What to Look for in a GPS Dog Tracker in 2023
Many products on the market promise to track your pets if they go missing. Some are designed specifically for pet tracking, and others are general tracking devices. The right type of tracker depends on your use case, but we’ve only included trackers that use GPS technology for tracking your dog.
Devices such as Apple’s AirTags aren’t included here because they don’t use GPS technology for positioning. GPS trackers are more expensive and have a much shorter battery life than a Bluetooth tracker, but you get instant and precise location data for your pet.
Speaking of battery life, GPS trackers can vary considerably from device to device. Some of this depends on the size of the tracker, which influences the size of the battery, but additional features such as Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity usually mean the device is more power-hungry. Some trackers, such as those used with hunting dogs, only offer half a day’s battery life. General-purpose GPS trackers may need a recharge every few days.
Then there are the two general types of GPS trackers. The first contains a cellular modem and a SIM card. GPS is a one-way network, so you need some way to send those coordinates back to the dog’s owner.
Using cellular data is generally the best way since cellular coverage is generally immense. However, these services almost always have a subscription fee, usually one that quickly dwarfs how much you spent on the tracker itself.
The second type of tracker doesn’t have a cellular modem and doesn’t require a subscription in most cases. Instead, the tracker uses radio to communicate with a unit you keep. However, the downside to these radio trackers is that you’re typically limited to only a few miles of coverage.
Radio trackers are used with working dogs for hunting, search and rescue, or any situation where you’re close to the dogs, but can’t always keep your eyes on them. The tracker or tracking collar only represents half the cost, since you also need to purchase a receiver. However, receivers can usually track multiple dogs, so you don’t need to buy multiple.
Apart from basic tracking, many dog trackers, regardless of type have extra features. Geofencing, for example, is a common additional feature on these trackers and can alert you when the animal leaves a certain area. Some apps can track your dog’s behavior and fitness activities.
The tracker may also have other technologies besides GPS to enhance its accuracy so that you can determine the precise direction of the animal when you’re getting close to the GPS coordinates. Whether these extra features are worth paying for depends on why you want a tracker in the first place.
Now that you’ve figured out what you’re looking for in a GPS dog tracker, here are the five best available today.
Best GPS Dog Tracker Overall: Tractive LTE GPS Dog Tracker
- ✓ Good price
- ✓ Works with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Viaero USA
- ✓ Works with any collar
- ✓ Works worldwide
- ✓ Waterproof
- ✗ Requires subscription
The Tractive LTE GPS Dog Tracker is probably the most full-featured tracker you can buy. It offers live tracking as long as the dog is within cellular coverage, location history, and virtual fencing so you’ll be alerted if your pet escapes or is stolen.
One highly impressive feature is compatibility with almost all carriers in the US, and carriers in over 150 countries worldwide. So if you’re going overseas, you just pick up a compatible SIM card at your destination and never worry about losing your pet in a foreign country.
Apart from having almost all the features anyone would need, the Tractive is waterproof and rugged. There are problems with your dog running through a river or rolling in the mud shorting out their collar.
Battery life is also great, lasting up to 6 days according to users. The required subscription starts at $5 a month, which isn’t the highest we’ve seen. As long as you don’t mind paying a subscription, this is a fantastic tracker for your dog.
Best GPS Dog Tracker Overall
Tractive Waterproof GPS Dog Tracker
Tractive's device is everything you could want in a GPS dog tracker. From worldwide coverage to a waterproof design, this is a tracker that's perfect for most users.
Best Small GPS Dog Tracker: Jiobit
- ✓ Very small
- ✓ Long battery life
- ✓ Smart features such as geofencing and location based alerts
- ✓ Bluetooth for proximity tracking
- ✗ Subscription required
- ✗ May require additional attachment accessories depending on your pet
- ✗ Pricey
The Jiobit tracker has a few things that make it stand out from the pack. It’s significantly smaller than much of the competition, so if you have a small dog or a cat, this is a light and comfortable option for them.
Despite being so small, it has a much better battery life than other larger trackers. Jiobit rates the battery endurance at up to two weeks, which is at least twice as much as other GPS trackers we’ve seen. Jiobit also has plenty of smart functionality in the Android and iPhone app, including geofencing, movement history, and more.
The Jiobit makes great use of Bluetooth technology. If your pet is close enough to a registered carer you can track them via Bluetooth instead of GPS. If your pet does get lost, it can also use Bluetooth signal strength as a more precise indication of the dog’s distance from you.
Jiobit’s tracker is water resistant (not waterproof) and will work with virtually any collar, although you may have to buy additional attachment accessories depending on what you want to clip it on. The device does require a subscription but at least doesn’t need a SIM card for cellular service.
