Monday, 14 November 2016

9 Best Pet Trackers For Cats & Dogs For 2017

Let's face it:

You are reading these lines because losing your dog or cat is one of your biggest fears! Buying a pet tracking system can definitely help with that. Maybe you have hunting dogs or maybe you are tired of losing your cat. Or maybe you like going hiking and you are afraid your dog will go astray. Don't worry, today's tracking systems are extremely sophisticated and can help you locate your dog, cat, goat, sheep, tortoise or whatever in an instant!

When choosing a tracker for your pet, you need to consider your needs and what set of features are really important to you. There is no need to spend money and buy the most expensive GPS tracking system when you can get your job done with a much cheaper model.

Here you will find what I think are the best pet tracking systems you can buy in 2017. Of course, the "best" is a bit generic and it might mean "the best in its price range", the "best for cats" etc.  Each recommendation comes with a short review with all the pros and cons of that product and all the important highlights you need to know. So, let's see what the latest technology in pet tracking and smart wearables has to offer you today:

Best GPS Trackers

1) Pod 2: Best Reasonably Priced, All Around Tracking Solution for all kinds of pets regardless of size

I think that the Pod 2 GPS + WiFi Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor is the best, reasonably priced gps locator you can get today, It is one of the smallest and lightest trackers, small enough even for a cat.

It combines GPS, WIFI and 2G technologies, allowing you to locate your pet anytime, anywhere, with high precision whether indoors or outdoors. This is its biggest benefit, as very few locators are good in both things. Some other cool advantages this device offers include:
  • Waterproof
  • Escape Alerts Function: Receive alerts if your pet leaves your set boundary.
  • Comes with two rechargeable batteries. The Pod app tells you when the battery is running low. This feature makes your life so much easier
  • Fits almost all collar types
  • Almost all reviews are very positive, something rare for most gps pet trackers 
  • Cheap subscription fee, first year is free and the fee for each year after is $49
  • Pod records your pet’s activity level (rest, walk and run) and allows you to monitor health and fitness levels
  • Coverage for the POD tracker is excellent in the United States and Canada
cute dog wearing the pod 2 gps pet locator
Dog Wearing The Pod 2

Unfortunately, the device is a bit expensive but considering its handy size and selection of functions the device is definitely a value for money. A last thing I want to mention is that POD 2 is a great pick whether you are from the U.S. or not, supporting more than 170 countries!


2) Tractive GPS Pet Tracker: Best affordable GPS solution for dogs

the tractive pet gps tracker
The Tractive pet locator is probably the best cheap gps tracker you can at the 100 $ price range. It's not perfect, but it covers all the basic needs if you want to track your pets outside your household. It's primarily designed for finding lost pets and offers accurate GPS tracking, unfortunately there is some small delay so it's not exactly real time. It comes with the "Tractive Safe Zone" which alerts you if your pet exits the boundaries of an area you have specified. Other advantages include that the device is waterproof, durable and works in more than 80 countries.

The main disadvantages is that it has a short life battery and is only suitable for pets that are 9 pounds (4 kg) or more so it might be somewhat bulky & heavy for small dog breeds and cats. I think the subscription fee is also a bit expensive ($6.99) and unfortunately it only works in areas with AT&T or T-Mobile coverage. I highly suggest you to read the reviews over amazon before buying Tractive. Ratings are a bit mixed and the reviews will give you a very good idea whether this tracker is for you or not. Overall, a good choice considering its' low price.

dog wearing the pet tractive gps device
The tractive gps tracker

petalways - world's smallest and most lightweigh dog gps tracker
3) Petalways Pet Tracker
Looking for the world's smallest and lightest gps dog tracker? Look no more! The Petalways tracker is only 20 g heavy and slightly larger than a coin, making it suitable for all pets, big or small. Some of the Petalways' features include worldwide coverage, accurate real-time tracking both indoors and outdoors, activity monitor and historical track review.

Overall, this is a great gps device for all kinds of pets, especially the small ones. The majority of on-line reviews praise the device on all levels and it has all the basic features you might look for in a pet tracker.

husky wearing the petalways gps dog tracker. notice the very small size of the device


4) Marco Polo & Garmin Astro 320 - Best professional solutions for dog tracking

photo shows the marco polo and the garmin astro, the two most advanced pet tracking solutions
Marco polo system (top)
Garmin Astro 320 (Bottom)
Both the Marco Polo and the Garmin Astro 320, are mainly targeted to pet owners with many dogs or somebody who runs a dog business rather than the regular everyday dog owner. Their main advantage is that both of them come with their own gps collars and gps tracking device.

As a result no app or mobile phone is required to locate your dog(s). But this is also a disadvantage as it means you have to carry more equiment which can be quite inconvenient at times.

