Sharing your life with a dog is a blessed thing (and it’s proven animals can help our mental health ) – until you let them off the lead, they get hypnotised by a squirrel and leave you in the dust.
With an increase in dog theft in the UK , seeing your dog disappear into the dark can spiral you into panic, but luckily there’s some handy pet tech on the market that can give you a helping hand in finding your precious pooch before somebody else does.GPS pet trackers are small devices that attach to your dog’s collar, allowing you to monitor their location via an app on your phone. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is really rather fancy – there are a series of satellites constantly orbiting Earth which GPS devices receive signals from, using these to pinpoint the exact location of your device. All very clever! They’re useful for canine escape artists, dogs who get might get spooked when off the lead, and keeping an eye on your pooch when they’re at doggy daycare. However, these are not a substitute for a microchip, which a dog must legally have in England, Scotland and Wales.
Most GPS pet trackers require an additional paid-for subscription as they rely on inbuilt SIM cards, which use available phone networks, so bear this in mind when calculating cost.
Other things to consider are initial cost of the device, battery life, size, durability, and network coverage in your area.
We tested four trackers widely available on the UK market, all of which double up as activity monitors (essentially pet Fitbits).
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Spiked collars were originally fashioned in ancient Greece to protect dogs’ throats from wolf attacks.
Pawfit 2, Pawfit, £54.99
- Subscription cost: From £3.39/month (for a basic two year plan)
- Size: 5 x 3.5 x 1.5cm
- Tested on:Poppy, 10-year-old cockapoo from Bucks
The tracker itself twists into the holder and sits so securely that you have to use bit of force to get it off for charging – you’ll even receive an alert when the tracker is removed from the holder.
This tracker has an IPX8 dust/waterproof rating, meaning it hasn’t been tested for dust, but is fully waterproof (up to a metre for 30 minutes) and won’t die if your beloved pooch goes out in the rain or takes a swim in the lake. However, the front black part is easily scratched, which makes it look scruffy.
The GPS is accurate and updates every 30 seconds to two hours, depending on your pet’s activity level (the more your dog moves, the more it will update). Live tracking mode can be turned out to get GPS updates every five seconds, which is handy when you’re in the woods and can’t see your dog. (Bear in mind that coverage may not be as good in areas with lots of trees.)
A geo fence ‘safety zone’ can be added to the map, to get alerts when your pet leaves that area – useful if you’ve got a dog who might try leaving your garden of is own accord. You can also set temperature alerts, to be told when the environment gets too hot/cold.
It’s not so black and white. It’s a myth that dogs only see in black and white. In fact, it’s believed that dogs see primarily in blue, greenish-yellow, yellow and various shades of gray.
You can monitor your pet’s activity in the app, seeing how many hours they’ve been active/resting, as well as distance travelled and calories burned.If you lose sight of your pet, you can trigger a remote alarm and a flashing green light, however this light isn’t as bright as it could be, so wasn’t particularly useful when Poppy wasn’t near us.
The tracker claims to have up to six days battery life, but we managed around five, using the battery-saving feature, which checks for GPS less frequently in the range of our home wifi.
A great feature of this tracker is that should your precious pooch go missing, any eagle-eyed human that finds them can press a button to play a message detailing the dog’s name and your contact number.The Pawfit 2 is also great for entertainment value – you can record up to 30 short audio messages, which can be activated remotely via the app. We had a lot of fun recording such messages as ‘Give me my dog back!’ and ‘Hi, my name’s Poppy and I’m hungry’. It’s probably worth also recording useful messages on there, should your dog get lost…However, the sound quality is terrible and really tinny. The Pawfit 2 tracker can be used in Europe and North America.
Tractive GPS Dog 4, Tractive, £44.99
- Subscription cost:From £3.33/month (for a premium five year plan)
- Size: 7.1 x 2.8 x 1.8cm
- Tested on:Sherlock, two-year-old street dog from Sri Lanka
Let me tell you, I became obsessed. I couldn’t believe how far Sherlock roamed, and I’d sit at my desk at work, fascinated as I watched him scurry about the neighbourhood. You can set up a virtual fence to receive alerts when your dog leaves and enters the designated area, which has been useful for me so I know when he’s left home. The tracker also monitors activity (how long Sherlock’s been active/calm/sleeping, and calories burned) and sets activity goals for the day. The Tractive has a dust/waterproof rating of IPX7, which means it hasn’t been tested for dust, but is fully waterproof up to one metre depth, for 30 minutes. The holder for the tracker is secured by threading the collar through it, and then four rubber grips hold the tracker in place – it’s only come off once when Sherlock was playing with my other dog, Lucy. Luckily, being a GPS tracker, I was able to find it. If you can’t see your dog, you can remotely activate a steady bright LED light or noise from the tracker, to help you find them. I was surprised at how bright the light is and it’s has been a great help when I can see from the GPS that Sherlock’s close, but he’s not responding to my calling (he has zero recall, the stubborn ass). Another handy feature in these situations is ‘Find Mode’ which connects your phone to the tracker using Bluetooth, to show more accurately when you’re getting closer to your pet.
