Are you thinking about getting a dog location tracking device for your pup? They can be expensive but don't worry.
We'll guide you through all you need to know to make a great choice.
In this article, we'll help you figure out if you need one at all, what the main options are, and what features to look for to get the perfect product for you and your dog.
You come home from work to find that the mailman has left your yard gate open, and your dog has high-tailed it.
Or maybe you've both been out hiking in the forest, and your dog has spotted a rabbit. Before you know it, he's disappeared into the trees and got hopelessly lost.
It happens surprisingly often. The American Humane Association estimates that a mind-blowing 10 million pets get lost or stolen every single year, and that 1 in 3 of all pets will get lost at some point in their life.
Sadly they also have data to show that many of those pets never make it back home.
Either they find a new home elsewhere, get sold on, or even worse, they get into an accident or perish out in the wilderness.
As a dog lover and owner, I'm sure the idea of this is painful for you to contemplate. But there is good news.
There are some excellent ways to prevent your pup from becoming one of those 10 million lost souls.
As you are reading this, you probably already know that a good quality dog tracking device can help you find your dog quickly whenever he wanders off.
But they are not 100% reliable in every situation. Before we get into the options for tracking tags, we need to take a look at microchips.
Microchips are sometimes confused with location tracking devices. A microchip is a tiny, rice size computer chip injected into the scruff of a dog's neck.
Microchips are not ‘active' in the same way a GPS tracker tag is, but they hold a unique ID number for your pet. Each chip can be read by a special microchip scanner, which most dog pounds and vet surgeries will have at their disposal.
Once the vet or dog pound has the ID number, they can call up the registry and find the owner's contact details.
Most people know that the best place to take a stray or injured dog is to the nearest vet or dog pound, so making sure your dog gets chipped is a great way to increase your chances of finding your little guy again.
BUT DON'T FORGET TO KEEP YOUR MICROCHIP DETAILS UP TO DATE
If you don't update the details with your dog's microchip registry when you change your phone number or move house, the chip is useless. Make sure this is one of the first things on your house move to-do list!
As we've seen, microchipping your dog is a fantastic idea. But if you want to find your missing pup fast and minimize the risk of accidents or someone stealing your dog, you need a tracking device.
What sort of dog owners need a tracker? Is it essential? Only you can answer that question.
Some types of dogs are more likely to bolt or Houdini their way out of your backyard than others.
Bringing home your new adult dog from the pound or a local rescue is a special time, but it can take a while for your new fur-kid to settle in.
While he is getting used to his new home and bonding with you, he is at high risk of bolting or escaping back to street life.
We get it. Sometimes training a dog is not easy, and it takes a lot of time and patience. If you worry about your dog's ability to respond to your calls, then a tracker may be a good idea.
For young dogs and high energy breeds, letting them run off steam is often essential for their wellbeing, but you do run the risk of them going off on an adventure without you!
Some breeds just love a chase. Sighthounds like lurchers and greyhounds will be gone in a flash if they see a hint of a squirrel on the horizon.
Then there are our plucky terrier friends who'll shoot off after a rabbit (and potentially down a hole if you're unlucky!) Lots of dogs have a naturally strong prey drive regardless of their breed.
Chasing a fast-moving and wide-roaming animal like a deer could lead your dog on a super long chase before he finally remembers that you exist. Remember the classic ‘Feeennnntoooonnnn!!!' video?
Even in urban areas, free-roaming cats could cause your dog to get very excited and slip their leash.
Unless you are going to train your dog to 100% ignore the movements of all potential prey animals, a tracker can help you find your pup again once he's run out of steam or the target animal has gone to ground.
Young dogs can go all day, just like Duracell bunnies. Exciting new places, meeting new friends, chasing after balls – all these things can cause a young dog to get giddy, run in the wrong direction, and get hopelessly lost within moments.
Young dogs will also tend to go into panic mode when they realize they can't find you. Rather than use their noses to track you down, they'll just run around aimlessly.
