Although this site is mostly about keeping track of your own (human) fitness metrics, we feel that there are other important uses for wearable trackers and GPS units – chief among them being the ability to keep track of and locate a pet.
For peace of mind, many pet owners are now turning to activity tracking devices that will make locating their animal much easier should the unthinkable happen. A lost dog or cat can be a source of great emotional turmoil for any pet owner - and with good reason. Locating a lost pet can be very difficult, especially if you live in a large city or near a rural area with lots of wild predators.
The means to electronically track pets dates back many years to implantable microchips and microchip collars. However, many companies now have products on the market that are very similar in spec and scope to human style tracking devices such as the Fitbit or Garmin smart watches.
Related: Best (Human) Activity Trackers
These new devices can give you great control and customization when it comes to keeping track of your pet. In addition to being simply locate your cat or dog, pet trackers also offer many features that are similar to activity trackers, such as the ability to keep track of activity and rest periods as well as set daily exercise goals and track various metrics and trends.
However, smart collars and GPS pet tags have a few caveats that may be unfamiliar to those who are used to human style trackers. Many of them require subscription fees and some of them are also based on different tracking technology types. Here’s a quick buying guide and overview of the best dog collars for 2017:
I addition to movement sensors like accelerometers and altimeters, pet activity trackers also utilize location based technologies such as GPS, GLONASS, cellular, and radio. This can be broken down into a few different categories:
GPS and Cellular
Just like the more expensive human fitness trackers, many pet locators support GPS/GLONASS technology which will allow you to accurately locate your pet as long as there is a good connection (clear view) to a satellite. For this reason, GPS trackers work best outdoors and in areas free of dense foliage.
Many manufacturers also pair GPS tracking with cellular technology, which allows for maximum tracking accuracy whether indoor or outside. The downside to this is that you will usually need to pay a subscription fee to use the cellular towers of whatever network the manufacturer chooses to utilize. Devices vary in monthly cost, but usually range anywhere from $5 to $15 a month. Many manufacturers will offer the first year free as an incentive to sign up and test out their product.
Radio based devices use the same technology found in walkie-talkies and shortwave radios. This makes them highly accurate but they vary greatly in tracking distance and price. The typical tracking range for a radio device is around 1000 feet. Radio style tracking devices are best suited to locating hunting dogs or in rural areas where there is not a whole lot of radio interference.
Devices with built-in Wi-Fi usually have this as a supplement as opposed to a main feature. This is because Wi-Fi has a very short range and is probably better utilized as a perimeter alert, such as if you need to ensure your dog stays indoors or inside your backyard but you need something to notify you if your dog leaves the area. most Wi-Fi devices will also emit a loud beeping noise when your pet leaves the perimeter. Sometimes the pet can be trained to notice this and will turn back on its own.
As an added bonus, many devices have a power saving mode that will shut off 3G and GPS functions and go completely to Wi-Fi when in range of home router.
Additional Pet Activity Tracker Features
Pet GPS trackers aren’t just useful for locating an animal, however. They also have many supplemental features that a cat or dog owner may find useful. Here is a quick rundown of standout features to look for when choosing the best dog or cat GPS smart collar:
A great many of smart collars will allow you to set simple goals and track periods of rest and activity for your pet. Obviously these features are better suited to dog owners but they can be useful for other animals as well, especially if your need to keep track of an injury or simply to assess your pets physical fitness.
Some devices can be fairly comprehensive and will contain all the bells and whistles (and sensors) to track detailed statistics such as heart rate, temperature, and even calories.
The safe zone setting is available on many pet trackers and can come in very handy when you need to keep track of your animal but are busy with other tasks. This feature will allow you to set a safe zone around the perimeter a building. If your pet leaves the area you will usually get a notification in the form of a beep or even a text message if the device supports it.
Water resistance/proofing is an important consideration if your pet likes to jump in water. Just like with other fitness trackers, be sure to pay attention to whether your device is waterproof or water resistant because there’s a big difference.
Devices that are simply water resistant are not able to be fully submerged and will likely become damaged when done so. Devices that are fully waterproof will be listed as IP7 or greater.
Best Dog GPS/Cellular Based Trackers
There are quite a few standout devices in this field, and a lot of newcomers as well. We have divided the list below into radio style and GPS/cellular devices since they are somewhat different in terms of functionality.
Garmin Delta Smart
While more of a Dog training system rather than a tracker, Garmins Delta Smart is a unique take on the smart collar. Features on this collar are not limited to just exercise and calorie tracking. Once the device is paired with Garmins phone app, you will be able to send vibrations or tone alerts to your dog in order to aid in training activities.
The device also features add-on’s, such as keep away tags, which can be placed on objects around the house to help ensure that your pet does not wander too close to sensitive areas.
• Collar is very tough and durable
• Lots of optional add-ons, such as a remote for easier training
• Device is a bit pricey considering its lack of GPS location tracking
This collar is another interesting wearable smart collar that claims to be able to study and understand your dog’s movement activities and interactions. The device will record simple things like the walks and the way that you speak to your dog as well as your favorite activities. The app will then give you feedback on how you can improve your relationship with your pet to reduce things like anxiety and bad behavior or even allow you to play certain preset games with your pet.
• Lightweight due to all plastic construction
• Built-in speaker provides two-way communication
• “Competition” app allows you to compete with other dog owners similar to human fitness trackers like Garmin and Fitbit
• Training assistant makes training a new dog fun and easy
• High price point
• Product is quite new and many users are reporting a lot of bugs with the software
• Color scheme is a little off putting and some owners may prefer something that doesn’t stand out so much
The whistle is an IP67 rated dog tracker that is incredibly small and lightweight. This is one of the best gps trackers for dogs, as the device ways less than an ounce and is about an inch and a half wide, which makes it suitable for small dogs and even smaller pets like such as cats. This device also has exceptional battery life - around seven days.
