Dog Collar presence?

Anyone got a solution for making sure the dog is still in the yard? The ST key fob isn’t durable enough, and a FitBit seems slow and overkill, plus not really integrated with ST.

I’m about to buy a couple of these beacons to try with ObyCode’s BeaconThing, so a BLE sensor might work.

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I would be interested in something like this, too. A while back what I had in mind is something that reports or can be polled for how far away the beacon is from the hub to kind of guess where the pet is within the yard or the home. I was hoping to figure out or cobble something together to create an alert that the beacon hasn’t been let out and has probably peed in the house, or worse, left its own beacon on the floor :smiley:

It doesn’t integrate with SmartThings, but my brother has been using Tagg (now owned by Whistle) for several years with his dogs, including 1 who is an escape artist, and he’s been really happy with it. There is a monthly fee, but it has a GPS tracker so you don’t just know that the dog got out of the yard, you know where the dog went. You get a phone and email alert if the dog leaves the home zone. He’s recovered his dog at least three times since using it, so he says it’s well worth the expense. :sunglasses:

It’s fully waterproof and very durable. (It has an IFTTT channel, but just for the fitness tracker, not the GPS info, so it’s not that useful yet.)

General Issues

There are some other issues in device selection if you’re looking at something to connect to SmartThings.

The first is whether your dog plays with other dogs. This makes a big difference because dogs do chew on each other’s collars. So if you have two dogs, or you regularly take your dog to the dog park, another dog might chew on the device you attach to the collar. The whistle seems to hold up well in this situation. A lot of I beacons wouldn’t.

The second is whether it’s waterproof. There are a number of devices that are, but make sure you check.

The third is whether it can send a text. (Whistle can.) If it does, you can send a text to IFTTT and get indirect integration with SmartThings that way.

speaking just for myself, I’d choose a device that can tell me where the dog is after he’s left home, not just one that tells me he left. But everybody’s needs are different. :sunglasses: :dog:

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The challenge is the monthly fee. If this came without a monthly fee, I’d buy it in a heartbeat!

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I understand. It just comes down to whether you think you really need it or not. My housemate’s pet dog, who passed away last year, was another escape artist. He had the Tagg (now Whistle) for her for many years, and we probably had to use it about twice a year. The thing about her was that she was super smart, and she would get out a different way every time.

Anyway, I’m in a wheelchair and I don’t drive. So it was a lot better if I could go to my neighbor and say “the dog got out and she’s over on Second Street, can you drive me over there to get her?” Then to have to say “the dog got out and I have no idea where she is, can you drive me around to look for her?” :wink:

Plus he used to take her hiking and camping and a GPS tracker gave him a lot of peace of mind.

But the Whistle GPS service is $8/month, and it definitely won’t be worth it to everybody.

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hmmmm. I know this old, and not exactly the same issue I’m posting about… But I’m waiting on a GPS dog collar. Comes with a sim card. I’m not sure how this would actually work, but in my magical way of thinking, it clearly would.

Realistically though, if I loaded the sim card into an extra phone, registered the phone into smartthings as a presence, and then put the sim card back into the collar, would that work to backdoor a dog collar presence sensor? Or would there be a lot of mac address nonsense? Or am I high?

Fit the pooch with an Apple Watch! :joy:

I’m seeing quite a bit of confusion in this topic so maybe we can back up a minute and look at a couple of the basic concepts and then look at a couple of the possible devices. Because it is possible to do this, it just may not work quite the way people originally expected.

Part 1: Presence in SmartThings

“Presence” in SmartThings is way simpler than most people expect. All you need is a device type Handler with “capability.presence” and then that presence can be turned on and off for that device. (Of course you have to have a reason to turn present on or off, that is an event that you can capture, but that’s a separate issue.)

This capability is why you can have a virtual presence sensor, which is just a virtual switch, and you can turn that virtual switch on and off from within SmartThings or with IFTTT or some other options. :sunglasses:

There are also all kinds of hardware devices that you can use as presence indicators.

