Do you want the peace of mind provided by a dog tracking device but don't know which to buy? In this article, James Hall reviews five of the best dog GPS trackers to help you make the right choice for your pet.
Fitness trackers have taken the (human) world by storm in recent years. It seems like everyone is tracking how many steps they’ve taken, how long they sleep for and how far they travelled on their latest run.
Wearable technology isn’t just for humans though! GPS trackers for dogs are also popular, as they provide real-time location tracking for your dog.
Unlike radio trackers, which have been around for decades, GPS trackers have a range that’s only limited by whether there is a cellular tower is in the area. Some also have features such as automated notifications if your dog leaves a designated "safe zone".
What should you look for in a GPS tracking device though? And which are the best GPS trackers for dogs in 2017? Keep reading to find out!
Before I start talking about the best pet tracking devices, it’s important to discuss why they are useful.
The most obvious reason is they reduce the chances of your dog getting lost. If your pet wanders off, the GPS signal should be able to show you exactly where they are.
This is good news for owners, as lost pets are a big problem in the US. A survey by the ASPCA indicated that around 15% of pet owners had lost a cat or dog over the last five years, while over 3 million dogs enter animal shelters each year (many of these are stray or lost dogs). The American Humane Association also estimates that over 10 million cats and dogs are either lost or stolen in the US each year.
The best pet locators aren’t just useful for walks either. Some allow you to define virtual “safe areas” around your house. If your pup walks outside of these areas, the device will send you an alert. This is great for preventing runaway dogs (especially if they can use a pet door) and even alerting you if someone is trying to steal your pet.
For these reasons, having a dog GPS tracker can provide peace of mind. Even the most obedient dog can get distracted and lost in the right circumstances, so being able to see your pet’s location can help you relax when he’s off the lead.
Many of these devices aren't just limited to tracking either. Some of the more advanced models also track activity levels, so you can check your pup is getting enough exercise.
Even so, GPS dog trackers aren’t for everyone. If you have a small enclosed garden and never let your dog off the leash on walks, then you probably don’t need one – especially as most come with a monthly charge. They are most useful for people who walk their pet off-lead, or that have unenclosed gardens.
There are a wide range of dog tracking devices available, so the right option depends on your requirements.
The most basic use radio signals to locate your pet. These only work over short distances, but don’t require a GPS signal. This means they are the better option if you walk your dog in remote areas.
For most people, a GPS tracker is the better option. They are more accurate and can be used at longer distances. They also often allow you to view your dog’s movement via your smartphone.
Here are some considerations when buying:
Please Note: A dog GPS tracker should be used in combination with a microchip – not as a substitute. Collars can be taken off or lost, but a microchip is permanent and allows for quick recovery if your dog finds himself at a vets or shelter.
Now you know what to look for, here are five of the best GPS dog collars and trackers. I’ve included devices with a range of features and prices, so there’s almost certainly an option that suits your requirements.
My top recommendation for a GPS dog tracker system is the Whistle 3. This device combines location tracking with an activity monitor, along with text, app or email notifications and a durable design.
The Whistle uses AT&T’s cellular network to track your pet’s current location. It works anywhere in the US (although it doesn’t work in other countries) – and you can even see your pet’s movement over the last 24 hours.
As you would expect, using the AT&T network means you need a monthly subscription to use the Whistle. These start at $6.95, which is a bit more expensive than other options.
The Whistle does much more than just track your pet. It’s also an activity monitor, so you can see how much your dog has exercised and rested during the day. You can view your pup’s statistics in the “Fitbit-style” smartphone app.
Other features include a waterproof design, up to seven day battery life and nationwide coverage. You can also create more than one “safe place” and receive alerts if your dog leaves this area.
There are a few downsides to the Whistle. While the seven day battery run-time sounds fantastic, it won’t last this long when the collar isn’t connected to Wi-Fi. There can also be a delay in notification when your dog leaves a safe zone, although this depends on the strength of signal.
Even with these drawbacks, I think the Whistle 3 is the best dog GPS tracker on the market at the moment. It’s easy to setup and use, relatively small and attaches to the dog’s existing collar. Plus the price is hard to beat.
Quick Summary: The Whistle 3 is one of the best dog tracking systems on the market. It combines location data with activity tracking - plus it's available for a very reasonable price.
Another excellent GPS dog tracker is the Find My Pet. Unlike many trackers, it combines Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS signals to track your pet both indoors and inside – plus plans start at just $4.99 per month (or even less if you go for the yearly option).
There are several interesting features of the Find My Pet. You can, for example, use it to view your dog’s location for up to a year in the past, which is longer than many trackers. There’s also the option of getting alerts for leaving a safe zone and even changes in movement speed.
An advantage the Find My Pet has over the Whistle is that it works worldwide – at least if there is cell coverage. A SIM is included with the device, so it’s great if you want to travel with your pet. There’s also the option of tracking via both the smartphone app and web browser, and the location updates every 60 seconds.
Additionally, it has an “SOS” button. This allows you to broadcast your dog’s current location to you and a list of family and friends.
Unlike the Whistle, the Find My Pet doesn’t include any activity monitoring functions – it’s purely a location device. If you’re not interested in activity tracking, it’s probably the better option as the monthly plans are cheaper.
It also has a shorter battery life than the Whistle. With a maximum run-time of four days between charges, you’ll need to keep an eye on the charge to make sure it doesn’t run out when you need it.
In summary, if you just want a location tracker – especially if you’re planning on using it outside the US – then the Find My Pet is a great choice. If you want activity tracking or a longer battery life, choose one of the other options on this list.
Quick Summary: If you don't need activity tracking, the Find My Pet is one of the best pet trackers. It provides great value for money and the worldwide coverage is a useful feature if you travel.