Another advantage both devices have is that they don't require a subscription service, which means you will be saving a lot of money in the long run.  Garmin offers more features overall but also comes for a much more hefty price. I suggest you to have a good look in the features of each device before you make your final purchase!






Best Non-GPS Solutions

1) Girafus® Pro-track-tor, Best Indoors Solutions for pets of all sizes

The Girafus® Pro-track-tor Pet Safety Tracker is a great, relatively affordable locator both for indoors and outdoors. Instead of GPS it uses Radio frequency (RF) technology. This means that you don't have to pay any subscription fees but it also means that the range is much smaller, up to 500 metres (1600 feet) with clear line of sight.

Another advantage is that it comes with up to 4 tags so you can use it to track multiple pets. Please note that the device can be used exclusively for locating. There is no option for setting up boundaries and receiving alerts if your pet ever exits them or to track activity levels. The tags are tiny and weight only 4.2 g, making them perfect for all kinds of pets, big or small. On a sidenote, I have noticed that the exact same pet tracker is also sold under a different brand name called "Ardi" by "Ardi Technology Corp.". You may want to search the product using both names as prices vary and sometimes one is cheaper than the other. You might even get lucky and score a big discount.


a cat wearing the girafus pet locator
Girafus locator on a cat


2)TrackR Bravo: Cheap Alternative to Girafus

the TrackR Bravo can among others be used to track your pet(s)
The TrackR Bravo is a great, much cheaper alternative to the Giraffus Locator. The way it works is pretty much the same and the tag is again very small and suitable for small pets. The main disadvantage is that it has a much small ranger, only around 30 meters because it uses bluetooth technology instead of RF.

A cool feature is the Crowd GPS: "When your device goes out of Bluetooth range, other TrackR App users can help you locate your device. Whenever another user comes within range of your device, you will be updated of its new location on a map.", but to be honest I wonder how many people actually use this device and if this feature can actually be of help when needed...



TrackR Bravo Review


Bonus - Not Exactly Tracking Devices But Still Cool To Have


1)  Whistle, Best Device for Monitoring Your Dog's Activity Levels


photo of the whistle device that monirtors the activity of your pets
The Whistle activity monitor is not a tracking device but rather a device that records the activity of your pets. Still, it's pretty cool and I think it deserves a quick mention in this list.

 This smartphone-based pet tracking device records all kind of data about your dog's daily behavior, activity levels how much rest it had etc. A useful feature is the automatic report about how active your dog was on that day and whether it needs more exercise, rest or whatever. Click here if you want to read more info about this device.


photo of a dog wearing the dog whistle monitor device
Dog wearing the Whistle Device

Whistle Unboxing Video 

2) Dynotag® Web/GPS Enabled QR Code Smart Tag- Suitable for all pets regardless of size

Again not exactly a tracking device, but the Dynotag Web/GPS Enabled QR Smart Tag  comes pretty close to win a spot in this list. This a cool pet tag that comes with a QR code. You activate the tag with your phone number,  info, dog's personal food, vet details and anything else you can think of!

Then, if an electronic device (that can read a QR code) like a smartphone scans the tag, a signal is send to Dynotag’s cloud service, storing  the information about the location of your pet based on the location of the device that just scanned it and instantly sends you an email with the location of the pet. It's small and lightweight making it suitable not only for dogs but cats and other small pets. I have actually tried this product and I love it! Here's my review if you want to learn more about it.





Can't decide which tracker is best for you? Here's a quick buyer's guide (in the form of frequently asked questions) that will solve any questions you might have about all types of pet tracking systems.

FAQ
What are the most important features and specs to lookout before buying a gps tracker?
In my opinion, two are the most important features. The first is the range covered. Of course, this varies depending on your needs. For a hunter, that could be up to 10 kilometers but for others 2-3  km would suffice. Generally, the higher the range of the tracker the better. Price and range usually go together with more expensive trackers having a bigger range.

The second most important I think is the size and weight of the device. Sure, bigger models often have more or improved features but what's the point if you want to use it on a cat (or a small dog) if it's too heavy to carry? Make sure to buy a tracking device that has the right weight for your pet... Just imagine how miserable your tiny Chihuahua would be if it had to carry a gigantic tracker :).

Another very important feature is how often data is being updated and whether the location is LIVE or not. Often, the feed update in GPS trackers comes with a small delay, which can be seconds or minutes. Make sure to buy a tracker with a live feed if you want to be 100% sure that the tracking device is pointing you to the exact location of your pet.

