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GPS Dog Tracking Collars: A Buyer’s Guide

Buying Guides 01.30.2018
By Jill Caren
GPS Dog Tracker Buying Guide
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Bringing home your new dog is an exciting time – whether you rescued them or got one from a breeder, it is now your job to keep them safe, healthy and happy. One of the most common posts we see on social media is regarding “lost pets” and it is heartbreaking to see so many dogs go missing and parents be distraught. Sadly, often times these are new pets in the home or are scared and have no familiarity with their surroundings. This is where a GPS dog tracking device can come in handy. Having a collar that will allow you to know where your dog is at any time is a priceless gift and can save you both a lot of stress and anguish!

Below we are going to review some of the best GPS dog collars and go over some of the most important things to look for. Whether you are looking for a monthly fee based service or one with no monthly fee there are dog tracking collars for every need.

What is a GPS Dog Collar or Pet Tracker?

A GPS dog collar/pet tracker is a special technology based dog collar or tag that offers complete tracking capabilities if your dog should get lost. GPS is short for Global Positioning Satellite and these GPS enabled dog tracking collars will allow you to use an app or radio to be able to locate your pet!

GPS is basically a network of satellites that orbit the earth – using these satellites GPS users can retrieve the information to find their exact location. This is how a tracker for your dog works – as it wears the GPS – the signals are transmitted back and forth between the dog and the satellites to allow you to know right where they are!

From there – the data is then sent to you via either a mobile app or a handheld radio depending on the option you prefer. Pretty cool right? Garmin actually has a pretty good easy to understand GPS guide if you are a techie and want to learn more!

Styles of GPS Dog Collar Trackers

There basically 2 different types of options for GPS dog collars in terms of look and feel which include:

  • Dog collars with an integrated GPS system built within the collar
  • Attachments that clip on to your pets existing collar – sometimes called a GPS tag.

There is no “better” option so to speak – it really depends on the size of your dog and what is more comfortable for them.

Types of GPS Dog Tracking Systems

There is also 2 different types of trackers in terms of functionality.

Subscription based (Monthly Fee)

Subscription based GPS tracking collars typically apply to those where you can use an app to track your dog from your phone, so these would be best for those that live near a city. Ensuring you have a consistent cellular connection is critical for reliability.

This is the better option for those who just need a basic tracker if their dog should get lose and are not too far from home. It also is usually a little more affordable.

Non-subscription based (No Monthly Fee)

These GPS trackers do not have an app, but use a radio for tracking. These are typically more reliable and can track dogs for a longer distance than their cellular counterparts. Preferred by hunters the radio GPS collars are best for those who are in areas where cellular service may not be consistent.

Best for those in the country who may have dogs that have free reign of longer distances or have working dogs they need to keep an eye on. This option is usually a little on the pricier side, but there are no monthly fees.

Do Dog GPS Trackers Really Work?

There has been a lot of studies on this very question with both dogs as well as other animals and overall they have been found to be very effective. Here is one interesting study that assessed the use of a GPS receiver among healthy dogs and those with osteoarthritis.  The research is proving that these trackers can be incredibly effective in keeping your pets safe.

These tracking collars have been widely used and accepted by behaviorists and hunters – but as they come down in price and size, they are becoming much more common among dog owners for safety purposes.

What To Look For In A GPS Dog Collar?

There are a lot of options available in the dog collar tracking market – and the options and features vary from product to product. It is important to get an idea of what you want in a dog tracking collar before you begin your search.

Below are some things to consider while you shop for your perfect GPS dog collar:

  • What is the maximum distance it will track your dog to
  • Do you need an activity monitor as well as a tracking device – some include both
  • Is there a subscription fee for the service
  • The size of the collar and if it will make your dog uncomfortable
  • Battery life
  • How often is the software updated
  • How fast will it send you a notification that your dog is too far
  • How accurate is the data when it is delivered

GPS Dog Tracker Overviews – Monthly Fee Required

This list includes an overview of some of the more popular dog trackers that are subscription based. Many of these pet trackers we have personally reviewed and handled – whether we purchased them to review or viewed them at an event the manufacturer was at. We hope the information provided can help you find the best collar for your unique needs!