The Tractive isn’t as well-known as some of the other options on this list, but it’s a great tracker that provides real-time location information. It’s also one of the smallest on the market, so it’s better suited to smaller breeds.
Like most trackers, it has features such as “Safe Zone” settings and a smartphone app. It gets location data from several carriers, such as T-Mobile and AT&T, which means it has a wider coverage than trackers using only a single network (although it still isn’t 100%). As it’s a 3G model, you need a monthly subscription which starts at $5 per month.
A bonus is that you can view the location of your dog via your smartphone app or using a computer browser. There are free apps for Windows Phone, Android and iPhone, so it’s compatible with almost every smartphone. It’s also waterproof and weighs approximately 35 grams.
An interesting feature is the built-in light. You can activate this to make it easier to find your pet at night, or to just provide illumination when walking in the dark.
One downside is the Tractive has a relatively short battery life. You can expect it to last just 2-3 days, compared to the maximum of 7 days provided by the Whistle. It also doesn’t include activity tracking.
Considering the relatively low price, however, the Tractive is a reliable option that shouldn’t be overlooked. The small and lightweight design also make it one of the best small dog GPS trackers.
Note: This is the 3G US edition. It won’t work outside of the US, so for international travel it’s not the right option.
Quick Summary: The Tractive is a decent alternative to the Find My Pet - especially if you have a small dog. It's one of the lightest dog tracking devices on the market, although it doesn't include activity data.
One of the more expensive pet trackers is the Pod 2. Like the Whistle, it combines location tracking with an activity monitor, plus it provides real-time information about your dog’s whereabouts.
A big advantage of the Pod 2 over the Whistle is that it works worldwide. If you’re going to take your dog travelling with you, then the Pod 2 is one of the best trackers.
Like other trackers, it allows you to create “Safe Zones” and receive notification when your dog crosses a virtual wall. The activity tracking shows you how much time your dog has spent walking, playing and resting each day, while the “Adventure” recording mode shows you the previous 8 hours of movement.
A bonus of the Pod 2 is that you get the first year of subscription for free. After that it costs $49 per year, which works out at around $4.10 per month.
There is, however, a big drawback to the Pod 2: its durability. As I mentioned earlier in the article, a dog tracker needs to be durable, but the Pod 2 has a reputation for cracking. This might not be a problem for placid dogs, but highly active pups are likely to damage it.
Another issue is the Pod 2 uses 2G networks instead of 3G. This increases battery life, but means it has worse signal in certain areas. 2G networks are also gradually being shut down, so if you’re in an area without 2G the Pod won’t work.
The Pod 2 has some issues, but it’s still a decent model that provides reliable location and activity data. You should only buy it if your area has good 2G coverage though.
Quick Summary: The Pod 2 is great for tracking and has some useful features. It's also one of the cheapest subscriptions (when you get the year plan), although it's only suitable for areas with 2G signal.
The Link AKC is a newer option – and a pricey one at that. It provides features not found on other options though, including activity recommendations, temperature monitoring and a training function, so it’s much more than just a GPS dog collar.
Let’s start with the location tracking, which is the feature you’re probably most interested in. The Link AKC tracks your dog so you can see where he is, while also monitoring activity levels. You can setup virtual “safe zones” and view them using the tracker’s smartphone app.
As you would expect from a premium device, it provides accurate locations in real-time. You can also create temporary safe zones, which are handy when you’re hiking.
Unlike most other trackers, the Link AKC is a collar rather than a device that attaches to your dog’s existing collar. This means it’s important to make sure you get the right size. There are four options available, although the smallest is only recommended for dogs weighing more than 15 pounds.
An interesting feature of the Link AKC is the temperature monitoring function. This alerts you if the temperature moves outside of a safe range for your pet. There’s also a remotely-controlled light and sound option for training.
Another unique feature is the “Scrapbook” function. You can use this to track walks with your dog and attach pictures to specific adventures. It’s a bit of a gimmick – and I’m not sure how much people will actually use it – but it’s a nice extra feature to have. You can also enter vet records to track when your dog last had his vaccinations.
One of the biggest downsides is the price. It has an RRP of $177 and requires a data subscription starting at $6.95 per month. This is understandable considering that it’s much more than just a GPS tracker, but the high price is likely to put off many owners.
There are some other issues – mainly because it’s a new and innovative device. It’s a relatively heavy tracker, so it’s not suitable for smaller dogs. It also has a short battery run-time compared to other trackers and has a tendency to send “false alarms.”
Overall, the Link is a unique choice if you want a full-featured location and activity tracker – and are willing to put up with teething issues due to it being a new product. It’s the only model on this list that combines location, activity, temperature and vet record tracking, plus the light and sound features are useful. If you want a more reliable product, the Whistle is the best alternative.
Quick Summary: The Link comes close to being the best GPS tracker on this list, but its ambition design falls short due to some niggling problems (for now). These are likely to be sorted over time though - and it's got unique features not found on other trackers.
If you’re looking for a radio pet tracking device, the MARCOPOLO is my top recommendation. It’s not cheap, but is simple to use and provides real-time information about the distance and direction of your dog. You can also buy additional tags for up to 3 pets – and it works even when there’s no cell network or GPS signal.
I hope this article has helped you decide on the best dog GPS tracker for your pet. And if you’re still on the fence about buying one, I highly recommend them if your dog often escapes or walks off-leash in new locations.
For a combination of location and activity tracking, the Whistle 3 is my top recommendation. There can sometimes be a notification lag, but it’s generally an accurate model with a great battery life. If you don’t need the activity tracker, the Find My Pet GPS Dog Tracker is an excellent alternative.
Do you have questions about choosing the best GPS dog tracker for your pet? Or have you tried a device that you think I should include on this list? Let me know!