5 Best Smart Dog Collar for Your Active Pet (2020)

Written By: Gemma Johnstone | Last Updated: March 23, 2020

Smart collars can help dog owners manage their pet’s weight, monitor their location, or track activities. This article will look at 5 of the best smart dog collars, along with tips for choosing the right option.

A guide to smart pet collars
Did you know that over half of the dog population in the United States is overweight? A mind-blowing 10 million pets are also estimated to be lost every year – and one in three pets get lost at some point in their lifetime.

Smart dog collars, including activity and GPS trackers, can help prevent your dog from becoming part of these statistics. Here’s our guide to choosing the best smart dog collar for your pet.

Note: This article doesn’t include aversive tools that rely on fear or punishment, such as remote shock or anti-bark collars. The Dog Clinic only supports positive, scientifically proven and gentle training methods. We also have a separate article specifically for dog GPS collars.

Our #1 Pick

Whistle Go Explore

Whistle Go Explore

Versatile smart collar with real-time tracking

My top pick for a dog smart collar is the Whistle Go Explore. It has built in GPS, tracks a variety of health metrics, and has a battery that lasts up to 20 days. The smartphone app is also easy to use.

Do You Really Need to Track Your Canine Companion?

A smart collar may seem like an unnecessary gadget, but these tools have valuable features for (some) dog owners.

Weight loss is a good example. Some trackers help ensure your dog is getting enough exercise, monitor sleep quality, and estimate calories burned. This information can be helpful for your vet when designing and monitoring a weight loss plan.

Trackers can also spot unusual activity in your dog – especially when used for a long period. If you notice they’re slowing down or becoming more sedentary, this could be a sign of pain or illness.

Additionally, a tracking facility could locate your dog if they get lost on a walk. You can even use GPS tracking to check your dog walker is really giving your pet the walk you’re paying for!

Which is the Best Smart Dog Collar?

The best smart collar for your dog depends on what you want to track. Some are only GPS trackers, while others monitor activity levels and various metrics. Before making a purchase, make sure you consider all the functions you think would be useful for you and your dog. 

1. Whistle Go Explore (Best All-Rounder)

Whistle Go Explore VIEW PRICE

If you’re looking for a smart collar that can handle almost every type of tracking, the Whistle Go Explore is probably the best option. It provides in-depth health and activity monitoring, along with GPS tracking and several other nifty features.

The Whistle Go Explore has real-time tracking, so that you can monitor your dog’s movements. The location alert even notifies by message whenever your pet leaves a certain place, which is useful if they have a habit of escaping the yard. Your dog walker can also be added to the app account, so they can track your dog’s activity.

If your dog is on a weight loss programme, the collar estimates the calories burned, distance traveled, and the amount of time they are active. These are essential metrics for maintaining a healthy weight.

The Whistle Go Explore even tracks sleeping, licking and scratching. When these are analyzed over a longer period, it can allow you to spot spikes that could be signs of illness or stress. It also has an IPX8 waterproof rating, so it can be submerged in over 1 meter of water, and has the option of setting reminders for vet appointments.

Despite these features, the battery will last up to 20 days, so it can go longer than your average model before recharging. This is partly because it uses Wi-Fi when your dog is in range of your home, and only switches to cellular or GPS tracking when out of range.

There are a few drawbacks though. Because of the weight and size of this tracker, it isn’t suited for dogs under 8lbs. As with most trackers, it needs to be within cellular range for the GPS signals to work. It’s also relatively expensive, so make sure it’s firmly attached to your dog’s collar!

The biggest issue with this smart collar is that the location tracker isn’t always 100% reliable if you have poor cell coverage. It’s great for getting a rough location of your dog, but you shouldn’t rely on it if your pet loves to roam. For most locations, however, it’s an excellent smart collar.

Note: The subscription for the app is pricier than some models, and you need to commit to 12 months when you sign up.

Why We Recommend It: The Whistle Go Explore is one of the best smart dog collars in the market. It has a wide range of features, including location, activity and sleep tracking, plus it’s built with a waterproof design.