LINK AKC GPS Collar

The LINK AKC is definitely a top pick – but not only is it a tracker, it is so much more.
A service plan is required and plans are as low as $6.95 per month. Plans all include an extended warranty, fit guarantee, and complementary access to the Pet Poison Helpline. It requires a phone app that you can download as well as base stations to track. Each base utilizes Bluetooth technology to create a zone and if your dog leaves that zone, you will get and alert.

Some of the features include:

Location Tracking: fast an accurate
Activity Monitor: monitor your dogs activity level and get recommendations
Adventures: record and remember your adventures you have taken with your dog
Temperature: alerts you if your dog is in an environment that is too hot or cold
Light & Sound: remote to turn on the collars LED light and sound to be used as training tool
Records: store vet records and set reminders

PROS

  • High quality leather construction
  • LED night light
  • Tracked activity including maps and images are stored
  • Can track multiple dogs
  • Available in several sizes
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • LINK AKC app works with Android or iOS

CONS

  • A little large and bulky
  • If you have a large home you may need more bases
  • Only available in US
  • Reports of battery draining too fast
  • On the expensive side
  • Not recommend for dogs under 10 pounds
  • Only works with AT&T’s cellular network – so you need to have At&T 3G for it to work.

Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor

Unlike the LINK AKC, the Whistle GPS can track your pet just about anywhere! There are no bases to monitor where your pet is – Whistle uses GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi technology to find your pet. Also this is a small device that attaches to your dogs existing collar.

While the GPS collar seems to work best on Wi-Fi, it can also connect via GPS and 3G cell which can be an issue if you are in an area that does not get great cell service. Also being on GPS or 3G will drain the battery faster – so that is something to be aware of.

Some of their core features include:

Location Alerts: get an email, app or text when your pet leaves their safe place
Advanced Tracking: utilization of GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi for the most accurate data
Coverage: will work anywhere in the US
Safe Places: you can program several different safe places to keep tabs on your pet wherever you are, basically these are like invisible fences
Monitor Activity: track pet’s daily activity

PROS

  • Small and lightweight
  • Long battery life
  • No base station needed
  • Multiple safe zones can be created

CONS

  • Notifications that your pet is outside a safe zone can have a delay
  • Tracked data is deleted every 24 hours
  • Reports of battery draining too fast
  • Too track multiple dogs you need a new subscription and collar for each

Tractive 3G GPS Pet Tracker

The Tractive Pet Tracker is one of the few pet trackers that is just that – a tracker. For those that want to monitor their pet’s activity or keep records or data, then this is not the right choice. But if you want a standard location tracker for your pet – this will do the job.

Tractive uses AT&T service to connect to the device – but you can be on any service to have this work with your phone. As long as you are in a 3G AT&T signal area – your device should work by connecting with your cellular service provider via the GPS.

Some of their core features include:

Location History: view where they are – and where they have been
Live Tracking: see the real-time location of your pet, updates happen every 2-3 seconds
Coverage: will work worldwide depending on the plan you select
Virtual Fence: program a “fenced” area where your dog can roam safely
Subscription: starts at 5.00 per month

PROS

  • Small and lightweight
  • Rechargeable battery
  • No base station needed
  • Can track anywhere with the GPS
  • Works on Android and iOS

CONS

  • Because it is only GPS based – there can be issues with weather, magnetic fields or even walls on getting a good signal
  • Delayed reporting when dog leaves safe area
  • Reports of battery draining too fast – manufacturer states 2 days for average battery life
  • Have to pay for subscription a year in advance
  • Recommended for pets 9 pounds and up

GPS Dog Tracker Overviews – No Monthly Fee

These are some of the more popular pet trackers that do not require a subscription! While these are more expensive, there are no monthly fees for their use. Most of this collection are geared more towards those that like to camp or enjoy outdoor activities.

