Garmin Alpha: The All-In-One Dog Training Collar

When two industry-leading companies merge, one of two things happens. One partner in the marriage either destroys the other or they find a way to communicate and share information and ideas.

When Garmin, one of the biggest players in the GPS world, bought Tri-Tronics, arguably the leading e-collar company in the world, many canine aficionados feared the ruin of their favorite e-collar company.

As promised upon the announcement of the union, the two companies have joined forces to create a new product. The first, and most logical, among those is a GPS-tracking, mapping and remote training collar. The new Garmin Alpha 100.

Using the robust GPS system and mapping (including satellite imagery) of Garmin and the consistent and timely e-collar corrections from the knowledgeable folks at Tri-Tronics, the Alpha is setting the bar for remote training and tracking. Highlights of the unit include:

• Track and train up to 20 dogs on a single handheld from 9 miles away - houndsmen and upland-bird hunters with a brace of big-running pointers, rejoice.
• Communicate and track your buddies - if a friend has an Alpha 100, you can see exactly where he and his dogs are at, which makes separating (and then meeting up) to cover different terrain much easier. You can also send each other messages like "help," "come here" and "go on without me."
• The handheld has a bright, three-inch, touch-screen display that's supposed to be easily readable in sunlight. Call me a geek, but one thing they did, which I think is totally cool, is make the touch screen glove-friendly! If you've ever used a touch-screen phone in the field, you know what a pain the butt it is to constantly remove gloves in order to do something with it.
• The Dog Tracker Page of the handheld features color-coded arrows that show the direction and distance of each dog.
• When dogs go on point or tree, the handheld can give an audible or vibration alert.
• It comes pre-loaded with 100k topographical maps, which include geographical features like ravines, rivers and roads. It's also compatible with Garmin's BirdsEye Satellite Imagery (sold separately).
• You can set up a customizable "geofence" that alerts you when your dog enters or exists an area.
• The batteries will supposedly last up from 24 hours (with a 2.5-second refresh rate of dog loactions) to 44 hours (with a two-minute refresh rate).
• Two LED lights have been incorporated with the collar for running at night; again, houndsmen rejoice, but also those of us that air our dogs at night.

When you look at the MSRP of the unit, it might cause a little sticker shock ($800 for the initial unit/collar combo, $300 for additional collars). But, consider that the remote training aspect of the collar can be configured identically to a Tri-Tronics Pro 500 G3 EXP (which is the companies top-of-the-line e-collar with an MRSP of $565), and you're effectively getting a 20-dog/man tracking and GPS unit for $200 more. That's makes the price a little easier to stomach.

If you don't want to configure the collar to a Pro 500 G3 EXP, you can configure the three buttons to any combination and level of momentary, continuous or tone stimulation - and can personalize it for each of the 20 dogs! That's impressive.

How the market and competitors respond to the Alpha 100 will be interesting to watch. For now, we can be happy that the merger of two industry-leading companies has set the industry bar for dual tracking-training collars.

For an overview of the Alpha 100, check out this four-minute video from our friends at Gun Dog Supply.