Electronic Pet Trackers and Activity Monitors: A Roundup

Sarah Sypniewski

hunting dog wearing tracking collar

We’re living in the age of technology and constant contact, so it makes perfect sense to have our pets electronically connected to us as well. Tracking devices for pets have hit the mainstream market and there are lots of options to choose from. Depending on what your needs are, you can probably find one that meets them!

How They Work

Pet trackers use one of three main types of technology: radio, cellular, or GPS.

Radio-enable pet trackers use radio frequencies to locate your pet. A transmitter on the pet’s collar sends a signal to your transmitter that tells you the direction and distance of your pet. They are usually extremely accurate, down to about an inch. Also, they do not rely on cell towers, so they are ideal for remote or covered areas. The downside is that you have to physically go toward your pet in a game of “hot and cold” in order to find him instead of receiving exact coordinates like you do with a GPS-enabled tracker. Also, the transmitters are pretty bulky, so only large pets would be able to use them. Radio trackers are the trackers of choice for hunting dogs.

Cellular-based pet trackers utilize cell towers to ping the location, which is accurate usually within a few blocks. The biggest downside to satellite and GPS collars is if the pet is in a location with no clear line to satellites or little-to-no cell coverage, you will not be able to track your pet. Also, you need to pay a monthly fee for the service.

GPS-enabled pet trackers use satellites to locate your pet in real-time and then report the information via app or website.

Brands to Consider

Whistle

The Whistle 3 is basically the grandfather of GPS collars for the purpose of serving the lost pet community. It uses cell and GPS technology to keep tabs on your pet. You can choose to receive an e-mail, app, or text notification when your pet leaves the “safe place” you set. You can create a “trip” every time your pet leaves and returns to one of your pre-set safe places to follow their location and activity over the most recent 24 hours. It will also give you suggestions for activity level based on your pet’s age, breed, and other factors.

Whistle’s tracking device attaches to your pet’s collar (which needs to be at least an inch wide). The minimum weight is eight pounds so small pets really can’t use it. It has a seven-day battery life and they let you try it out risk-free for 90 days. It has four out of five stars on Amazon, with 3600+ reviews. It’s $79.95 plus a monthly service fee.

Tractive

Tractive works similarly to Whistle. You get a clip on GPS unit that attaches to the pet’s collar (this is best for pets nine pounds or over), and then you can track your pet on your phone. It not only gives you live location, but it will show the path your pet took to get there. It’s fully waterproof and has no limit on range since it uses GPS technology. The only catch is, like Whistle, you need to have cell coverage in order for it to work. Battery life while tracking is about two days. Some of the online reviews point to major problems with customer service, so that is something to be aware of before purchasing. It has three and a half stars on Amazon out of 150+ reviews. It’s $74.99 plus a monthly service fee.

Link AKC Smart Dog Collar

The cool thing about LINK AKC is that it doesn’t have a separate attachment; the functionality is built into the collar itself. It uses advanced GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cell technology to monitor and record location, activity, and temperature. You can also set health reminders and store vet records, but each add-on service costs extra. You can track your pet right on your phone in real-time and bring up a map to see exactly where he is. You also get access to the Pet Poison Hotline. It offers a size guarantee that lets you size up collars at no charge when your pet outgrows one, and comes with a three-year warranty.

There are two collar styles to choose from: Classic and New Sport. Both come with remote-controlled sound and light features to help with training and night-time visibility. The battery lasts only three and a half days, though. They have a 90-day risk-free guarantee, plus they have a referral program. Three out of five stars on Amazon out of 700+ reviews. $129 plus a monthly service plan fee.

Garmin T5

Garmin’s products are very heavy-duty and are ideal for hunting or other rugged outdoor work. They are meant to withstand a lot of wear and tear, and even full submersion in water. Garmin products require two pieces of equipment: the transmitter (collar) and the handheld transceiver (you can’t use your phone). The range is only about nine miles and beyond that you’ would need to move around with the transceiver to get within range of your pet. The battery life is only about 20 hours while actively tracking which is fine for hunting but not for locating a lost dog with a few days lead.

The Garmin T5 is a GPS-based tracker (it does not offer any training features) and is compatible with Garmin Alpha 100, Astro 320, and Astro 430 transceivers. Four out of five stars on Amazon from 27 reviews. It’s $250 for the collar plus $650-$800 for the transceiver.

Garmin TT 15

The Garmin TT15 takes it up a notch, providing more top-of-the-line tools for dog owners who need to do serious tracking and training with hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, and other service animals. The main thing that sets it apart from the Garmin T5 is that you can use it for training purposes. It provides 18 levels of continuous or momentary stimulation and includes audible tone and vibration modes so you can customize its use with your dog’s training regimen. You can track and train multiple dogs with it; however, the battery only lasts about 20 hours while actively tracking. This one is best for professional or serious working dogs. It is compatible with the same handheld devices as the T5. It’s $299 for the collar plus $650-$800 for the transceiver.

The market for GPS tracking and activity pet collars is exploding right now and this is just a sampling of the strongest contenders. You can find a whole slew of other options at different price points that offer different features. The main thing to look for when purchasing is to ensure it’s designed for pet use, not as a lost object finder like Tile. The price difference makes it tempting, but those tiny plastic trackers that you clip onto your keys have nowhere near the range or technology you need to track and record your pet’s movements and could cost your pet dearly in the future. My advice is to invest the money now so you don’t second guess yourself later!

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

Mind if we pay your vet bills?

Copyright 2005-2018

Pet health insurance is administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency, LLC and underwritten by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA as American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8), and American Southern Home Insurance Company. Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors, and are subject to change. Wellness Rewards is offered as a supplementary, non-insurance benefit administered by Embrace Pet Insurance Agency in the United States. © 2016 American Modern Insurance Group, Inc.