For years, our dogs have worn GPS trackers on their collars, giving us peace of mind that, should they become lost when we’re traveling–or even out for a dog walk–we can get on our phones can track their movements.
GPS trackers–which can be a dedicated GPS dog collar or a separate unit that clips on any dog collar–are a great way to quickly locate your dog when he is lost. According to HomeAgain, the microchip registration service, 1 in 3 pets will become lost during their lifetime. In total, every year 10 million pets are lost.
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How does a GPS Dog Collar Work?
GPS or Global Positioning System dog collar devices allow you to track your dog in realtime as soon as you know they’re missing.
If your dog is lost, you’ll receive a text, SMS or email, depending on how you set up your system, and then you can track your dog’s movements and pinpoint his location in real time.
GPS units typically clip onto a dog’s collar and transmit his location, which can then be viewed by the owner on a smartphone app or a browser interface.
To set up the GPS system, you’ll use geofencing to create a “home zone” that, if your dog wanders beyond, will set off an alert on your phone.
If you’re out enjoying a dog walk, just ignore the alert.
If you’re at work and you get an alert, you’ll know that you need to check on your dog or call a neighbor to check on your dog. Once your dog returns to the home zone, you’ll get another alert showing that your dog is back home. GPS systems can also alert to you to your dog walker taking your dog out for walk, the distance they walk, and the amount of time they are gone.
Devices that don’t use cell networks have a separate device for the dog owner to use to track the dog.
Does a GPS unit shock my dog?
A GPS unit–even though some devices look similar to one–is NOT a correction collar in any way.
When your dog leaves the home zone, he gets no indication that he’s done so–no buzz, vibration or shock. The ONLY thing that is triggered is a notification to your cell phone.
Does my dog need a GPS if he’s microchipped?
Your dog’s microchip will help get him home if he’s lost and then picked up and taken to a veterinarian or animal shelter to have the chipped scanned. (Be sure your dog’s microchip record has been updated with your current address and phone number or it won’t help!)
However, a GPS unit can help you locate your dog BEFORE he’s picked up by animal control.
Which dogs need to wear a GPS collar?
Honestly, we think just about every dog would benefit from wearing a GPS collar. As we all know, no matter how well trained your dog is, accidents can happen. Your home could be burglarized with your dog home alone, the hotel door can open and your dog can escape, your backyard gate can become unlatched. One way or another, dogs and their people get separated.
If your dog is an escape artist, a GPS device is invaluable. If your dog has been known to climb fences, dig out out yards, bolt for open doors or otherwise get away and explore on his own, you NEED a GPS.
Dogs who are traveling would also do well to wear a GPS. A dog in unfamiliar territory can easily become lost if he’s separated from his people.
During the winter months, dogs who walking in snow are also at risk of becoming lost, even if they’re in familiar territory. The snow makes it more difficult for a lost dog to return home.
If your dog is home alone much of the day, a GPS collar is a great way for you to enjoy some peace of mind. You can check your app and see that your dog is safely at home,. Many units even include activity monitors so you can see if he’s napping or playing.
GPS units are also great for dogs without good recall. If you accidentally drop on your dog walk when your dog spots a squirrel, are you 100% confident that you can call your dog back to you?
If you have a deaf dog or a dog whose hearing has become impaired by age, a GPS is a great tool. Sadly several years ago one of our neighbors had holiday company including a senior deaf dog. The dog–in unfamiliar territory–wandered out while the family was eating dinner. Our entire neighborhood searched for the dog but he was never seen again.
What Features Does a Dog GPS Include?
The number of features varies from device to device but typically you can expect these features from a dog GPS device:
- A waterproof unit that clips to your dog’s collar OR a collar that has a GPS unit built in.
- A rechargeable battery.
- The ability to create a “home zone” for your dog. When he’s within this zone, you won’t receive notices and the device will go into a battery-saving mode.
- Texts or emails to alert you when your dog leaves the home zone. Some units will also allow you to notify designated neighbors or friends.
- A downloadable app for your smartphone for tracking your dog’s movements.
- Real-time tracking of your dog on a map, usually a Google map.
In addition, some units feature activity monitoring to help you track how active (or inactive) your dog is throughout the day.
If you utilize a dog-walking service, the activity monitor will let you see if your dog was walked for the specified amount of time.
New devices entering the market also make it possible for you to see and hear what your dog is seeing and hearing at the same time.
GPS units were originally sized primarily for medium and large dogs but a growing number are of units for smaller dogs–and even cats–have come onto the market. Be sure to check the size of the unit before you make your decision, if your dog is small.
What’s the difference in coverage?
GPS units traditionally used cell phone towers to provide coverage; some units now are free of cell service (especially important if you live in or travel in a remote area without cell service.)
PETFON GPS Tracker says:
Petfon GPS tracker combines GPS, WiFi, bluetooth, and long distance wireless technologies for accurate real-time positioning. The small, durable and waterproof device allows you to track your pet’s activity and pinpoint his location in real time. Petfon GPS tracker is not based on cellular networks. It works anywhere even without cellular coverage. Thus it is free of any service fee or monthly fee.
The Whistle units that we use with our dogs utilize AT&T 3g cellular service. That’s fine for our travel needs but definitely something to keep in mind if your travels take you to more remote areas.
How much does a GPS tracker cost?
Although they’re not inexpensive, GPS prices have been coming down as more and more companies enter the market.
The Whistle units we use with our dogs cost about $100 per unit; these also come with a monthly service fee for each dog.
Which GPS unit do our dogs wear?
For years, our dogs have worn a GPS tracker on their collar. Originally the company was called Tagg; today it is known as Whistle GO.
The device has gone through several looks but the way it works remains the same: it attaches to our dogs’ collars. We have a Whistle app on our phones that lets us track the dogs (and their activity); it sends us alerts any time the dogs leave their home zone and when the return to the home zone.
GPS Trackers for Dogs
Here’s a rundown of several GPS trackers that will attach to your dog’s collar:
This is the latest version of the Whistle tracker that our dogs wear. It also includes activity monitoring. You will need a Whistle account for the monthly service fee. Shop for Whistle on Amazon
The Findster Duo+ Pet Tracker attaches to your dog’s collar; it does not include a monthly service fee. This service does not use cell service which means that you’ll need the second unit for yourself to use to find your dog–and it means that the range is more limited than you’d have with cell service (0.5mi in urban areas, and up to 3mi in open outdoor areas.) This unit works internationally. The Findster Duo+ is for dogs eight pounds and up. Shop Amazon for Findster Duo+ Pet Tracker
Because it doesn’t use cell service, the PETFON GPS tracker includes a base unit for you to carry to find your dog. There is no monthly fee for this unit–but because it doesn’t use cell service, the range is more limited that a device that uses cell service. (On the plus side, it can be used in any country that has a GPS signal.) It can track your dog up to 0.65 miles in downtown/dense space and 3.5 miles in an open environment. Shop Amazon for PETFON GPS Tracker
GPS Collars for Dogs
For dogs 10 pounds and up, the LINK AKC Smart Dog Collar is a collar and GPS unit in one. The collar, which works only the US, uses cell service and can also monitor the temperature where you dog is, sending you an alert if the temperature becomes too high or low. You can also upload veterinary records to the device. Shop Amazon for LINK AKC Smart Dog Collar
Does YOUR dog wear a GPS collar? Let us know in the comments below!