remove his own battery to force an update.
When we took the pups to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. We drove to the Gardens and then walked around.
I didn't remember to remove the battery once we arrived, so none of our route around the Gardens was mapped.
We did receive the data that we walked around for over five miles in two hours, but that dotted purple line is just showing how we drove south to get to the Botanical Gardens.
Irritation Five: Battery Pops Out!
One afternoon a few weeks ago, Bernie and Lizzie were playing pretty vigorously. I noticed the battery on the living room floor and frowned. Not a good sign.
A few days later, the battery came out three different time. Twice during more vigorous play sessions, but the last time, Bernie was on the bed. Alone. Lizzie is too small to get up on the bed on her own yet. I found the battery on the duvet cover.
And then this past weekend, both pups and I took a morning walk. When we stopped for a water break, the battery was gone. I retraced our steps and could not find it. We still need to contact customer service to see how we get another battery.
How good is a pet tracker if the battery easily pops out?
Irritation Six: No Desktop Version | No Ability to Export Data
Right now, the Nuzzle app is the only way to access the collar for firmware updates and view activity data. And the data is only displayed for one week.
Check out the gray areas indicating how often the battery went dead.
But here's what really rankles me: Nuzzle is collecting all of this data on our dog. Over time, they may have the ability to see patterns in how often he's resting versus playing or exploring, but not me or Matthew.
Nope. We have access to one week's worth of data.
I would love a desktop version of Nuzzle so I could export this data and compare his activity levels over time. We could potentially monitor his activity levels to help us see patterns in any attacks he may have due to his Addison's Disease.
As Bernie ages, we could talk to our vet about his various levels of rest, play, and exploration, but not until we have the ability to access all of the data on our dog.
Anything Positive? YES!
Based on the transparent email communication from Nuzzle, and even their blog, which indicates that this company is made up of people who genuinely love animals, I do believe that Nuzzle will eventually be a collar worth owning. Perhaps Nuzzle, Version 2.0?
The Nuzzle app is intuitive and easy to use. As the screenshots in this post show, the Nuzzle app gives you the ability to customize your pet's profile with a picture. I love using it to see how much activity Bernie has had in one day.
The Nuzzle collars seem sturdy and well designed. We wish they made a medium size so it would fit Bernie better.
We truly hope Nuzzle looks at adapting its design to prevent the battery from popping out, and figures out how to improve battery life to their three day claim. Add in a desktop version for exporting data and we would consider buying a version of the Nuzzle that didn't feel like we were beta testing it for them.