After doing countless hours of research, and considering 19 GPS dog collars spread across two dog tracker categories, we think the Whistle 3 and Gibi are among the best cell-based GPS dog collars for most people whereas the RoamEO SeekR, Astro 320, and Pathfinder top the non-cell GPS dog collars for outdoors enthusiasts and professionals.
* The Nuzzle review was removed due to shipping delays and recent reviews. They will be reviewed along with the options listed below during the next update. (May 4, 2017)
Table of Contents
Best GPS dog collars (Feb) 2017
A note on battery life. The length of time your battery will last depends upon numerous factors. The estimates provided are for comparison purposes only (i.e., your mileage will vary.)
What is GPS and how does it work?
The Global Position System (GPS) is a collection of satellites that relay time and location to ground-based receivers. The system was established by the United States government who continues to maintain it as well as make it available to anyone with a receiver free of charge. In order to relay the information, four satellites must have a direct line of sight with the receiver. Updates tend to occur once per second but, depending upon your device, your refresh rate can be faster or slower.
How we selected and evaluated
We started by learning everything we could about how GPS dog collars worked and what options were available to pet owners. We followed by reading every review we could to learn what consumers like, and what they didn’t, about the options in the marketplace. This allowed us to create a list of 19 options complete with a matrix of product features that allowed us to make comparisons.
We removed any dog trackers that didn’t work in the United States.
This post is written specifically for a US dog owner therefore collars that wouldn’t work in the US were not considered. This removed Kippy from the selection pool. Of course this dog collar will be monitored and US coverage is added this post will be updated to reflect their evaluation.
We removed dog trackers that were in a state of pre-order (e.g., crowded campaigns, beta periods, etc.)
While Nuzzle, WUF, Kyon Pet Tracker, LINK AKC, Pod 3, and Findster Duo appear to be interesting options, they are not available for wide-scale purchase and therefore were not considered. These products will be monitored and, as they become available to the public this post will be updated to reflect their evaluation.
Finally, we removed any web-enabled dog trackers that were using 2G cellular connectivity.
2G is an aging technology that is in the midst of being phased out. ATT shutdown their 2G network earlier this year whereas Verizon plans to keep their 2G network through 2019 and T-Mobile recently extended their sunset plan until 2020. That said, many dog collars were using both the ATT and/or T-Mobile networks. This means that they will solely rely upon T-Mobile.
Keep in mind that buying a GPS dog collar is a lot like buying any piece of technology these days – buy the best you can afford but understand that you will need to replace at some point in the future. At this point, we would recommend either buying an available 3G tracker or waiting for new products to come into the market. This factor removed Pod 2 GPS and Wifi Pet Tracker and Activity Monitor, Tractive GPS Pet Tracker, and Petalways GPS and Wifi Pet Tracker from our evaluation.
We removed trackers there were not rated IP67 (i.e., waterproof).
The IP loosely translates to “Ingress Protection” and is a means of rating and classifying the degree of protection against outside intrusion. The first digit rates the degree to which the products stands up to outside contaminates. The highest rating is “6” which means that dust was not able to enter the important pieces of the product.
The second digit indicates how well the product does to keep water out of the important elements. A rating of “6” means it stands up to powerful water jets for several minutes whereas a rating of “7” means the product withstood being immersed in up to 1 meter (nearly 3.5 feet) of water for 30 minutes.
Given that the purpose of product, we felt compelled to use IP67 as the baseline. While it does seem that a higher rating correlates with a higher price and a lower overall weight, neither factor seemed overly significant. It also seems that IP67 is considered a new standard so the majority of the GPS dog collars reviewed had this rating thereby not overly limiting our selection. This factor eliminated Paw Tracker GPA Pet Tracker and Trax Play GPS Tracker.
Our final list of contenders, a note on categorization and a word about technical products.
With our original list of 19 devices narrowed down to 6, two categories of GPS dog collars emerged. There were those that were cell-based and could be monitored using mobile phone applications and there were those that were GPS based which (typically) require a separate hand-held receiver.
If you are wanting to check on your dog’s location using your phone, are in a location with good cell phone coverage, want text notifications should your dog leave a defined “safe” zone, would like to track over long distances (say work and home), then you want to focus on cell-based trackers. On the other hand, if you plan on tracking your dog while taking long hikes of hunting trips where cell coverage is sparse, and a heavier collar with limited range is fine, then you want to focus on the GPS category that does not require a cellular network.
While reviewing all devices it was clear that this is an emerging category. This is clear when reviewing consumer reviews which tend to fall on either sides of the spectrum – either they love it…or they don’t. My hope is this post will make it easier for you to make an informed buying decision so as to buy the right device for their particular needs. In addition, I think it emphasizes the need of the consumer to test their product immediately upon receipt to ensure it works as intended within their particular environment.
1. Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor – Best Value
The Whistle 3 by Whistle Labs is a small, lightweight (.92 oz. which is slightly less than five quarters), tracker that attaches to any standard 1” dog collar or harness. The Whistle 3 was just released in 2017 although Whistle has been improving the lives of pets since 2013 they definitely have experience in this space.The Whistle 3 is a great option for those looking for a budget friendly dog tracker.
This tracker uses GPS, cellular, and wifi for tracking. This means you can use their free app (iOS and Android) for tracking although you’ll need to pay a month charge ($6.95 – $9.95) for the cell subscription. It also allows you to set up geofencing around “safe places” for your dog (like your home and yard). If your pet leaves this place, you can get alerts by email, app, or text.
Want information about your dog’s daily activity such as activity and rest? Yep. These features may be useful when considering the health of your dog or when trying to identify changes in behavior. In terms of battery, the tracker features a fixed battery placement that lasts up to 10 days and fully recharges in 2 hours.
The Whistle 3 is very durable (rated IP67, waterproof) and attaches to any standard 1” inch collar. Good news – this tracker is recommended for dogs 8lbs and up which means it is a great option for smaller breeds.
2. Gibi Pet GPS Tracker
The Gibi is a another option for those looking for a budget friendly dog tracker.
Gibi uses GPS, cellular, and wifi for tracking. This means you can use their free app (iOS and Android) for tracking although you’ll need to pay a month charge ($9.99/month or $99/year) for the cell subscription.
You can also set up geofencing around “safe zones” for your dog (like your home and yard). If your pet leaves this place, you can get alerts by email or text. You can also allow friends/family to receive alerts.
Their fixed battery placement lasts up to 3 days and fully recharges in 2 hours. The tracker is very durable and rated IP67 (waterproof). Attaches to any standard 1” inch collar.
3. RoamEO SeekR – Best for Outdoor Enthusiasts
The RoamEO SeekR tracks your pet solely using GPS – no cellular connectivity or monthly agreements required. This means you’ll use a handheld transmitter with an LCD screen to track your dog (i.e., you cannot use your phone, no apps to download).The RoamEO SeekR is a great option for those that love the great outdoors.
This device can track your pup (and another pup, should you be inclined) for 3-5 miles. Location updates are provided quickly – about every four seconds. You can also set up geofencing around safe areas for your pet and have an alert sent to your handheld tracking unit should they leave that space. What’s more, you can create a “shadow” fence around you so that the fence moves as you move.
Fixed battery placement that lasts up to 7 days. The tracker is very durable and rated IPX7 (waterproof) and it attaches to any standard 1” inch collar and weighs 1.8 ounces.
4. Astro® 320 by Garmin– Great for Serious Outdoorsmen
This is a serious dog tracker that uses GPS for tracking. This means you’ll use a handheld transmitter (included) with an LCD screen to track your dog (i.e., you cannot use your phone, no apps to download, no cellular connectivity required.)
Have a pack? Good – track up to 10 dogs at the same time. Updates refresh as often as every five seconds. Using their “Rescue Mode” reduces the update/refresh rate when the battery life drops below 25% in order to preserve the battery giving you more time to find your dog.
The Garmin T 5 collar can track your pup for up to 9 miles (The is a smaller, “mini” collar can track for up to 4 miles). Their battery is fixed and lasts between 16 and 40 hours depending upon your settings.
The tracker is very durable and rated IPX7 (waterproof). Weighs in at 9.3 oz.
5. Pathfinder by Dogtra – Best Value for Sporting Professionals
The Dogtra uses GPS for tracking. Instead of using a handheld transmitter with a screen to track your dog, the transmitter connects to your smart phone for tracking via their app. This tracker seems like a great option for anyone who spends considerable time working with sporting dogs
As with other trackers we have recommended, you can set up geofencing around safe areas for your pet and sends your handheld tracking unit an alert should they leave that space. The Pathfinder can track up to 21 dogs at the same time (wow). Receive updates as often as every two seconds (double wow). Training options include nick and constant stimulation.
Can track your pup for up to 9 (line of sight) miles. The tracker is very durable and rated IPX7 (waterproof).
What about Tile™?
Tile is a popular Bluetooth tracking device. Basically you place a small “Tile” on the object you would like to track (think key chain, cell phone, or handbag). If you cannot find your item, and it is within 100 feet (most effective at 30 feet), you can ring your Tile and cause it to play a loud tune helping you find your item. If you are out of range, well, you are out of luck. That said, if you reported your item as lost, and someone else with the Tile app moves within 100 feet (well, likely less given that they are most effective at 30 feet) of your object, you will receive an alert showing the vicinity of your item.
Hopefully you can see the issues with using such a system to track the location of your dog. That said, Tiles are probably wonderful for locating everyday items like keys and wallets.
What to expect in 2017
Given the market is seeing several new entrants this year, finding the perfect GPS dog collar is only going to get more interesting. Rest assured that we will be monitoring new products and carefully evaluating their place in the market to make it easier for dog owners to make the right choice for their needs.
Did I miss a dog tracker that you have found useful? Do you have one of the trackers mentioned above and have a different take? Either way, let us know.