If your dog likes to test his yard perimeter regularly, digging under or hopping over fences, then a tracker is a must.
Many dog trackers have a feature that allows you to set up a ‘safe zone.' Alerts are sent to you whenever your pup leaves that specified area. A useful feature for dogs in homes that don't have fenced-in backyards.
There are a lot of dogs out there with nervous dispositions. Maybe they are pound rescues with traumatic experiences in their past.
Or it could be that they are just naturally sensitive or lacked adequate socialization as a puppy.
Whatever the reason, scary situations can cause nervous dogs to slip into panic mode, and most will choose to flee rather than fight.
Smaller dogs will often run from big aggressive dogs they encounter on walks. Then there's the issue of storms or local fireworks terrifying usually happy pets and encouraging them to make a break from their backyard.
As you can see, there are an awful lot of dogs out there that would benefit from a tracking device. And as a wise person once said, the best time to get a dog tracker is BEFORE your pet gets lost.
Perhaps the only category of dogs that would be less in need of a tracker is older canines. Golden oldies snoozing in the backyard are unlikely to have the energy or inclination to wander far from home.
Still, peace of mind is the ultimate benefit of dog tracker devices. All owners can benefit from that.
If you are after a good deal on your dog GPS tracker Amazon has you covered. Plus, if you have Prime membership, you can benefit from free delivery.
Before we look at some recommended dog location trackers, here's a quick breakdown of the types of trackers available. Most available trackers use one of two technologies to function:
- GPS and Cellular Network Location Tracker
- Radio Frequency (RF) Location Tracker
We'll take a look at the pros and cons of each type of device, as it's not as simple as one being better than the other.
The ideal tracker would probably be a high-quality combination of the two, but nothing like that is currently available. Which one is best for you depends on you and your dog's unique needs and where you live.
These trackers work when a GPS (global positioning system) tag is attached to your dog. The GPS tag speaks to a cellular transceiver, also known as your smartphone.
When put into tracking mode, the location information from the GPS tag is displayed for you within an App on your phone.
As long as there is cell service and the GPS tag has battery charge left, you can use the app to see where your dog is even if they have traveled many miles from home.
Track your dog's historical movements
Most GPS trackers will allow you to see on a map the history of where your pup has been on his adventure.
Features to help with monitoring health and fitness
A lot of GPS trackers build in extra features that allow you to track the wellness and activity of your dog and even set fitness goals. Some have accelerometers that work in the same way as a Fitbit, using smart algorithms to distinguish between walking, running, playing, and sleeping.
Trackers using a cellular network service to locate your dog usually require a monthly fee. Most are in the region of $5-10 per month. It may not seem much at first, but over the years, the cost can add up.
GPS and Cellular Network Coverage
Coverage for your home area is a significant factor.
Many trackers rely on the coverage of one cell network (usually AT&T), so you are reliant on cell towers in your area to help you find your dog.
In rural or wilderness areas, the coverage may be very patchy or non-existent.
It's good to remember that both you and your dog need to have cell service for you to locate him.
For the GPS technology to locate your dog's tag, it needs a clear view from the sky, so the tracking won't work if he's decided to duck into a building. (Although you should be able to see where he last appeared).
GPS trackers are power-hungry, and their battery life is relatively short. This is particularly noticeable when the device is using the active ‘tracking mode.'
Hopefully, you can use the app to find your dog quickly, but if that doesn't happen, it could be that the tag runs down on battery within hours, rendering it useless.
Your phone's battery is also an essential factor here. You can't carry on the search if your iPhone suddenly shuts down.
Radio-frequency trackers are far less complicated than their GPS competitors. They rely on the older tech of self-contained radio frequencies.
The components of an RF tracker usually consist of 2 items.
1) A tracking tag for your dog
2) A separate handheld tracker that acts as a radar, showing you the direction your dog has gone in.
