Elsie lives with three cats and is an experienced pet sitter.
Some dogs seize every opportunity to escape either from your very own backyard, the second the car or front door opens, or on a hike. Some dogs are more prone to this than others. We had a Beagle who was completely controlled by her nose. When she was free, there was no getting that nose (with the attached dog) back! Wanderlust can be a very dangerous trait in a dog.
Of course, it was only a matter of time before GPS devices for dogs and cats hit the market. Fortunately for pet owners, they are becoming increasingly affordable. Most work with either radio frequency technology, GPS (satellite signals) or a combination of the two. Some require you to have a monthly subscription with some additional fees tagged on, while others are non-subscription.
You just might be surprised by the horrifying number of pets who get lost yearly. Family pets are lost nearly every two seconds, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. This translates into more that 10 million missing pets each year. Your chances of being reunited with your pet increase dramatically if you take proper identification measures. Some people are turning to GPS for dogs and cats as a way to ensure their pets don't become part of these sad statistics.
Information About Pet GPS and Microchip Technology
I want to say right off the bat: I am a big advocate of making sure all your pets have microchips. Microchip technology has reunited many pets and their owners over the years and should always be part of your pet location arsenal. However, they have one distinct disadvantage: your dog must be found and then scanned for you to benefit. As such, I am a strong advocate of using GPS for dogs. You will be given a level of control over finding your dog other methods simply cannot provide. Let me give you on overview of the different types of pet locator devices.
Can Microchips Track Your Dog?
Many people seem to be confused about microchip technology. Let me make it clear that microchips do not and can not track your dog's location. They do not have GPS capabilities. I've had quite a few people ask me where they can get a GPS microchip and I can only say: “They don't exist!” Microchips exist for identification purposes.
A newer arrival on the market are USB tags for dogs and cats. Hidden inside each collar is a USB flash drive that contains all of your pet's information, including any health problems, vaccination dates, food requirements, etc. The trouble with this little invention is the person who finds the pet would have to be pretty swift to figure out there's a USB ready to be plugged into their computer. It's not a perfect solution by any means, but it's great for those who want all their pet's information in one place
GPS for Dogs and Cats
Enter GPS for dogs and cats. There are essentially two different types available today: assisted GPS devices and traditional GPS devices.
- Assisted GPS devices make use of cell phone technology to locate your pet from information transmitted from the dog's collar. These require monthly subscription services since they make use of cell phone towers for information transfer. The benefit with these is your pet could literally end up across country and provided there's a cell signal where Molly ends up, the two of you will be reunited.
- Traditional GPS devices operate via a radio transmission device embedded in the dog's (or cat's) collar. The benefit to this is they will work where there's no cell phone signal, like in the backcountry or other cell phone “unfriendly” areas. The limitation is you must be close enough to your pet to receive the radio transmission. The transmission areas with these devices vary, some can only cover about a mile, while others purport to cover up to a twelve mile range. The bonus is you don't have to deal with monthly subscription fees.
How to Choose the Right GPS
If you're researching and/or shopping for a GPS device for your pet, there are a few important considerations to bear in mind. Naturally, there are quite a few differences between the various models, and ultimately your choice hinges on what your specific needs are.
Device Features to Consider
- Some offer the capacity to track multiple pets at once, which could come in handy for the multiple dog owner.
- The tracking collars and honing tags come in different sizes as well. Some are not appropriate for a toy dog breed, while others are. Some pet locator devices are even suitable for cats.
- Some, like the Garmin Astro, have an antenna on the collars that can bother pets or get caught on things outside. This could be a problem for a particularly curious dog.
- Some are waterproof and others are water-resistant, so depending upon your climate and the activities you and your dog are involved in, this could be a pivotal factor.
- The battery life on these devices also varies quite widely. Some last only 24 or so hours with continual use, while others can go for weeks. Many of the companies include both rechargeable batteries as well as a battery charger. Some use AA batteries, while others use lithium.
- Some are made with people who hunt with their dogs in mind. So, you may not want or need to pay for all of the features bundled with these devices.
- Others are made for consumers who merely want to ensure they're reunited with their pet should he or she escape.
- Some allow you to define a "safe barrier" in your yard (or campsite, etc.) so that you are alerted when your dog has wandered farther than he or she is allowed.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Pet GPS
Your task will be to decide which one works best for your given situation. The following are some factors you'll need to take into consideration:
- The range of coverage area you need
- The size of your pet and the ability to handle wearing the extra weight on the collar. Some of the collars are quite light, others are a bit more cumbersome and better for larger dogs.
