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It’s the worst fear for any dog owner.

Perhaps your pet has gone missing. Or you’re a new dog owner, and you want to know the best way to keep track of your dog in case he gets out of the yard.

I’ve been there.

Shortly after I moved, our older, blind Labrador escaped from the yard. We were devastated by his loss and concerned that, being unable to see, he would get hit by a car.

Here’s the kicker:

I was lucky enough to find him in a neighbor’s yard about a month later.

You might be considering getting your dog microchipped or using a GPS collar. Both are responsible actions to take if you’re a dog owner.

Quick Picks: Some of the Best Tracking Devices for Dogs

There are numerous tracking devices available on the market. Here are some of those devices.

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

What Tracking Technologies are Available Today?

You might be wondering about the different types of pet tracking technology available right now. So, let’s take a closer look at several types of trackers and analyze their features and fallbacks.

Microchip Implants

A microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is inserted by your veterinarian between the shoulder blades of your dog. It’s no more painful or risky (if done by a licensed vet) than getting your dog his annual vaccinations. The chip stores information such as the dog’s name and owner’s contact data.

One benefit of a chip is that it doesn’t require batteries. It can’t be lost or taken off (like a collar). Chips are designed to be good for up to 25 years.

If you move you can have the data changed by contacting the manufacturer. Or if you adopt a pet who already has a chip, you can update the existing chip with your information.

One drawback to a chip is that it must be registered before it will contain your pet’s information. And, your lost pet must be found by someone, or taken to someone, with a compatible microchip scanner.

GPS Pet Trackers

These battery-powered GPS trackers are part of your dog’s collar and offer real-time exact locations for your pet using the same GPS technology as in your phone.

Some advantages to a GPS is that it points you right to your lost pet. You can often get text or email alerts and track your pet’s movements.

However, if you live in an area where cell phone coverage is sporadic, a GPS collar might not be the best option. You’ll also need to check and charge the battery frequently, and the collar could be lost or removed. There is a monthly fee involved.

RF Pet Trackers

These operate on the principle of a walkie-talkie; your dog wears a small device on his collar, and you can track him using the handheld device.

Some benefits of an RF tracker include a longer-lasting battery. They don’t rely on a cell-type signal, so if you live where cell coverage is spotty, they’re a better option.

One disadvantage to an RF tracker is that it doesn’t give you an exact location, but only points you in the right direction. They have a limited range. And they don’t track in real time.

Choosing the Right Tracking Device for Your Pet

Now that you know a little about the types of pet trackers, how do you know what will work best for you? Here are some things to think about.

Your Pet’s Activities

Is your dog mainly an inside pet, or does he spend most of his time in a fenced yard? Does he dig or otherwise try to escape? Is he attracted to water?

These questions in the context of the above trackers’ information will give you a good idea of what might work best with your pet.

Your Budget and What You Need

Yes, it’s awful to think your pet’s safety might hinge on your ability to pay; nevertheless, some tracking devices will require another monthly payment. Also, consider what you want from a tracking device: real-time data on your dog’s daily activities, or just a way to find him if he decides to stray?

We believe a combination of an active and passive form of tracking devices is ideal for ensuring a pet’s safe return. This would be a microchip and GPS or microchip and RF unit together.

Of course, your pet should always have a standard pet ID tag (inexpensive and available all the time) in addition to whatever else you choose to use.

Take a Peek at a Few of the Tracking Devices on the Market

Home Again Microchip Implant

HomeAgain Microchip Implant Kit for Administration by Veterinarian

This is for a passive tracking microchip that goes under the skin. Remember, risks of complications are reduced if a licensed vet does the procedure. There’s a one-time fee to register the chip ID, and updates are free. There’s a yearly subscription for added features, but not necessary for the chip to be registered.

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This is a GPS tracking device (so make sure you have good coverage in your area) and gives you real-time updates on a smartphone or computer. This device is waterproof but relies on a 2G cell server.

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Whistle GPS Pet Tracker

Whistle GPS Pet Tracker

Whistle is another GPS tracking device that relies on cell service to function. This device also gives you real-time information through the app or SMS messaging. You can monitor multiple pets with just one base unit, but Whistle is only recommended for pets more than 15 pounds. This device does require a monthly fee.

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Tractive GPS Pet Tracker

Another GPS-powered device, Tractive offers the smallest such device as well as a SIM card and pet light for walks. Tractive allows for real-time tracking via the Internet or mobile app and does have a monthly fee. It’s only recommended for pets heavier than 9 pounds.

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Garmin Astro 320 T5 Dog GPS Bundle

The Garmin Astro is a GPS/RF tracking device and collar bundle, and as such, doesn’t require cell service. It tracks up to 10 dogs (each must have its own collar) a maximum of 9 miles. However, it is expensive compared to other types of trackers.

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Garmin Alpha 100 TT 15 Dog GPS Bundle

This unit is also a GPS/RF tracker bundle for tracking up to 20 dogs (each must have his own collar) for up to 9 miles. It operates on a rechargeable battery, yet it is expensive.

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Final Thoughts

Only you can decide on which device or combination of devices is suitable for your pet. If you have a small dog, you’ll want one of the smaller devices that won’t be so heavy on his collar. However, if you live out in the country or near lots of water, you’ll probably want to pick a waterproof unit of some kind.

Assuming you can afford a monthly fee, you might choose an active tracking system. If you have a less active or escape-prone pet, such as an elderly dog, you might feel safe enough just having a microchip. Have questions that we haven’t answered here? Feel free to ask any questions, as educated pet owners can be responsible pet owners.