Fur Wars: the iRobot Roomba 870 – a Tale of Dog versus Robot

 

Let me start by saying I love animals, but I HATE PET HAIR!  We are a pet-loving family and usually have at least one dog and one cat, sometimes more. My favorite dog breed is the Labrador Retriever – they make wonderful family pets – loyal, gentle, great with kids, but I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret about labs- they shed ALL THE TIME. Sure, they moult twice a year and totally carpet your house in dog hair, but that’s not the end of it they also shed every single day, 365 days a year!

Currently we have 2 pets- Buddy, a grey and white cat, who is a minor player in the Fur Wars; and Howie a 4 year-old Yellow Labrador who is on a one dog mission to cover every square inch of my house in dog hair. Now, I must admit that Howie has been winning the war – I briefly sense victory every time I vacuum, but he is very quickly back in command. As a busy mum I just don’t have time to vacuum every single day and it is really frustrating to come home to a room covered in pet hair when you only vacuumed a day or 2 before. Recently I got the opportunity to test out a new weapon in my battle to rid the house of Pet Hair and I jumped at the chance – the Roomba 870 by iRobot.

The Fur Wars Combatants: Howie and Buddy

The Fur Wars Combatants: Howie and Buddy

Now this isn’t the first time I have used a Roomba, I always thought the idea of a robot vacuum cleaner was very cool, so when the first Roombas came on the market over 10 years ago my husband and I bought one of the first generation models. Now I loved the idea of it, but the first generation model did have some problems- it got caught on the tassels of our rugs and struggled to cope with the shedding of Theo (our beloved Black Labrador, who was our main opponent in the Fur Wars at the time). Eventually it died due to a power surge during a lightning storm, (helpful tip: ALWAYS protect your valuable electronics by using a surge protector!) and we never replaced it. I had heard that iRobot had made a lot of improvements in the last few years so I was very interested in trying it out for myself.

I found the Roomba 870 very easy to set up right out of the box, you need just to remove a few pieces of cardboard and charge it up overnight before it is first used. To set it up you have to enter the date and time, and then you have the option to set up a cleaning schedule. It can be scheduled one time per day, up to 7 days a week. You can also spot clean or do a regular cleaning immediately by just pressing the “clean’ button.

Our house doesn’t really do the minimalist look, so there were plenty of obstacles in the Roomba’s path, which it took very much in its stride. My kids thought it was hilarious to see it zipping under the sofa to clean, and navigating its way around chairs, toy boxes and other obstacles. We have a large tasseled rug in our living room, and unlike its predecessor the 870 had no problems getting tangled; likewise it found a few extension cords hidden around the room and successfully navigated them too. The 870 comes with 2 battery operated “virtual walls” which you can use to keep it in a particular room or away from objects you wish to protect such as your pet’s food and water bowls. I was surprised to find that I didn’t need to use a virtual wall to keep it away from the stairs- it senses stairs itself and keeps a safe distance.

The 870 features the AeroForce™ Performance Cleaning System- basically it has 2 rubber coated rollers that turn in opposite directions and have treads that push the dirt and debris to the center where the rollers meet, so it is picked up. I was truly impressed by what it could pick up- not only did it pick up huge amounts of dirt and fur but on the first day it even picked up a dozen wooden blocks from a Jenga- style toy! I know my regular vacuum would never have managed to pick those up! It was a great learning exercise for my kids, I opened the bin door and emptied the bin onto paper to show them how it had picked up the wooden blocks and Lego pieces. A great side benefit is they have been much more careful about picking up their toys ever since!

The manual warns you that first day you use it, it is a good idea to stay nearby during the cleaning cycle as the bin will fill up rapidly as you clear the battlefield of all the accumulated pet hair. Each time it fills the Roomba will let you know, and once you have emptied the bin it can finish the job.  On the first day I did need to empty it several times per room, since then I have had the 870 clean on a daily basis and now I only need to empty after it finishes cleaning a room.

I love having the Roomba 870 on my side in the Fur Wars – it is very convenient being able to set it up to automatically clean every day, it copes admirably with the obstacles in its path including rug tassels, furniture and electrical cords. It really does a great job of picking up pet hair, dirt and debris. A nice additional feature is it also has a HEPA filter.  I set it up to automatically clean the family room and attached kitchen in the morning, then I move it into the living room and attached dining room in the afternoon. With this cleaning schedule the floors are looking better than they have in a long time. I think the Fur Wars will be a long running saga, but with the Roomba 870 in my arsenal I have regained the upper hand; and if it wasn’t for the dog toys and dog bed in the middle of the living room you might not even believe I have a Labrador living here!

The Roomba 870 is available from the iRobot website RRP $599

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Tagg the Pet Tracker -GPS and Activity Tracker- Review




Howie Tagg headshot

What we love…

Notifications if pet leaves home, GPS tracking, activity tracking

What we’d love to see…

Ability to customize time notifications paused, ability to store frequent locations and switch zones between them.

Summary

If you have a dog you are worried may stray, the Tagg is a very useful device as it will quickly notify you if he leaves home and allow you to track his movements, it also acts as a doggie Fitbit !

Tagg the Pet Tracker is a GPS and activity tracker for your pet dog or cat. It is designed for animals 10lb and over and consists of two parts- a GPS unit that attaches to your pet’s collar and a base station. You also need to set up an account online, and can also use a free iPhone or Android app to monitor your pet’s location and activity level.

