What Kind Of Pet Tracker Should You Get?

Whether you're looking for a way to keep track of a wandering pet, or see what your pet is up to while you're away, or even see how much exercise your pet it getting, a pet tracker can help you keep your pet safe and, in some cases, ensure he's getting enough exercise. With so many different ‘tracking’ devices circulating the market, how do you know what kind of tracker will work for your pet? Let's breakdown some of the technologies behind different trackers and then sum up the qualities you should look for when choosing a pet tracker that works for you.

What is a pet tracker?

A pet tracker is a device that usually attaches to your pet's collar in order to track his movements and/or location. A pet tracker is not the same thing as a microchip, which is embedded under the pet's skin and read by a scanner that most veterinarians have. Some pet trackers use simple technology to track your pet when they are within close range (example: 100 feet), while others use cellular and GPS technology to track your pet when outside.

There are countless devices that use the term “tracker,” each with varying functionality and quality, so don't be quick to assume that any device labeled “tracker” will be a valuable option to track your pet. Keep reading for a simple breakdown of different kinds of tracking devices.

Why do I need a pet tracker?

Many people wonder why they need a pet tracker at all. Some people think that their pet is never out of sight or always on a leash, while others think a microchip ensures their pet will be found if he ever strays from home. The good news is that a microchip is a great way for your lost pet to be returned to you once he has been picked up by someone. The bad news is that until he's found by someone, there's no way to track that microchip. It's always a good idea to equip your pet with a microchip and ensure your pet's tags have recent contact information. The greatest perk of a pet tracker is that you can locate your pet in minutes instead of waiting hours, days or even months for someone to pick up your pet and take him to a vet where his microchip can be scanned. With a pet tracker, you can see where your pet is from minute to minute, avoiding any kind of “lost” situation. Let's look at how different pet trackers work.

How does a pet tracker work?

If you're looking for a device to track your pet's location, then you need a tracker with a built-in GPS. GPS pet trackers can be connected to your cell phone, which will require a monthly subscription plan to ensure quality service, or a GPS tracker can be independent. Independent GPS trackers will have higher initial purchase prices and may require you to carry another kind of ‘receiver’ to track your pet. GPS pet trackers that use cellular and GPS technology will allow you to follow your pet on a map in an app on your smartphone. These accompanying apps are usually free and easy to download.

Still confused on how different trackers work? Let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of tech that varying trackers use:

  • GPS

    A GPS is a global positioning system made up of a network of satellites. These satellites circle the Earth and send information to GPS receivers on Earth. The GPS receivers take this information and use trilateration (fancy way of measuring distance from a GPS receiver to each satellite) to calculate a user's exact location. Trackers that claim to have ‘GPS’ are going to offer the most accurate and wide-range location-tracking capabilities. Most GPS pet trackers use a combination of cell signals and/or WiFi to deliver location data as quickly as possible.
  • Radio trackers

    Traditionally used for tracking wildlife and on hunting dogs, radio trackers feature a radio transmitter that you place on your pet. The radio transmitter acts as a beacon that sends a radio signal to the receiver device that you'll have with you. These devices often have tracking capabilities ranging from 1 to 12 miles. Due to the nature of radio transmission, these trackers are not ideal in areas with ravines or mountains since they can obstruct radio signals.
  • Bluetooth

    Bluetooth is basically a way for two tech devices to ‘talk’ to one another using radio waves. Unlike radio trackers, these devices need to be in close proximity to one another for Bluetooth to function, usually a couple hundred feet. While ‘trackers’ that use Bluetooth are great for finding your keys, wallet or other items you may have misplaced in your home, these are not the best options for your pet, since your pet has the capability to wander off quickly and exit the tracking range very quickly. It's important to note that Bluetooth tracking devices are not the same as GPS devices.
  • Wifi

    Trackers that claim to use Wifi must also use GPS to track your pet. The difference between Wifi enabled devices and GPS-only devices is speed and battery life. Wifi enabled devices use their WiFi connections combined with cell towers to more quickly identify which satellite or hotspots are closest to it, which makes finding your pet's location even faster. Wifi enabled devices typically have better battery life for a number of reasons.


So what should I look for in a pet tracker?

Let’s sum up what any proper pet tracker should have in order to successfully track your pet.

  • Built-in GPS - non-GPS, close-range pet trackers are only for indoors and better serve to track misplaced objects like keys and wallets.
  • Access to cellular networks and/or WiFi
  • A reliable/durable battery life (look for life that lasts an average of 5 days or more, the longer the better).
  • Water resistant or waterproof
  • Easily navigable phone app OR separate device that you wish to carry in addition to your phone
  • Frequent location updates - you want a device that can work on-demand to track your pet when needed and not waste battery life by tracking in unnecessary instances (i.e. the dog is sleeping in bed with you).
  • Extras: If you’re looking for an all-in-one device that will track your pet and offer insights into their basic health needs, i.e. exercise and sleep, look for a tracker that includes activity monitoring.

Hopefully this clears up any questions you have about purchasing a pet tracker and helps you make a decision for what kind of tracker is best for you and your pet's specific needs.

Of course we're partial to our own pet tracker, you can take a look here and see if it has everything you're looking for.


Dec 20, 2016

Tags:   gps pet tracker   pet tech   dogs   cats  

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