If you want to use a mobile phone, you can install the SmartThings mobile app, but you don’t have to. If for any reason you don’t want to install the SmartThings mobile app, you can use the official life 360 integration. It’s quite popular.

Or you can use android presence and tasker and sharptools. Or the IFTTT presence.

Again, as long as you end up with a device type handler in SmartThings which has “capability.presence” you can turn presence on and off.

If you want to use a physical device that broadcasts an arrival event, you can use the official SmartThings brand key fob presence sensor.


But you could also use an IBeacon or any other device whose presence could be captured in such a way that you could then flip on a virtual presence indicator. :sunglasses:


You could even have one of those pet doors that has a microchip reader installed as long as you can capture the data and then, again, use it to turn on a virtual presence sensor.


The key again is to use a virtual presence sensor which you will turn on and off because of other detectable events.

So another aspect of this is that any device which can send a text message or an email could be used to then trigger turning on the virtual presence sensor.

If you have an android phone, you can capture the message as a trigger event with Tasker.

If you have some other kind of phone, you can probably do it with IFTTT, it’s just a question if you’re going to run into message limits per month.

Also, if your original device can do webhooks or an RSS feed, you can pick it up in IFTTT that way, probably without message limits.

So if you have a GPS tracker like whistle or one of its competitors, it’s very likely that it already has a means of sending texts to your phone or emails to you as your pet passes various locations. Then you set things up so that receiving one of those texts turns your virtual presence sensor on or off. The Exact method will vary depending on the specific device you have and the phone that you have, but it’s almost always doable. :dog::smile_cat:

Part 2: The Detection Zone

So now you have a device that you like which is capable of turning a virtual presence sensor on or off. Excellent. The next question is when do you want to turn it on and off. That is, what is the size and shape of your “detection zone.”

If you are using anything which is GPS-based, including the phone, then your detection zone is probably quite large. Usually the smallest is a 500 foot radius.

If you want to use a smaller zone, you have to switch to a different kind of device, typically Zigbee or Bluetooth but maybe Wi-Fi based. These have a receiving device at the center of their detection zone and then they just report on whether the device has left the zone or not.

The problem with all of these is that radio frequencies pass through walls. So these are good for things like “the dog left the house.” But typically they can’t tell the difference between one room and the next and they can’t usually tell the difference between “in the house” and “in the yard.”

It is possible to set up what is called a “microlocation” system where you can tell if the dog is in an individual room, but you almost always have to invest in a lot more devices and it gets much more expensive. As much as $300 per room.

For more discussion of microlocation approaches, see the following recent thread:

But for the purposes of this thread, let’s just say that in general if you want to identify the dog’s location the same way you would track a phone, you would use a GPS-based presence. The detection area is a pretty big area each time, but you could track the dog all over the city if you needed while only needing the one device which is attached to the dogs collar. For this you would probably use one of the GPS location collar devices like whistle. There are a number of different brands, but again most do have monthly subscription plans.


If you just want to get a notification if your dog has left your property, but you won’t necessarily know exactly where the dog is, just that she’s “Home” or “away,” then you can use a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or zigbee based device.


If you use an IBeacon (which is Bluetooth based), you’ll have the most control over the detection zone, and can get it down to within a few feet. But there’s still that issue of signal passing through walls that you have to take into account. And you need to have a “receiving” device in every detection zone, so you can set this up at home, but it won’t tell you where your dog is if she gets out of the house.

If you really want to know if the dog is in a particular room, it’s probably doable, but it’s a much more expensive system with a lot more devices.

Many people end up just using cameras for this and checking in to see where the dog is but if you really want a system that notifies you if the dog has gone from the bedroom to the laundry room, you can do it. But see the microlocation threads for that.


Once you understand that in SmartThings presence is just a matter of turning on any device type handler that has capability.presence when some capturable arrival event occurs, it opens up potential solutions to all kinds of different devices and methodologies.

