Dogs have gotten smarter.

Smart dog collars have grown in popularity with the growth in smartphone use, smartphone apps and dog ownership, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many stayed close to home or worked from home.

But the increase in dogs means an increase in runaway dogs.

“We get a lot of dog-at-large calls,” said Michael O’Brien, a Lakes Area Animal Control officer. “We’re not dealing with, you know, wild abandoned dogs.”

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Smart dog collars are a form of wireless fencing. The collars use the global positioning system, more commonly known as GPS, to pinpoint the canine’s location. The dog’s owner then uses a smartphone app to set boundaries for the animal as to where it can and cannot go.

"The best way to keep your dog safe is to avoid them getting into dangerous situations in the first place," Halo Collar co-founder Ken Ehrman stated in a news release.

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Halo has gained prominence in the smart dog collar industry due to its partnership with Cesar Millan, internationally recognized as the “Dog Whisperer.” The best-selling author is a world-renowned dog psychology expert who has starred in numerous television shows.

Halo and other smart dog collars provide boundary training for canines so they can live safely without a leash or other physical constraints such as fencing or shrubbery.

“Most of the time we're able to locate the owner — or the owner calls us — that same day as we pick the dog up,” said O’Brien of Lakes Area Animal Control, which services the animal control needs of Brainerd, Baxter and Crosby. “I would say it's probably about 25% of the dogs that we pick up have collars — maybe 75% don't — and of those dogs that have collars, maybe I'd say a little less than half of them actually have tags on them.”

The Halo Collar is designed to comfortably fit any dog over 5 months that weighs 20 pounds or more and allows the user to choose from a variety of sounds, vibration patterns and static (shock) levels to administer when the dog is approaching or crossing a boundary.

“We get a lot of dog-at-large calls.”

— Michael O’Brien, Lakes Area Animal Control officer

The Halo Collar will warn the owner via its corresponding smartphone app when the dog is approaching boundaries set via the app; if the dog ignores the warning that it is getting too close to the set boundaries; and if the dog continues to move away from the designated safe area.

In the Brainerd lakes area, dogs that are no longer within their home boundaries are a regular occurrence.

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“I would say we get two to three phone calls a day about dogs at large,” O’Brien said Thursday, Nov. 4. “Fourth of July weekend is going to be much higher call volume than the weekend of the fifth of February or something. … When there are more people up here we get more calls.

“We see some of the same dogs more than one time. They're just letting them out and kind of not really paying attention to them. But for the most part, they'll say … ‘He jumped the fence or got under the fence, and we didn't even know he was gone.’”

The Halo Collar replaces the need for an electric fence because the technology is directly in the collar, and it does not require Wi-Fi or a cellular connection, according to a news release.


Halo Collar is the only technology in the industry that automatically downloads daily satellite updates to improve GPS accuracy and lets a person create up to 20 wireless fences “with just a few taps of your finger,” so a dog can be taken anywhere, like the lake or a beach.

The battery-operated collar represents an improvement over more traditional technology-based fencing equipment, such as electric dog fences and other underground pet fences that are created by, and run along, an insulated cable that has to be buried around the property.

A wired fence only offers a singular shock as a deterrent to the dog and offers no ability to track them, while Halo monitors their location in real time. A wired fence also may shock the dog when they try to re-enter the fenced area after leaving, while the Halo Collar will not.

“The underground fences — especially as winter is coming up — those types of collars are just simply not as effective once we have snow and ice on the ground, and the ground freezes,” O’Brien said. “But it’s certainly much better than no fence at all.”

The Halo Collar currently sells for about $700 at after discount with a promotional code.

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Some wireless fencing systems require equipment to be installed in the ground to communicate with a receiver attached to a collar worn around a dog's neck.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
Some wireless fencing systems require equipment to be installed in the ground to communicate with a receiver attached to a collar worn around a dog's neck. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at Follow him on Twitter at