- Battery life (and lots of it) is important
- Does it need to be waterproof or not?
- Do you mind a subscription plan (which generally have additional features like tracking your pet via website and having customer service aid in reuniting you with your pet)?
- Cost (obviously, this can vary quite a lot)
- Some have an antenna on the device which can bother pets, others don't.
The following devices are my top recommendations.
Garmin's Astro 220 GPS with DC 30 or DC 40 GPS Dog Tracking Collars
Garmin's been in the business of making GPS devices for a long time. Having successfully used a Garmin GPS for “human needs”, I didn't hesitate to turn to this company for my dog's GPS needs. Garmin's DC 40 is just the newer version of the DC 30. If you're looking for a dependable GPS for dogs, it's hard to beat Garmin.
- You can track your dog up to seven miles away.
- Information is transmitted as frequently as every five minutes.
- Highly visible, strong polyurethane tracking collar
- Full-featured GPS with backlit display and keyboard
- Approximately 20 hours of battery-life using AA batteries
- Dog Collar has weighted transmitter so the unit will stay under the dog's neck and keep the antenna pointing upwards.
Points to Consider
- Although I've not had trouble with the antenna on the collar, some people complain the antenna can get hooked on branches, etc,, and is potentially prone to getting bent or even torn off the unit.
- The battery-life could be better.
- Garmin's Astro GPS system is designed for people who go hunting with their dogs, as such you may be paying a premium price for features you won't use if simply using it for a tracking device. We purchased ours since we spend a lot of time hiking with our dog in the backcountry. We also go camping a lot, so it's nice to know we will always know where he is.
Loc8tor Pet Demonstration
Pet Loc8tor: Loc8tor Lite, Loc8tor Pet and Loc8tor Plus
Depending upon your needs, one of these is a good buy for the money. Although they are assisted GPS devices (it also uses radio frequency), you are not required to sign up for any long-term contracts. It's basically a pay-as-you-go plan where you purchase credits as needed. Any of the models are appropriate for pet tracking, although the Loc8tor Pet is created specifically for this purpose. As such, I'll specifically highlight the features of the pet device.
- Ultra long battery-life (hallelujah!) It uses 2 AAA batteries that can last for months with infrequent use, but with typical use, more like 4 to 9 days.
- Shorter tracking range of between 100 to 600 feet. The Loc8tor Lite and Loc8tor Pet have a 100 to 400 foot range, while the Loc8tor Plus has a wider range of 100 to 600 feet.
- Comes with one handheld tracking device and 2 mini homing tags. The tags come with splashproof cases to keep them dry and protected from the elements.
- The tags are tiny are light, only 3cm high x 2cm wide x 0.9cm deep (1.2 x 0.8 x 0.3 inches) and weigh less than five grams (.2 ounces). As such, they are being successfully used on cats and toy dog breeds.
- You can also use your cell phone to track the device with a simple activation process. Online tracking is also available.
- The handset is small and very portable, the size of only a credit card.
- You can set up pre-defined boundaries to let you know when your pet has traveled farther than you'd like.
- With a simple press of the locate button, you will be guided within an inch of your pet's location.
PetSafe GPS Locator
The PetSafe GPS Locator is favorably reviewed by customers. It's another assisted GPS tracking device using two-way wireless technology. It requires a one year subscription, you can either pay monthly or prepay for the year and receive a discount. Currently the monthly rates are $19.99/month or $16.58/month is prepaid.
- You define a home zone for your dog and when he crosses over that boundary, you are notified via email, phone or text. You can also track your pet online with or without the help of a customer service representative's live support.
- It uses AT&T which some people prefer.
- Since it uses both GPS and cell phone technology, your range isn't limited.
- Comes with a nice sturdy, water resistant collar, a battery charger as well as 4 rechargeable batteries.
- Typical battery-life is 4-5 days and it will give you a low battery alert about 24 hours before it runs out, which a lot of other pet locators don't.
- 24/7 support team with great customer service.
- Recommended for dogs who are above 30 pounds, so not for cats or small dogs. The collar weighs 4.2 oz and fits dogs with neck sizes 10” or larger.