I tested the Tagg with my Yellow Lab Howie. Howie is a very sweet dog and very much part of our family, we adopted him from our local lab rescue last summer, we would be devastated if we lost him. He wears a pet tag and is microchipped but both of those rely on someone else finding him and contacting us or taking him to a vet to get the chip scanned. I was interested in testing the Tagg because if he were to get out it gives me a way to take action quickly to try to locate him.

tagg docking stationSetting up the Tagg is simple, but does take a little time. First you need to plug in the base station and charge the Tagg. Whilst it is charging you can go online and create an account and activate your Tagg. When setting up the account as well as entering your pet’s basic information, your information and a credit card for the ongoing monthly fee.  On the website you can set your pet’s home location and vary the size of the “Tagg zone”. The Tagg zone is where your pet can move freely, you can choose how you want to be notified if he goes outside this zone. The default Tagg zone is a 75 yard radius around the base station, but you can increase this up to 1,000 yards. Notifications can be by text, email or both, and you can have more than 1 person receive the notifications.

Howie TaggOnce the tracker is charged and activated it attaches to the dogs collar using the included clip. When you are at home it is a good idea to keep the base station switched on as it senses whether or not the Tagg is nearby. If the Tagg is close to the docking station the GPS goes into sleep mode conserving the battery. When the Tagg moves away from the base the GPS is activated. The Tagg has a battery life up to 30 days between charges. In my testing the battery lasted 11-12 days, but this included several days when I had the base station switched off due to traveling, so I’d expect it to last longer if it was plugged in continually. The Tagg does send you notifications when the battery starts to get low so you can recharge it before the battery runs out.

There is also a neoprene sleeve, like a wetsuit, for the Tagg that you can use to keep it clean and protected. The Tagg fitted easily on Howie’s collar but getting the neoprene cover on was a little challenging. The zipper on the cover tends to undo a little by itself, I tried tucking in the zipper pull but it still came loose so an extra snap or piece of velcro would be a useful addition.  Howie, like most labs, loves the water so I was happy to discover the Tagg is designed with this in mind and is water resistant.

As well as setting up Howie’s account online with email notification, I also downloaded the iPhone app and set it up to receive push notifications via the app. I tested the Tagg by leaving notifications switched on when we went for walks. I found it worked well at letting me know Howie’s location, and sent me notifications within a few minutes when he went outside the Tagg Zone. I also used the “track” feature on my iPhone when walking him in a variety of locations and it was pretty accurate in finding our location- enough that it would get me within visual or calling distance if he truly was lost.

Even though the tracker looks fairly big on his collar, it is pretty lightweight. It measures 3.18″ long, 1.49″ wide , and .77″ tall, and weighs just over an ounce. Howie didn’t seem to mind it’s presence at all, and was happy to run and play as usual. I had no problems with the tracker accidentally falling off or becoming deactivated.

Howie Tagg action ball

 

When going for a walk you can disable notifications for 15 minutes by pressing a button on the Tagg. I typically go for much longer walks than this so I’d love an option to easily set the notifications off for a longer period (currently you have to press again every 15 min or switch notifications off completely). If notifications are switched off the tracking still works, so you can still track your lost dog.

iPhone Screenshot 2Whilst I was testing the Tagg we went on a family vacation with Howie, and being able to track him whilst away is even more important than at home. If you take the base unit with you, you can set up a new Tagg Zone by simply plugging in the base unit. This will communicate with the Tagg as usual and tell you if he leave the zone around the base unit. If you go online you can change the address of your Tagg zone. If you can’t go online to change the address it will still work with the new Tagg zone but it will mis-label it as your regular home address whilst he is in the Tagg zone near the base unit, as soon as  he leaves the Tagg zone it will give you an accurate location. If you are just away for a short period you can leave the Base unit at home or unplugged, but the battery on the Tagg will drain more rapidly then usual.

iPhone Screenshot 4A fun additional feature is that the Tagg also acts like a FitBit for dogs. If you turn activity tracking on (via the website), it will monitor your pet’s activity and record it in 4 categories: resting, light, moderate or high activity. It awards points based on the activity level and you can set daily activity targets. You can also look at activity levels over the last 30 or 90 days to see if there are any trends emerging.

Overall, if you have a dog you are worried may stray, the Tagg is a very useful device as it will quickly let you know if your pet leaves home and provide you with GPS tracking info to help you quickly locate your missing pet. The activity tracker can also be fun to see how active your pet is when you aren’t home, and useful in encouraging you to give your pet at least 30-60 minutes a day of exercise. There are a few updates I’d like to see – the ability to customize the amount of time notifications are switched off for; ability to store multiple frequent locations e.g. home, pet-sitter, dog park, groomer, vet office, and to be able to quickly change Tagg zones between these. I love having the neoprene cover to keep the Tagg clean and protected, but I’d like an additional tab added to keep it firmly closed.

Tagg GPS Pet Tracker is available online from Pettracker.com for $99.95 including 3 months of service, or $179.99 including 12 months service.  After that, it’s $7.95/month This cost does add up, but the monthly charge is actually less than most other GPS tracking systems I’ve seen for kids, cars, and seniors. If you have a dog who doesn’t tend to run off or stray, this cost may be more than you wish to spend, but if you have a pet who is prone to escaping or running off then it is a very worthwhile investment to decrease the potential of permanently loosing a beloved pet.

If you would like to buy a Tagg you can use a special promo-code IMUM20 to get a 20% on the Tagg Promo Bundle (Tagg plus 12 months service).

recommended-by-the-imums

 

You can also download a free iPhone app to accompany the Tagg:
Tagg—The Pet Tracker™ – SnapTracs, Inc.

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NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.