Dogtra Pathfinder Review: Update from nuts to bolts


Lately a bunch of my hunting buddies have been asking me questions about my pathfinder. When the pathfinder came out it got a lot of people intrigued about tracking collars because its nearly half the price of its main competitor. For me personally, price isn't a concern when it comes to the well being of my dogs, so I bought the Alpha. I made the switch from the Garmin Alpha last year for a few reasons and I will touch on those here. If you're interested in the pathfinder read on, I'll try to give you a no bullshit assessment on what I think after a full summer of training and a full season in the woods. I posted a review of the pathfinder on the blog last year and now is a good time to update the review after I beat the hell out of it.


Now lets talk about what changed. I'm going to highlight some quotes from my previous review and give you some updates.

"I made the switch to the pathfinder from a Garmin Alpha. I bought the Alpha because it was the bees knees according to everything I read. My experience with it did not live up to its praise. The Alpha is notoriously difficult to navigate while in the field. Nothing is quick about the garmin other than a quick stimulation using a couple of buttons on the face. Everything else about it seemed cumbersome."
Everything is the same here, the pathfinder is stupid simple to use. If you can use an iPhone you can use a pathfinder. It wasn't built with the iPhone specifically in mind, rather just smartphones in general. I've never used any platform other than apple but I can tell you it's pretty straightforward if you have a small amount of tech savvy. 
Complete pathfinder system including the GPS connector
"The pathfinder originally called to me because I can use it on an iOS system which I'm very familiar with. Have an iPhone? Than you're probably going to be an expert level user in no time at all. Also, I carry my phone with me everywhere, sometimes just for emergency but I always have it regardless. Why carry a phone and a collar receiver if I can have two in one?"
Lets talk about not carrying two devices. I want to add here that you will still technically be carrying two. In order for the pathfinder to work you have to carry a "GPS connector" and your phone. However, the receiver for the pathfinder serves the sole function of connecting your phone to the collar. It weighs nothing, and I literally just stick it in my game pouch on a tether and forget about it. That is certainly not the manufacturers recommendation for carrying it but I have never had any issues at all. I want to reiterate that the receiver is small and weighs nothing, I don't notice it at all. 

"So far, the pathfinder is a legit, high quality system. I haven't put it through a full hunting season yet, but I imagine based on my training, which isn't that much different than hunting, it will be just fine. The pathfinder works without using any cellular data. I'm no guru, but I can tell you that it doesn't matter if I have service or not. It also pairs pretty quick if you take it outdoors with a good shot at the sky. I will say that I could pair my garmin inside and I cannot do that with my pathfinder. However, the garmin took waaaaay longer to pair than this system does. The system is fully waterproof to 33 feet, so far my dog  hasn't pointed one that deep but I will work on it, it will make my NAVHDA buddies proud when it happens. "
So I've now put it through more than a full season and the thing is bullet proof. I'm hard on gear, I use it all the time, charge it repeatedly, toss it around, and have it on a fur missle's neck who has no care at all for the well being of electronic devices. I will still say that it pairs pretty quick compared to the Garmin but I'm pretty annoyed now that I can't seem to pair it indoors. I know it shouldn't be expected to happen but I get ready for my hunts in my house, not in my driveway. It's a small thing in the grand scheme but it has gotten on my nerves.
Unrelated to any text below or above, here is a photo of my pooch with a full sized alpha collar on, it's much bigger than the pathfinder collar. I did eventually switch to the mini which was slightly smaller than my pathfinder collar and a comfortable fit for my EB.
"The pathfinder app uses google maps, a huge advantage. You can zoom and pan easily without any lag time. I have been really impressed with the thing so far in that regard. You require no additional mapping software to run maps on this unit, which is killer. You spend your $400 bucks and in theory, you're done. "
Google maps on the pathfinder is awesome, killer in fact. However, you need service to use this feature, the offline maps leave a lot to the imagination. Dogtra has since come up with a solution that lets you use arial maps offline but I barely feel like mentioning it. Im very proficient when it come to computers and I feel like you need a degree in how to build computers to work through that system. I gave up, I don't use it. I have the onX app on my phone and I use it regularly to keep tabs on boundaries when Im near them. If I want arial, I can use onX. Garmin has the edge in this category. With that said, I use the pathfinder to track my dogs, not to look at pretty pictures from outer space so I can live with it. I would love to see some better integration with mapping software at some point.