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The GPS is accurate, and the ‘live’ mode is great, triggering GPS updates every 2-3 seconds, rather than the default 2-60 minutes. The battery life claims to be 2-5 days, but Sherlock’s a busy bee taking himself for wanders, so I usually get around three days out of it, with home wifi battery-saving mode enabled. Annoyingly, the charging cable is really short, and connects magnetically, making it really easy for the tracker to fall off if you’re balancing it on an adaptor to charge it.
I’ve had some trouble with Sherlock’s tracker malfunctioning – there have been a few occasions where I’ve turned it on in the morning, and not realised it isn’t actually working. Unfortunately, you don’t realise until you open the app and see that it’s malfunctioned. Initially, this only happened a few times but it started happening more frequently until I eventually couldn’t reset it – thankfully, Tractive sent out a replacement.
It’s not a fever…A dog’s normal temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. How much do you know about dog health? Take our Doggy First Aid Quiz!
Despite its flaws, I loved this tracker so much I bought another one for Lucy, allowing me to track them on the same app. Although the tracker is on the larger side, it doesn’t bother either of my dogs. I even got them both glow-in-the-dark covers for their trackers, for extra peace of mind when they’re trotting about in the dark.
The Tractive tracker works in over 150 countries worldwide.
Kippy EVO, Kippy, £49.99
- Subscription cost:From £3.33/month (for a supreme 60 month plan)
- Size:5.5 x 3.7 x 2.2cm
- Tested on: Joey, four-year-old German Shepherd from London
The GPS was accurate on walks around the neighbourhood, but a little patchy on countryside walks. However, the Bluetooth setting is really useful to help you more accurately find your pet when they’re in range of your phone. It also has a ‘live tracking’ mode to get GPS updates every three seconds.Like the other trackers you can set up a virtual fence to get notifications when your dog leaves that area, but a fantastic feature of the Kippy is the virtual leash – a geo fence for when you’re on the move. It alerts you when your pet moves too far away from you – perfect for walks in the open. A bright, blinking LED light can be activated to spot your pet in the dark, which was super useful when Joey went for a wander during a night-time stroll. This tracker’s activity monitoring is pretty impressive – detailing when Joey’s been running, walking, playing, resting and sleeping, as well as steps taken and calories burned.
The Kippy EVO has an IP67 dust/waterproof rating, which means it’s waterproof up to one metre for 30 minutes, as well as being completely protected against dust and dirt. Battery life is claimed to be 10 days in default mode, but we get about three days out of it.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: The red-eared slider is one of the most popular pet turtles in the United States. They grow to be a foot long and can live for up to 20 years.
One thing we will say is that it was quite hard to get hold of anyone at Kippy via the customer service email/social media, so aftercare may be lacking.The Kippy EVO tracker can be used in Europe and South Africa.
Weenect Dogs 2, Weenect, £49.99
- Subscription cost:From £3.75/month (for a three year plan)
- Size: 5.8 x 2.3 x 1cm
- Tested on:Harry, four-year-old Chihuahua from Liverpool
The tracker has different coloured lights to show if it’s connected to GPS or not, which is handy when first turning it on, saving you from opening the app to check it’s connected.
The GPS was accurate although the ‘super-live’ tracking on Weenect only gets GPS updates every 10 seconds (compared to the default 30 seconds to an hour), so ironically, it’s not as ‘super’ as the other trackers’ live modes which range from 2-5 seconds.You can make the tracker vibrate or make a ringing sound remotely via the app, which is useful for trying to locate your pet when you’re close but can’t quite see them. You can also use this feature to train your pet to come back to you when they hear it – good luck with that, Harry was having none of it.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Having a pet in the home can actually lower a child’s likelihood of developing related allergies by as much as 33 percent. Children exposed early on to animals tend to develop stronger immune systems overall.
Like the other trackers, this also monitors activity like distance travelled and time spent playing/sleeping.The Weenect Dogs 2 tracker can be used in Europe.
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