Some other important factors, features and specs to look out for include:
  • Activity Tracking: A cool feature some GPS trackers offer (e.g. Tractive and POD 2) is the option to monitor your dog’s activity. This is particularly useful in so many cases, for example if you’re trying to reduce the weight of your dog or if it's recovering from a serious injury. By keeping an eye on your pet's activity, you’ll be able to adjust food intake, playtime, rest etc. A tracker with this feature will provide you with valuable insight about your dog's or cat's secret life when you are away from home! 
  • Battery life: Charging your gps pet tag every three days is bothersome for most people. Once you buy a device there isn't much you can do to fix this issue. Remember, dead batteries mean that the tracker won't transmit any location data so it's pretty much useless. Another thing to keep in mind is that the more times you set the device to check-in the faster the batteries will drain. Opt for a unit with a large battery capacity if you want constant check ins during the day
  • Boundaries: Being able to set boundaries is a clever and handy feature most modern pet tracking systems have.  If your dog or cat exits the premises of your specified boundaries then an alert will go off and alert you via sms or email. Extremely useful feature for pets that like to wonder or forget how to return back home. Yes, animal-dementia is a real thing! 
  • Compatibility: You should also check if the pet gps track you want to buy is compatible with your current equipment. For example,  some locators use apps that require a smartphone like an IPhone or Android  while others work just as well with normal desktops and laptops. Don't forget to check  if the app of the locator is compatible with your version of iOS or Android. Your old smart phone might not work!
  • Durability: Very important spec, especially if you live in an area that gets plenty of rain, storms etc. Similarly, if your pet digs, crawls, runs a lot and is generally super active makes the purchase of a durable tracker a necessity, otherwise prepare to get a replacement very soon. Finally, a submersible and waterproof tracker is a must for pets that go swimming or come in contact with water often.
  • GPS Interface: The GPS interface is essentially the software you use to track your pets. Usually, it's an app but sometimes it be might be a stand-alone handheld unit.
  • How Many Animals Do You Want To Track?: Most gps tracking devices are designed for one animal. However, some can be used to track more than one, obviously each animal must wear its own gps tag.
  • Fees and Subscriptions: All brands have a small subscription fee (usually per month) that you will have to pay. These fees cover the costs of using the tracker system.
  • Little Extras:  Some gps collars come with small nice additions that may or may not be useful to you. For instance, some have a light that helps find your dog in the dark.
  • Waterproof: As mentioned before, you should definitely consider buying a tracking model that is completely waterproof (or at least water-resistant) if you own a dog that is adventurous and loves swimming or playing in water, rain or mud. 

Here's a table with a summary of features you need to consider before making a purchase:


Feature

Description

Types of Collar/Tag
Two-part device, collar and tracker requires handheld GPS device
Stand-alone collar (or tag) for everyday use may require a subscription. Trackers use smartphone/pc app
Design
Durability
Water proof or Water Resistant
Aerials attached securelyTear and stretch resistant
Main Features
Range should be adequate
Battery life & recharge times
Weight should be suitable for your pet
How many dogs (or other pets) can be tracked with one handheld monitor
Convenient display and interface
Other features
Integrated training collar
Activity Monitor
On point alarm
Stopping and moving indicators
Perimeter alarm

Monthly fees

These are pretty much all the basic features you have to take under consideration before buying a GPS pet tag.

My pet is chipped,  is there really a need for a tracker?
This is a common misconception people have. Unfortunately, we still don't have the technology to include a gps tracker in a microchip. The microchip will not help you find your lost friend directly. Think of it as an identification card. It only helps identify your little buddy once your pet is found by someone and is brought to the vet. The vet then checks the microchip and notifies the owner. Microchips don't transmit location data as some think, they just contain important information about the animal and the owner, much like a pet tag does.

A GPS pet tracker is a bit more advanced. It can be used to track your pet's  whereabouts in realtime and can even alert you when your pet leaves a certain area, like  your house or your yard. Most models send can alert you by sms and emails. Some even come with a real time tracking feature, allowing you to see your little buddy 's location, in real time on a map!

How Is The GPS tracker attached?
Usually, the tag  is easily attached to your pet’s collar. There is a number of ways for that. Some clip onto the collar, other slide onto a collar and others simply dangle down like a regular pet tag. Depending on how active your pet is, the method of attachment is somewhat important. I think it's best to stay away from dangling gps tags if your little buddy is super active.

What exactly is the gps dog fence function and what does it do? 
This is a very common feature in modern trackers. The name of the feature might change from company to company, but the function is pretty much the same. This feature allows you to define areas/zones  (e.g. your backyard) that you don’t want your pet to leave. If  it does, the tracker software alerts you, usually by sms, email or both.