  • Key Features: Location Tracking, Activity Tracking, Sleep Monitoring
  • Weight of Collar: 0.96 oz
  • Subscription Required:  Yes. Can be paid monthly, yearly or every two years
  • Real-time GPS tracking
  • Plenty of health metrics
  • IPX8 waterproof rating
VIEW PRICE

2. FitBark 2 (Best Activity Tracker)

FitBark 2 VIEW PRICE

If you’re just looking for an activity tracker, rather than a collar with GPS capability, then the FitBark 2 is our top pick. It offers a lot of great features, has a waterproof design, and doesn’t require a subscription.

At less than half the weight of the Whistle Go Explore, this lightweight option is great for smaller breeds. It allows you to track a variety of metrics, such as sleep, movement, and activity levels, so you can consistently monitor your dog’s health. 

The battery on the FitBark 2 is one of its best features. It can last up to six months without having to recharge, mainly because it doesn’t need to connect to GPS.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t need to be charged often, however, as the device must be attached rather crudely to the collar using cable ties. While these hold it in place securely, they must be broken to remove the device from the collar. This is a minor issue, but surely there’s a better solution, FitBark?

The Fitbark measures activity in “points” rather than giving raw numbers. This can be a little confusing at first, although having a points system makes it easy to look at how your dog’s health is trending over time. If you notice a dip in sleep or activity, for example, this could be a sign of stress, illness, or another problem.

The collar can sometimes be temperamental when syncing, but the support from FitBark customer service is generally solid if you’re experiencing problems.

Why We Recommend It: The Fitbark 2 doesn’t have GPS capabilities, but is a relatively lightweight activity tracker for monitoring your dog’s sleep and movement. If you don’t need location tracking, it’s one of the best choices.

  • Key Features: Activity Tracking, Sleep Monitoring
  • Weight of Collar: 0.35 oz
  • Subscription Required: No
  • Activity tracker only (no GPS)
  • Long battery life
  • Relatively lightweight
VIEW PRICE

3. Tractive 3G GPS Dog Tracker

Tractive 3G VIEW PRICE

If you’re looking for just a GPS tracker, and don’t want to spend as much as you would on the Whistle Go Explore, then the Tractive 3G could be a cheaper alternative.

This device uses cellular technology to allow you to keep tabs on your dog using live tracking. It also has an IPX7 waterproof rating. As long as it isn’t accidentally submerged in deep water, it will still work if your dog is swimming, exercising in bad weather or just likes rolling in mud.

The Tractive has a Virtual Fence function which allows you to set a perimeter for your dog, and the app will notify you if your dog leaves this area. Of course, you shouldn’t rely on this to let your dog roam unsupervised, as there’s a serious risk of injury or being stolen. But the feature provides extra peace of mind if your dog escapes.

The annual subscription isn’t as steep as the Whistle Go Explore, and there’s the option to upgrade to a Premium version. This allows you to track your dog even if you’re traveling overseas.

One of the downsides is that toy breed dogs may find this device too cumbersome. It’s one of the heaviest we’ve reviewed and is best suited for dogs over 10lbs in weight. The battery life isn’t the most effective either, as you only get 2 – 5 days before it will need to be recharged.

Additionally, I don’t think the Tractive is as reliable or accurate as the Whistle Go Explore. So, if you’re looking for real-time tracking, be prepared for some glitches, especially if cell coverage is patchy. The app has more bugs than some of the other products reviewed too.

Why We Recommend It: The Tractive 3G is a GPS tracker. It doesn’t have any activity tracking capabilities, although it provides live tracking and sends notifications if your dog leaves a specified area.

  • Key Features: Location Tracking
  • Weight of Collar: 1.2 oz
  • Subscription Required: Yes. Basic or Premium Packages which can be paid monthly, yearly or every 2 years.
  • Only a GPS tracker
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Notification if your dog leaves a specified zone
VIEW PRICE

4. Fi Smart Dog Collar

Fi

The Fi Smart Dog Collar is an all-in-one smart collar and tracking device. It’s a relatively new player on the market and a direct competitor to the Whistle Go Explore. How does it compare to our #1 pick though?

It’s a waterproof collar, making it a good choice for dogs who love to swim. It also has a light for dark walks and excellent battery longevity – it can last up to 3 months on a single charge.