"Here are the downsides. It runs on your phone, that makes me nervous about the battery. iPhones are famous for running down batteries when using apps for long periods of time. This prompted me to buy a power case for my phone. I bought a lifeproof battery case which ran $150, that bumps the price to $550. Since doing that I have not even come close to running out of battery."
Battery be damned, I haven't had an issue, except with the case, it made me sound like I was underwater and it was a bear to take on and off. Pluseventually it shit the bed. Don't buy that case. If I was going to do it again, i would save an old phone or buy a used phone and use it specifically for the pathfinder, it doesn't have to be hooked up to service for it to work according to my research. Running it without the case does run my battery down a little faster, so far I haven't killed it yet though, I plug it in while in between spots or while I get a snack.

"Also, I have two collars. One of them was having some problems connecting. I called dogtra to explain the issue and have them walk me through it. They didn't have anyone there at the time who specialized in the pathfinder so they just sent me a completely new pathfinder with case, accessories and all. Great customer service. I have called once or twice at other times with various questions and always get someone on the phone or get a call back in a reasonable amount of time. The customer service team has me sold for sure. "
Dogtra did send me another collar pretty quick without much questioning, that was awesome. However the longer I think about it I'm a little peeved that when I called the company that designed the product I couldn't get someone who knew anything about it. With that said, I am a Gundog Supply customer and there isn't better customer service on the planet, so I'm not worried, I'll just call them.
pathfinder screens preview from Gun Dog Supply, where you should definitely buy this from

"Now...I bought the pathfinder right at release, it had some bugs. I was having issues with pointing alerts. I wasn't getting pop ups or auditory cues with any regularity. Also, I would get tree alerts while running a pointing dog regardlesss of the fact that I had them shut off. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. There have been many updates to the app since than and I haven't had any issues with these things in a long time."
Ahhh, the alerts. I'm having some issues with these. Sometimes I get an alert when the dog goes on point, sometimes I don't. Sometimes it makes a noise when it alerts, sometimes it doesn't. Makes me wonder how many dogs have gone on point when their owner was waiting on an alert and ended up losing birds because of it. Personally, I don't rely on my pathfinder to tell me when my dog is on point, I don't use the feature at all because the thing is there to tell me where my dog is if he's lost somehow. But...I have noticed many times when he was on point that I never got an alert. When I had  the "treed" alerts activated in the beginning I would get a treed alert every time my dog stopped without fail. The pointing alert doesn't work as well despite the idea that Im sure its the same alert with different visuals.

That pretty much sums it up, no collar is perfect, but the pathfinders is the best tracking collar I've run. I've used and owned the "big 3" in the tracking collar market now that would include a sport dog product I haven't talked about, the pathfinder is far superior to them in my opinion, I've never lost signal or ended up out of range. I tested this by leaving my dog in his run at home and driving off to work and several miles away. I never even noticed a hitch. If you're looking for a tracking collar, this bad boy is $400. Don't buy it if you're looking for a training collar. One thing it does not do as well as the garmin is that it has no quick buttons for stim. You have to open or unlock your phone and switch to the app. By the time you hit the stim button the opportunity is lost. I recommend locking the phone. I had it unlocked for a little while to make it quicker to access and accidentally zapped the little guy from my pocket once or twice. All in all, as a tracking collar, you cannot miss with the pathfinder. Buy it from Gun Dog Supply.

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  1. Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

    There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    Read our guide if you wish.

    Thanks again :)

  2. I bought one and brought it home opened the box. I'm worried about length of antenna on collar getting chewed up. So thinking about returning it

  3. How is the mini different from the standard ? Is it just smaller?

  4. Fantastic review and follow up! We are concerned that the antenna on the collar might break off, do you think it would work or be as effective tied down to collar? Cheers from West Oz

    1. i zip tied mine to the collar and has no ill effect for me.