Cat GPS Trackers vs. Dog GPS Trackers - Is there any real difference?
Well, both types serve the same purpose, alerting you on the whereabouts of your pet. The main difference is that cat gps trackers tend to be smaller and lighter, because...cats tend to be smaller and lighter than dogs so carrying a big and heavy locator can be quite annoying for them ;)

Furthermore, dog trackers are often a bit more durable since dogs tend to be more active and tougher on their tracker.

What are the types of systems used in pet trackers
Pet trackers use a wide range of methods  to track down your pet and they are not all created equal in regards to tracking accuracy. Here is a list of all the basic tracking methods, and the advantages and disadvantages of each one:
  • Radio Transmission: This might be an old tech, but it still works remarkably well. The only problem is that you have to be within range to receive the pet's location. It might also not work well in indoors areas. These systems often come with antennas to receive and transmit radio signals. It is the oldest tracking technology but there has been remarkable improvement in the past years. Some modern models actually don't have any antennas on the dog's collar, although some long-range models made for specific purposes (e.g. for hunting dogs) still do. The main disadvantage of this technology is that you must be within a certain range to detect your dog. As long as you're within range, it takes about a second to get info about your dog's location. Radio trackers will work in indoors locations only if they use penetrating radio frequencies, like the Marco Polo does. Since a GPS signal or network connection is not required, radio trackers are a great choice for dog owners that live in remote areas. Radio locators are usually comprised of two parts: the collar attachment with the actual tracking device and a handheld device for the pet owner. With the press of a button, the handheld device sends a location query to the collar which in turn "replies" by providing its' location. The location is then displayed on the screen of the handheld.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) and A-GPS:  Modern pet GPS collars and tags offer way more range than the ones that just use radio transmission. Some units use satellite positioning while others also utilise the local cellular network service. The main advantage is that they provide the location of your pet faster and with better accuracy. However,  they may not work properly in areas with poor cellular signal or network coverage. Some new pet GPS systems use A-GPS, "A" stands for "assisted," but you might see it as "advanced" by some sellers. A-GPS cuts down the time it takes to actually locate your pet significantly after turning on the tracker. Plain GPS technology uses satellite signals taking anywhere from 30 seconds to give a signal and up to 12 minutes in areas where open sky transmission is limited. On the other hand, A-GPS also relies on cellular networks. In good conditions, it might take only a second to get accurate results and up to two or three minutes in bad conditions. That is a huge difference when you try to find your lost dog or cat. Furthermore, A-GPS is accurate for indoors too. When indoors, the chances of a clear view of the sky are slim to zero and as a result a plain GPS device can't  get a clear GPS signal whereas a A-GPS enabled device will return your pet's location, as long as there is some cellular network signal available.
  • Wide Area Augmentation System GPS (WAAS-GPS): This is the best locating tech money can buy today. Offers the highest range you can get and is unmatched in accuracy. The acronym stands for Wide Area Augmentation System GPS and it has better accuracy than standard GPS. While regular GPS technology will pinpoint your dog's location accurately within a 30-foot (9 m) range, WAAS will do so within a 10-foot (3 m) range. The only drawback is that WAAS-GPS is not as fast as A-GPS in fixating position.
  • Combination Systems: Some advanced units use of a combination of  2 or more of the aforementioned technologies.

Are expensive dog GPS collars worth all that money?
Well, yes. The real question is.. do you need one? What's the point of buying a very expensive tracking system (like the Garmin Astro 320) if your pet is a lazy, overweight cat that barely gets out of your room? There no reason to pay for features, reliability and functionality when you don't need them.

Which tracker do you personally recommend? I just want somebody to spoonfeed me!
Like I said before, all the trackers in this list are great, depending on your needs. For my particular situation, the od 2 GPS + WiFi Pet Tracker is what I would choose again and again. I have been using it for a long time now and I am 100 % satisfied with what it offers. You might also want to consider something like the Marko Polo or Garmin Astro if you have 2 dogs or more or if you live in an area where cell service is not that great.

I am just too lazy to read this wall of text so I scrolled all the way to the bottom. Money is not an issue. Just tell me quickly what is the most perfect tracker money can buy!
Easy, Garmin Astro 320

Some Closing Thoughts...
People please remember, owning a dog, cat or any other animal is like having an extra family member. With enough precaution, a pet tracker might not be necessary. However, sometimes the worst happens and your pet runs away off the lead or escapes through a hole in your fence or whatever! In this case, a gps tracker is one of the best options to retrieve your beloved friend. Considering the large number of dogs and cats that go missing every year, a day might come when you have to experiencethis scenario. A pet tracker is a great investment if you can afford it. And if not, at least make sure your little pal is micro-chipped and wears an id pet tag!



Related Links
  • Pet Gift Ideas: Discover some other cool gifts you can get for your or somebody else's pet!

This article was last updated on 07/02/2017

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