- Has a lot of different modes depending upon what your needs are at the time. Monitor mode is the default mode with the purpose of making sure your pet is in the safe zone you've defined. If you and your dog decide to go for a walk, then you can put the device into walk mode while you're out of the zone. I believe walk mode only lasts for 45 minutes, then will revert back to monitor mode. Locate mode kicks in when your dog has wandered out of the safe boundaries.
RoamEO Pet Monitor System by Pet Tronix
For people like myself you don't like to commit to contracts and monthly fees, the RoamEO, like the Garmin requires no subscriptions or fees and works right out of the box. It gets good reviews from customers, some who've tried the competitions GPS for dogs and have exchanged them for the RoamEO.
- It combines GPA technology with radio signals.
- The locator collar does NOT have an antenna stocking out of the collar, rather it's safely embedded inside.
- The receiver can monitor two dogs simultaneously.
- The adjustable collar fits dog neck sizes from 12” to 24”.
- The receiver is made of a water-resistant rubber material.
- Its range is ½ mile
- Uses a rechargeable lithium battery, included in the pack. Also includes a charger. The battery-life isn't ideal at only about 24 hours from a full charge.
- The RoamEO collar only weighs 4 ounces, but isn't appropriate for small dogs.
- GPS coordinates are transmitted to the receiver every four seconds, so you can get real-time information about your pet's location.
I do not recommend the following devices.
Zoombak's Advanced Universal Locator
I have no first-hand experience with this assisted GPS device, but I have scoured the web for reviews, forum postings, product rating pages, etc.. I have NOT found positive reviews of this product. It's seems to be made with shoddy materials inclined to fall apart, people complain about the requirement to be a T-Mobile customer, it doesn't reliably work and many people complained about the contract and hidden cancellation fees. As such, it will not be on my list of recommended GPS for dogs.
It's nearly impossible to find a positive review on this GPS for dogs device. People complain it's too bulky for their dogs, the GPS unit is not waterproof as stated, the customer service is poor, the device is poorly made, etc.. It's not on my list of recommended GPS devices for dogs.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Laura Schneider from Minnesota, USA on February 21, 2015:
Thanks for this valuable comparison of technologies! I constantly worry about my dog getting lost and have often considered researching GPS and other location devices. This is exactly what I needed to know to keep my pet safe at home. And yes, she's micro-chipped, of course. Thanks again and keep up the great writing!
Cheryl Renee from Northern NJ on February 20, 2015:
Great idea! It tugs at my heart whenever I see the innocent face of a beloved family pet staring at me from a "missing poster."
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 20, 2015:
I'd love to have one! Thanks for sharing this wonderful info, and congratulations!
Andrew from Hamilton on February 20, 2015:
This one is deff going to need one of those lol https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGrf0NGli7I
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on February 20, 2015:
Have been debating whether this would be a good investment for our 4-leggers. Thanks for sharing the pros and cons! Voted up, useful and sharing. Congrats on Hub of the Day!
Mary Hyatt from Florida on February 20, 2015:
I was unaware GPS units were made for pets, but it sure sounds like a great idea. My little doggie never leaves her fenced yard except for walks on a leash, but I can certainly see why they would be a good idea for some pets. Congrats on HOTD. Voted UP, etc.
Krysten Vance on February 20, 2015:
Downside is that if pet is stolen, collar can be removed and disposed of elsewhere. Would ne cool if they had an implant one.
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on February 04, 2012:
Thanks for coming by, Debbie. It really does make a lot of sense for certain dog owners. My cats don't go outside, but they've been known to escape, so I may even consider getting them all one.
Debbie Roberts from Greece on February 04, 2012:
You learn something new every day!!...We have our dogs chipped, but as you've pointed out the dog has to be found and scanned for it to be of any use. A GPS tag makes much more sense, something well worth checking out if your dog is a wanderer.
An interesting hub and thanks for sharing...
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on February 02, 2012:
Why thank you, Eddy. I appreciate your coming by!
Eiddwen from Wales on February 02, 2012:
A well presented and very interesting hub.
Thanks for sharing;take care and enjoy your day.
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on February 01, 2012:
Thanks, Ghost. Yup, they're in production all right. And, certainly growing in popularity. Good to see you, thanks for stopping by!
Ghost32 on February 01, 2012:
Interesting. I didn't even know these GPS units for critters were in production. Not that I'd use one--EVER--but still, interesting.
(My aversion to such things is 80% ideological, 20% practical.)
Voted Up and More.