MARCO POLO Pet Tracking System

MARCO POLO is a completely self-contained unit that makes it perfect for travel. Unlike the subscription based counterparts – this pet tracker does not require cellular service and does not use GPS. They use their own radio system that the Marco Polo team created and patented.

While most reported great experiences with the MARCO POLO pet tracker – some have noted it may not be great for fast moving dogs as there is a delay in the signal pulling your dogs location. Most who use this device recommended it works better in open land spaces – not city locations due to the signal bouncing.

See what others think of the Marco Polo pet tracker here.

PROS

  • Small and lightweight
  • Battery life
  • No cell signal needed
  • Checks on your pet every 40 seconds
  • Monitor up to 3 pets
  • Tracks up to a 2 mile range

CONS

  • Reports of battery not charging properly
  • Few customers noted it did not work for them
  • Delay in delivering dog location
  • Have to pay for subscription a year in advance
  • Recommended for pets 9 pounds and up

SportDog Tracking System

The TEK series GPS dog collar is one of the most versatile options we looked at. The handheld tracking device pairs with the collar on your dog to allow you to get a real time read on where your dogs location is up to 10 miles. Their patented “HopTek” technology appears to be very accurate and will allow you to track up to 21 dogs at one time. Their technology utilizes both GPS + GLONASS satellites for increased accuracy in location tracking and their HopTek patented technology has shown to reduce signal interference – meaning your device has the best performance possible!

The Bluetooth capability allows you to receive your updates about your dog via voice if you decide to use a compatible earpiece.

We particularly like the ability to create a “Geofence” in any shape – then you can be alerted when your dog crosses outside the boundaries of that fence.

This is definitely a top pick due to the many optional features they have available and from what we have seen in terms of accuracy. There is also an optional “training” tool that you can get as well that will beep or buzz when the dog gets too far away, since they typically do not like loud noises it is a great way to get them to understand when they hear the noise they should return to you.

See what others think of the SportDog TEK Series tracking system.

PROS

  • Small and lightweight
  • Battery life
  • No cell signal needed
  • Waterproof up to 25 feet
  • Expandable to monitor up to 21 dogs
  • Tracks up to a 10 mile range

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Long battery charging time
  • Sometimes hard to know if it is on or off

Lost Dog Statistics

The ASPCA did a survey – and although it is a bit dated, it does offer a good idea on just how many pets go missing! The study was done on with 1,015 households that have had a dog or cat within the past 5 years. Here are some of the results of that survey:

  • 15% had lost a dog or cat in the past 5 years
  • 85% of those that has lost their pets were recovered
  • Lost dogs and cats were pretty similar with 14% for dogs and 15% for cats
  • Only 74% of cats were recovered while 93% percent of dogs were recovered

While these numbers may not sound incredibly high, this is only based on 1,015 households and 15% can result in an incredible quantity when scaled.

Have You Used A GPS Dog Collar?

If you have we would love to hear what you think of the one you decided to go with! What do you love – what do you hate and if you have a success story of it bringing your dog home safely!

GPS Dog Tracking Collar Buyers Guide

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

Reader Interactions

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  1. Paula says

    Help I ordered a gps collar ,bought the micro SIM card from bell our phone provider only to find out they don’t support those types of devices ,maybe we should buy our dog an Apple Watch lol ,we are in rural Ontario any suggestion as to what to do now the collar purchased from eBay has poor support and it’s in Chinese so until I get signed into the app I’m stumped

    • Jill Caren says

      Hi Paula, if the collar is in Chinese it may not be an authorized version of the brand. Usually English instructions would be included — I am not sure I can really offer any advice without knowing more about the collar, but if you opt for a new one – make SURE you find out if the collar will work in your area.

  2. Joshua J. Yeager says

    I sometimes forget turning on the AC when I’m out and I leave my dog alone at home. The temperature alert on the LINK AKC GPS Collar is amazing for people like me. When I get the alert I try my best to get home the soonest possible time so I can turn on the AC for him.

    • Jill Caren says

      LOL I cannot tell if you are being snarky or sincere – but if you are being sincere this might be the best comment I have read!

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