Full also carries the benefit of being able to connect to both GPS based satellite systems as well as having 3G and Wi-Fi built-in. The 3G plans start from around $7 a month.
• Small lightweight design
• Competitively priced subscription plan
• Bluetooth low energy
• Allows you to set a zone and sent an alert when your dog exits the boundary
• CDMA network only
The tractive boasts many of the same features as other trackers in its league, such as activity tracking, small lightweight design, and GPS/3G tracking. However it sets itself apart with a few unique features, the most useful of which is its real-time GPS tracking. If you need to find your pet immediately and with high accuracy you can trigger the live tracking function which will update your pet’s position every two seconds, allowing you to pinpoint your pets location almost instantly.
• Unlike most other pet trackers, the Tractive isn’t just limited to tracking pets in the US. It works worldwide.
• Doesn’t rely on any one cellular carrier for its 3G plan, which makes it ideal for those who are in areas where certain carriers offer only spotty coverage
• Features a built-in flashlight on the collar as an added bonus
• Relies on the older 2G standard, which is slowly being phased out worldwide
• Attachment to the collar can be tricky due to the unusual "breakaway" style system
Kyon Pet Tracker
This device is another multi-faceted GPS/Smart collar that comes in many different colors and has some unique and interesting functions. The Kyon features a unique LED lighting system on the front that gives you messages about things like your pet’s health and current battery life. The collar also has built-in sensors that detect things like temperature or water submersion.
• Built-in accelerometer and alternator that can be used for fitness tracking or health maintenance
• Built-in LED displays reminders for things like that visits and time between the walks
• Ultrasonic busser to prevent your dog from barking too much or fighting with other dogs
• Very long battery life - around 30 days
• Premium device comes with a premium price tag - you're looking at about $250 dollars for this product
Although it is a bit plain looking, the AKC tracker offers a fairly robust feature set at a decent price. This device comes with the usual slew of features, such as activity tracking, GPS/3G functionality, and temperature/vet alerts. It also has a remote lighting feature that allows you to activate the built-in flashlight on the caller, which is useful for locating your pet at night.
Additionally, this is one of the few pet trackers that comes in multiple sizes. This makes it ideal for any size dog as well as smaller pets such as cats.
• Comes in four different sizes: S M L XL
• 2 way radio functionality between phone and collar
• Poor app support which often results in buggy activity tracking
Best Dog Tracking Radio Devices
Radio is an old-school technology has been in use for many decades. The great thing about radio style devices is that they do not require a monthly subscription fee.
Radio Style devices are best suited to short range (under 1000 feet) tracking of your animal. This makes them ideally suited for hunting dogs as most products in this category can track multiple dogs at once.
This device is very simple to use and easy to set up and can simultaneously monitor up to three different pets at a time. It features the ability to set safety zones for each pet as well as being usable virtually anywhere, it does not require GPS or a cell network since it is completely radio-based.
• No subscription fee
• Fairly long battery life – around 90 days
• Track multiple pets at a time
• Does not interface with cell phones and requires a bulky and hand held tracking device to monitor pet activity
The tab cat is a two-piece device that consists of a handset and an RFID tag which attaches to your cat’s collar and emits a beeping sound that increases in intensity the closer you are to your cat. This tracker is very small and lightweight, and is ideal for those who don’t need a whole lot of bells and whistles.
The tab cat has a range of around 400 feet.
• Receiver and transmitter is very small and lightweight
• Very long battery life
• Very short range
• Can only track one pet at a time
Garmin Astro 320
Although it is a GPS based tracker, we feel that the Garmen belongs in the radio category since it’s clearly marketed towards hunters. This robust GPS has the ability to track up to 10 dogs at a time over a distance of 9 miles.
In addition to having its own standalone device the Astro has the ability to display fully topographical maps and can show a birds eye view of all of your dogs at once.
• Screen is very high contrast and brightly lit and offers much more detail in a cell phone
• GPS based, which allows for a much wider range of tracking when compared to radio style devices
• Very expensive
• Bundle only comes with one tracking collar; additional collars need to be purchased separately
Other Pet Wearables
Pet wearables aren’t just limited to activity tracking. The devices below can be used by dogs and cats alike, and offer a unique take on the pet wearable market.
Go Pro fetch
Go Pro’s line of rugged waterproof cameras is not only adept at recording humans but man’s best friend as well. The go Pro fetch is a harness that can be attached to your dog’s back or chest to record activities such as jumping, digging, or bone chewing. This manufacturer also makes harnesses for cats as well, although they aren’t exactly known for having the best cat harnesses on the market.
Best Pet Tracking Apps
If you aren’t looking for location based tracking but need to keep a log of your how much exercise your pet is getting, take a look at these apps:
Like the summarily named human app, MapMyDogwalk is useful for keeping track of any exercise related activity’s you do with your dog. With this app you will be able to map your own route or even choose from a large number of preset routes for your dog, as well as log food intake. This app is also cross compatible with many of the human-based apps that the developer has created, so any fitness data can be imported or entered manually with ease.
It just goes to show how prolific activity tracking is becoming when you can even keep track of your pets whereabouts as well as its fitness metrics. Manufacturers now produce devices that can correlate and quantify not only human behavior but animals as well. Hopefully with the advice on this list you’ll be well on your way to choosing the best pet activity tracker to suit your needs.