The data plan includes international data, so you can take your dog overseas to a supported country and won’t have to do anything special to keep tracking them. Subscriptions start at $15 for a month-to-month plan, but works out progressively cheaper if you take a longer contract. The 6-month contract comes to $13 per month, and the 2-year contract will cost you $9 per month.
Best Small GPS Dog Tracker
Jiobit Pet Tracker
The Jiobit offers a tiny tracker with up to two weeks of battery life and a full deck of smart features. Well worth a look if you need something comfortable and has some endurance.
The Best GPS Dog Tracker for Walks: Petfon GPS Tracker
- ✓ No subscription
- ✓ Combines various wireless technologies for real-time tracking
- ✗ No cellular connection, must be within range of the dog
- ✗ Comparatively limited range
- ✗ Battery life may be too short for some
- ✗ High initial price
The Petfon GPS tracker is a non-cellular device that uses its own proprietary long-range radio technology to track your dog anywhere between 0.65 miles to 3.5 miles, depending on the density of the area.
This tracker isn’t meant to be used when you’re away from home or when they’re unsupervised. Instead, this is a tracker that you clip onto the dog’s collar before leaving the house and going for a walk. There’s a controller unit that you keep on you, which connects via Bluetooth with an app on your phone.
Its battery life is rated at between eight and sixteen hours. You’ll also get a portable charging case for travel, that can juice up the tracker up to three times. So if you start with a fully juiced-up tracker, that’s plenty of power to last until the next time you can charge it up.
Finally, the unit is waterproof and rugged and has a sound alarm and lights to help locate your pet when you’re close to but can’t see them.
The biggest downside of the Petron tracker is the price, which clocks in at $220. But while that is expensive, once you factor in the lack of subscription fees, you might save in the long run.
PETFON Pet GPS Tracker
A great local tracker that combines the best of smartphone tracker features with traditional local radio-based "dumb" trackers.
The Best Tracker for Working Dogs: Garmin T5 Mini GPS Dog Collar
- ✓ Independent device, no internet or phone needed
- ✓ 4 mile range
- ✓ No subscription fees
- ✓ LED Lights
- ✓ Water resistance up to 10 meters
- ✗ Requires a Garmin tracker unit, the price adds up
- ✗ It's not a smart device
- ✗ Only for smaller dogs
The Garmin T5 Mini is a version of the company’s popular standard T5 collar. The T5 Mini is made for smaller dogs, with a more compact size and slightly smaller price tag at $249. The T5 is bigger and has better battery life and range, but is $299. Which you get is going to be mostly dependent on your dog’s size.
The tracking range is up to four miles for the T5 Mini. The standard T5 offers up to 9 miles, which makes sense given large dogs can travel further in less time than small ones. The collars also have lights visible at 100 yards, and are ruggedized and water resistant up to 10 meters.
These trackers from Garmin are meant for outdoor sports or work that involves dogs. They are local trackers and don’t have a cellular connection. Instead, the collar is connected to a controller unit that the dog’s handler carries. The receiver is a separate purchase, so bear in mind that the price here is only for the tracker.
Speaking of, there are several receivers you can use, but none of them are cheap. The Garmin Alpha 10, which can track up to 20 T5 or TT15 dog collars, costs $400. The Alpha 200i comes in at a whopping $750.
But remember that these products are for the world of serious, multi-dog tracking in rough conditions, so the price will be higher than the average GPS tracker. If you use dogs for any serious purpose, investing in Garmin’s system is well worth it.
Garmin T5 Mini GPS Collar
The T5 Mini is the gold standard for professional multi-dog tracking up to four miles away. No subscription, and no smartphone. You'll have to invest in a tracking unit and large dogs should get the standard T5.
The Best AirTag Alternative: Cube Real-Time Tracker
- ✓ Very inexpensive by itself
- ✓ Between 10 and 60 days of battery life
- ✓ Geo-fencing alerts
- ✗ Collar clips are an extra purchase
- ✗ Subscription is pricier than most
The Cube Real-Time Tracker is a compact unit with a SIM card and a subscription ranging from $17 to $20 depending on your commitment. This general tracker is not specifically designed for pets, but it’s part of the use cases Cube had in mind.
This is one of the best alternatives to long-term tracking devices that don’t use GPS, like Tile or Apple AirTags. The battery on the Cube can last anywhere from 10 and 60 days, depending on which features you activate.
The tracker is packed with GPS, cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It can use all four to pinpoint position, but that will give you the lowest battery life. Depending on your needs, you can keep some on and others off to extend the battery life.
The Cube is inexpensive, but you’ll have to buy a third-party collar mounting solution or the OEM clips from Cube, which cost $25.
If you’re mainly concerned about your pet being stolen or escaping, rather than real-time tracking during activities or walks, Cube is a great choice.
Cube Real-Time Tracker
The Real-Time tracker is a general purpose tracker that's perfect for recovering a lost or stolen pet, with exceptional battery life and a wide array of radio technologies.