The Fi tracks a variety of metrics. It’s a GPS device, so you can follow your dog’s movements throughout the day. There’s also the option of creating safe zones, so you get notified if your dog escapes. Keep in mind that you’ll need to keep the base station plugged in for it to work though.

Aside from GPS tracking, the Fi Smart Collar lets you set goals for your dog’s activity levels. You can even compare activity to similar dogs, although I don’t recommend putting too much stock in these recommendations (all dogs are different!)

Fi’s subscription is available in a one, two or three-year option. So you can save the longer you commit. Obviously, a three-year plan will tie you to the product for a long time, so you’ll need to be sure you like it during the two-week trial period.

While some people may like the fact that this is a collar and tracking device in one, it does have disadvantages. For one, the smallest collar will only fit a neck size of 11.5” or above. This means it won’t be an option for the tiniest of breeds. You also have less choice when it comes to collar design (click here for our list of the best dog collars.)

I also don’t think the app is as sophisticated as the Whistle Go Explore. It monitors steps, which can be helpful as a base point for looking at general exercise levels over time, but it doesn’t track the distance your dog has traveled or the calories burnt (like the FitBark 2 also does). 

The live tracking option, like with most tracking devices, isn’t foolproof. It can be glitchy in areas that service is patchy, and can’t be used in some remote or rural locations where it’s not possible to get a GPS signal.

If you want a longer battery life and integral collar, this may be a preferred choice over the Whistle Go Explore. Otherwise, it doesn’t have quite the same sophistication in terms of features.

Why We Recommend It: The Fi Smart Dog Collar is waterproof, has a light, and is built to a high-standard. It also tracks a variety of metrics, including location and activity levels.

  • Key Features: Location Tracking, Fitness Tracking
  • Subscription Required: Yes. 1, 2 and 3-year plans.
  • Versatile smart collar
  • GPS tracking with safe zones
  • Waterproof

5. LinkAKC Smart Tracker and Activity Monitor

LinkAKC Smart Tracker VIEW PRICE

Like the Fi, the LinkAKC Smart Tracker is integrated into a branded collar. It’s a combination of GPS and activity monitor that’s available in a variety of sizes and two colors. Like most of the other GPS collars on this list, you can create safe zones for your pet.

An interesting feature is the temperature alert function. For flat-faced brachycephalic breeds that struggle in hot weather, this could be a useful reminder to prevent overheating. Dogs shouldn’t ever be in a hot car or other dangerously hot situation, however, so this alert function is unlikely to be used much.

The battery life is disappointingly short. It will only last around 3 days with average use before needing to be recharged. It’s also bulkier than the Fi and only suited for dogs above 10lbs.

I don’t think tracking function is as reliable as some of the other devices that we have reviewed. The app can be buggy, and it isn’t particularly sophisticated or intuitive. So, while it’s a decent collar, I recommend the others on this list above it.

Why We Recommend It: The LinkAKC provides a wide range of functions, including GPS tracking, activity levels, and even temperature alerts. It has a relatively short battery life though.

  • Key Features: Location Tracking, Activity Tracking, Temperature Tracking
  • Subscription Required: Yes. Monthly, yearly and 2 yearly options available
  • Wide range of functions
  • Temperature alerts
  • Safe zones
VIEW PRICE

How to Choose a Smart Pet Collar

The smart dog collar category is rapidly growing, so it’s not always easy to know which to choose. Here are some of the key considerations.

What Features Do You Need?

Before making a purchase, think carefully about the functions you would find beneficial. Smart collars can be an expensive investment, so it would be a shame if your collar doesn’t do everything you need.

Activity Tracking

A lot of smart pet collars include activity tracking.

Some show basic statistics, such as steps (pedometer). Others show the distance traveled, whether your dog has engaged in low or high-level activity, and even calories burned.

Number of steps isn’t particularly useful in isolation. It can be interesting, however, to look at activity levels over a period of time to establish long term trends. If you see a sudden or gradual decrease in activity levels, this could indicate health or behavioral problems. 

Activity patterns can also be useful when developing a weight loss programme. If your dog is overweight and you show your vet their activity levels over the previous month, they may be able to suggest an additional step count target.