RF trackers do cost a little more than the average high-end GPS tracker, but they do not come with a subscription charge. The tag and the handheld locator are all you need to track your dog, so there’s no need for a separate smartphone.
Simple to use
If you struggle with modern gadgets, the average RF tracker device should not be too taxing for you to figure out. There is no need to download apps or figure out how to use a smartphone.
Ultra-long battery life
Since the tech inside an RF tracker is a lot less power-hungry than a GPS receiver, the battery will last much much longer. Most will keep running for weeks or even months on a full charge.
Not reliant on GPS or cellular networks
No matter how bad your local cell reception is, your RF tracker will keep on working. It should work just as well anywhere in the world!
The lower frequencies of RF signals also allow it to penetrate buildings so you can locate your dog even if he is trapped inside some sort of structure.
RF trackers tend to have a minimal range. Most will be able to point you in the direction of your dog only up to a maximum of 2 miles. After that, your only option is to keep moving around the area and hope you pick up the signal again.
RF trackers do sometimes let you set up a simple safe zone area, but beyond that, the fancy features are few and far between. You won't get any updates on your dog's burned calories or be able to check up on how well the dog walker is doing their job.
This feature can come in useful in specific situations, for instance, if your dog is stuck somewhere out of sight.
Some apps even let you record a sound to play for your dog remotely. Perhaps hearing your voice shouting ‘DIN-DINS' will inspire your wayward canine to head home again!?
A simple but useful tool to help you spot your pet from a distance if you're searching at night time.
Making sure your expensive new GPS or RF tracker is resistant to water is essential if your dog is a water baby (a typical Labrador, for instance!)
Levels of IP rating (Ingress Protection) can vary. Some are merely splash-proof, while other trackers can be submerged underwater for at least half an hour.
As you can see, GPS and RF trackers have a lot of benefits and drawbacks. If your dog lives in a city, and you like the idea of monitoring your pup's daily fitness goals and his movements throughout the day, a GPS tracker is probably best for you.
If you live somewhere out in the country or dislike the idea of a long-running subscription, you should invest in an RF tracker.
Our recommended RF tracker is the Marco Polo Advanced Pet Monitoring, Tracking, and Locating system. It will keep working for an incredible 45 days, has no subscription fee, and it's super simple to use.
Our recommended GPS tracker is the Whistle GO Explore Health and Location Tracker for Pets. It's a light, robust, waterproof tracker that also comes with a host of great additional pet monitoring features.
For more information on the Whistle GO range, see our comprehensive look at the options ***here.***
For tiny dogs, many standard trackers are too bulky and heavy. The smallest dog tracker we could find is the PetFon Pet Tracker.
It's just 4.5cm tall and wide and only 1.5cm deep. Weighing a mere 28grms, it won't be a nuisance even if your dog is very petite or you want to use it on a puppy.
An RF tracker is your best bet for minimizing ongoing costs. The Marco Polo Tracking System will set you back over $200 for the initial purchase, but after that, there are zero subscription costs.
Alternatively, you could try a PetFon Pet Tracker, which uses wireless tracking but also makes use of local wifi hotspots, making it ideal for urban areas.
Coming in at around the $50 mark, the Tractive 3G GPS Dog Tracker is an excellent option if you are on a budget. Although it does come with a subscription, the monthly fee is lower than some of the other trackers out there.
If you want to know more, here's an interesting review of the Tractive tracker by a well-traveled dog trainer.
BEST RF DOG TRACKER: Marco Polo Tracking System
BEST GPS DOG TRACKER: Whistle GO Explore Health and Location Tracker
BEST DOG TRACKER NO MONTHLY FEE: Marco Polo Tracking System
BEST SMALL DOG TRACKER: PetFon Pet Tracker
BEST BUDGET DOG TRACKER: Tractive 3G GPS Dog Tracker
BEST WATERPROOF GPS TRACKER: Whistle GO Explore Health and Location Tracker