You need something that can announce its arrival in a particular zone. But as long as that something can send a text, an email, RSS feed, or web hook, then you can connect it to SmartThings by using a virtual presence sensor. :sunglasses:

Or maybe it’s a different kind of device like a microchip reader where you can capture its information in some other way. Again, the same idea: use the arrival event to turn on the virtual presence sensor and you’ll have full integration with SmartThings. :tada:

Often the trickiest part is determining what the detection zone will be. And taking into account the fact that radio signals pass through walls. Most people end up compromising with a larger detection zone because it’s just simpler and less expensive. But if you really want to go down to the room by room level and you’re willing to spend $300 or more per room, you should be able to get that to work as well.

I hope that explains how you might approach a dog collar project and what sort of factors you might have to address.

Different people will come up with different solutions both because they want different types of tracking and because they have different budgets. But there are a lot of creative things that you can do depending on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

@jseaton @Elliotd1989 @Andy_Armijo @rontalley


Thanks @JDRoberts, that’s very helpful!

To clear something up. My comment earlier to the following question by another member may have been lost in translation somewhere.
As what i really meant was that the method won’t work and would require smartthings app, ifttt OR another other notification service interfacing with smartthings, rather than simply putting SIM in a phone and registering to smartthings, then putting it back into the dog collar.

“Realistically though, if I loaded the sim card into an extra phone, registered the phone into smartthings as a presence, and then put the sim card back into the collar, would that work to backdoor a dog collar presence sensor? Or would there be a lot of mac address nonsense? Or am I high?”

It didn’t warrant any rudeness, abuse, or attack.
I feel for some of the members here if that is the kind attitude some people hold, as if they are better than anyone else.

I don’t come here often, so i wouldn’t know the technical abilities of others. And likewise others would not know mine. But we are here to help and educate each other. Not try and belittle for the purpose of self-gratification.

Just taking a Sim card out of the phone and putting it on a dog collar won’t work because the Sim card itself doesn’t have any broadcast capabilities. It holds information about your account, but it’s the phone that has the radio and does the broadcasting. So a Sim card by itself isn’t practical.

Even if the dog collar does have a broadcast radio, you still can’t just transfer Sim card from a phone to the dog collar because it’s the SmartThings app on the phone that decides what to broadcast and when. That app is not loaded into the Sim card.

In other words, there’s no direct connection between your phone and your SmartThings hub which is tracking presence. Instead, the app which is loaded on your phone is reporting location to the SmartThings cloud. (Or to IFTTT or to Life360 if you are using those apps.) The SIM card just has identifying Information which the app may use.

If you look at any of the GPS dog collars, though, they essentially are a Sim card with a broadcast radio and a battery operated power source. And as I mentioned you can connect them up with SmartThings by capturing the emails or texts that they send as notifications. But they are sending those notifications because of their own app. You’re just going to capture them on the receiving end.

The issue that many people have with these is that there is typically a monthly subscription fee.

If you’re trying to avoid a subscription fee, slim Ibeacons like Estimote or RadBeacon are definitely a possibility. They have a built-in radio, are pretty weatherproof, and they’re very lightweight. It’s just that the detection zone is so small and the only information you’re going to get is home/away. And you need to have a second device, a phone or a tablet, to act as a receiving station. But they can be a good choice for some people.


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I must be really dense, but how do you configure the IFTTT applet to parse the text message coming from Whistle (or another service) since you can’t customize the output from Whistle?

The SMS service on IFTTT has changed over the years. You Used to be able to have it do different things based on the sending number. Now you can’t. :disappointed_relieved:

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There’s also these

Interesting. Didn’t know they had a non-Zigbee tracker… I can see this being great for kids, but that lanyard isn’t going to hold up on my dog. I also like all of the pet specific features Whistle has, and I bet you need the new (garbage) ST app to manage this thing.


For anyone using Whistle, I’ve written a basic DTH here that can directly pull presence and battery % into ST. Enjoy.