Tracking activity levels can also be a motivator or reminder for yourself. If you’ve had a busy month and haven’t been walking as much, seeing the dip in activity can be the boost you need to get them outside for longer.

GPS tracking

If you want to be able to see where your dog roams, monitor their movements when they’re out with a dog walker, or just have peace of mind when they’re off the leash, then selecting a smart collar with GPS tracking will be helpful. They are also great for escape artists.

The latest generations of collars normally use a 3G connection to track your dog’s location. This is then transmitted via an internet connection to the tracker’s app.

Some apps allow you to set a safe zone, and then if your dog leaves this area, you’ll receive a notification. Some owners find this useful if they have their dog in the backyard. 

Don’t forget that, even with the best smart collars, the accuracy of the location trackers isn’t foolproof. Sometimes the app can be glitchy or inaccurate. Phone signals can be patchy or even non-existent in remote areas.

Note:  Trackers shouldn’t be relied upon if your dog doesn’t have a reliable recall. They won’t stop your dog getting stressed, injured, or worse if they’re running around busy roads or unknown areas. Make sure your dog is microchipped and they have an ID tag on their collar.

Other Features

There are a variety of other features included with some smart dog collars. These include temperature alerts, sleep tracking and itch tracking.

Some apps also let you set reminders for vet appointments and administering medications.

Connectivity (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Cellular or Other)

Most smart collars have an Android or iOS app for displaying data on a smartphone. Some use a base station to link the tracker to a phone using a Wi-Fi network, while others use Bluetooth. Some trackers even have built-in Wi-Fi, which eliminates the need for a base station.

GPS location trackers also connect to a cellular network to allow a much wider-ranging location tracking capability. These collars require an ongoing subscription for connectivity.

Weight & Bulk

It’s vital that the collar isn’t too heavy for your dog. This is particularly important for smaller breeds.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many trackers that are light enough to be used on the smallest toy breed dogs. While smart collars are surprisingly light considering the wide range of functions, most aren’t suited to dogs under 8-10lbs.

Don’t be tempted to ignore these guidelines. If the collar is too heavy, it can cause discomfort and neck strain. 

Waterproof Vs Water-Resistant

Most smart collars are at least water-resistant and can function in light rain. These smart collars are not suitable for swimming though.

If your dog enjoys swimming or throwing themselves in muddy puddles, choose a waterproof model that can be fully submerged.

Battery Run-Time

There is a huge range in battery life when choosing a smart collar. Some collars only last a few days between recharging, while others can work for months.

Location services are often the biggest drain on battery life. If you’re not interested in GPS tracking, choose an activity tracker with a much longer run-time.

Location

Don’t forget to check where tracking collars can be used. Some collars have GPS systems that are only able to be used in certain countries or specific cellular networks.

If you don’t realise this until you take your dog abroad, this could be a major frustration, especially as a new environment is when you’re likely to need the device the most.

Don't Pay Attention to Target Steps

Some apps allow you to input data about your dog, before giving recommendations for the steps your dog should take each day.

This isn’t something that should be trusted as an accurate figure. The appropriate number of steps depends greatly on health, age, breed type, weight, diet and a number of other factors.

If you’re unsure about what is an appropriate amount of exercise for your dog, make sure you talk to your vet. They may find it useful to see the patterns of exercise your dog has developed over a period of time on the tracker. 

Summary

Smart dog collars aren’t essential for your dog. They can be helpful, however, for assessing activity levels, keeping track of your dog’s location, and monitoring long-term health trends.

Our top pick is the Whistle Go Explore. It’s one of the most feature-packed smart collars, as it allows you to track everything from your dog’s location to the amount they walk and sleep. It’s not cheap, but is an excellent device.

Do you have any questions about choosing a smart dog collar? Please let us know using the comments section below.

Image of Gemma Johnstone

About The Author: Gemma Johnstone

Gemma is a freelance writer and official dog nut. With 15 years of experience in the pet industry, she is a passionate animal welfare advocate. She has worked for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, ran her own specialist dog shop for ten years, has volunteered for her local rescue shelter, and is studying towards completing an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Gemma is currently travelling around Europe with her wonderful rescue dog, Annie.