How does the Halo dog collar work? Everything you need to know

A dog wearing a Halo collar.A dog wearing a Halo collar.

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If you’re a pet owner interested in smart technology, you might have heard of the Halo dog collar system. But what does it actually do and offer? We’ve got a simple primer for what you can expect from

Halo: An invisible fence for the modern age

At its most basic level, the Halo collar is a means to track and contain your dog using a “fence” made up entirely of invisible boundaries drawn using GPS mapping. Older invisible fence systems relied on buried wires giving off signals to draw the boundaries. When the collar detected it was getting near the wire, it would activate.

For obvious reasons, these systems were limited by the amount of wire you could bury, and became expensive very fast. Putting a perimeter around any substantial area was cost-prohibitive. And if your dog happened to get on the other side of the wire, the system was useless.

The basic system consists of the Halo collar itself, a charger, a beacon (more on that in a minute), and a few accessories for the collar such as a protective case and different sized contact tips.

The Halo system uses a GPS receiver built into the collar, allowing you to draw lines virtually on the app, covering as much or as little area as you choose. You can even have up to 20 different individual fences, and the collar reports your dog’s location in real time via WiFi, Bluetooth, or cellular data, automatically switching between these according to what is available.

Training, activity tracking, and more

In addition to tracking your dog’s location, the collar will automatically warn the dog when they’re approaching a boundary, with three levels of feedback. Starting with an audible warning, then vibration, then an optional third stage of a mild electrical shock.

While this might sound harsh, I’ve tested it on myself, and I can say that while the shock is definitely uncomfortable it’s certainly not excessive. While I can see some dog owners not wanting to use this feature, it’s potentially helpful for those with more aggressive or excitable dogs who need stronger feedback to stay within their boundaries.

In particular, this function is one that isn’t found on a lot of other, less expensive GPS-enabled pet collars. And understandably so, since it doesn’t on the face of it sound like a very nice feature to have. However, if you have a dog who doesn’t always immediately listen to commands, getting their attention–even if it’s uncomfortable for a moment–might save their lives. I can speak from experience to having at least one dog who, if he had been wearing a Halo collar, would probably still be alive today.

Any time your dog gets a warning, of whatever level, you’ll get immediate notification through the Halo app, and be able to see in real time where it happened and what your dog is doing then.

The system isn’t limited to static settings, either. The included beacon can be set to create either a no-go zone for your pet, or an area where fence rules don’t apply. For instance, you can place a beacon in one sensitive room of your house to keep the dog outside. Or, you could carry the beacon on your person, essentially creating your own portable fence while walking your dog; if they get away from you, they get warned, just like a pre-set fence.

The individual collar settings and status screen of the Halo app

You can extend the system with more beacons, including outdoor models, such as if you need to keep the dog out of a particular flower bed or away from a pool while still having the fence extend around those areas. Even better, all of these details can be either turned on or off at the user’s discretion; if you don’t want to use all the most advanced features, and just need a way to find your dog, the collar will do that easily and without a fuss.

A hand holding a Halo dog collar beacon
A Halo indoor beacon

Depending on the service plan you choose, the Halo app also offers various other options such as allowing you to track your dog’s activity: how much time they spend on the move, how many times they’d been walked that day, etcetera. While this might be irrelevant to some owners, it might be very handy if you have an older dog who you’re trying to get exercised, or if you’re checking up that the dog walker is really doing their job when you’re away from the house.

The highest end Halo plans even offer a variety of training videos released on a monthly basis, some featuring celebrity dog trainer Cesar Milan, as well as available support personnel for questions about training your dog with the Halo system.

A high cost of entry

While the Halo has a lot of features and perks, it demands an equally high price. The basic collar package costs $699 for a single collar and beacon. On top of that, you need a monthly fee for the collar to operate, which covers the cellular data needed when it’s out of range of Bluetooth and WiFi.

Halo offers three plan options at $4.50, $10, and $30 per month. The base plan covers all the essentials for tracking and containing your dog, while the more expensive ones add activity tracking and training support respectively. It’s worth noting that at least for the monthly plans, the average cost goes down as your number of dogs goes up; each additional dog is $2-3 per month regardless of the plan you’re on.

While the $699 pricetag is pretty steep, I suspect most dedicated pet owners would say that it’s pretty reasonable compare to the alternatives of your dog getting lost, getting into trouble, getting injured, or worse. Just the prospect of civil liability for an escaped animal, or a vet bill from getting hurt after getting somewhere they shouldn’t have been, makes the trade-off look potentially cheap.

A generally well functioning system, but not perfect

The Halo system does have some difficulties in real-world use, like anything. The most common one is collars losing their GPS fix, particularly when indoors. GPS signals aren’t terribly strong, so they can lose strength especially on the first floor of a multi-level building, or under a metal roof.

This can sometimes lead to the collar reporting an inaccurate location, and even alerting that the dog is outside the boundaries when they’re not. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to troubleshoot this problem that you can find here.

Once in awhile the app can also malfunction, failing to open properly and requiring you terminate it and restart. Overall though, the system isn’t any buggier than you could expect out of any technology product, and better than most.

Moreover, if you do have problems, Halo has robust 24/7 support to help you fix whatever’s gone wrong. And Halo continues pushing through firmware updates to their collars to fix problems and improve performance.


For dog owners looking to keep their pet safe and contained, the Halo collar is a very robust toolbox, featuring a lot of options that other GPS-enabled collars don’t have. While it’s also more expensive, it provides a great deal of functionality to justify that price.

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