Does Your Dog Need a GPS Unit?

Shetland sheepdog sitting on map over white background

The number of pets who are lost every year is alarming. According to the HomeAgain microchip registration service, one in three pets will get lost during his lifetime, and, every year, 10 million pets are lost. Regardless of how well trained your dog is, accidents happen. Leashes are dropped, fences fall down, and, one way or another, dogs and their owners get separated.

GPS or Global Positioning System devices have been available for several years in the consumer world, and today they’re becoming more and more popular in the dog world, too. GPS units typically clip onto a dog’s collar and transmit his location, which can then be viewed by the owner on a smartphone app or a browser interface. If your dog is lost, you’ll receive a text or email and then you can track his movements and pinpoint his location in real time.

Which Dogs Need a GPS Unit?

If your dog is a “runner,” a GPS device is invaluable. Dogs who are traveling and on unfamiliar territory can also benefit from a unit, as can dogs who are walking in the snow, which makes it far more difficult for a lost dog to find his way home.

If you work outside the home and leave your dog alone during the day, a GPS unit can also be a great peace of mind device. You’ll be able to check in and see where your dog is throughout the day. New devices entering the market also make it possible for you to see and hear what your dog is seeing and hearing at the same time.

GPS units are also great for dogs without good recall—or ones with hearing disabilities.

What Features Does a Dog GPS Include?

Although they’re not inexpensive, the price of the units is coming down as more models enter the market. The number of features varies from device to device but typically you can expect these features from a dog GPS device:

  • A device, preferably waterproof, that clips to your dog’s collar.
  • A rechargeable battery and base unit.
  • The ability to create a “home zone” for your dog. When he’s within this zone, you won’t receive notices and the device will go into a battery-saving mode.
  • Texts or emails that will alert you when your dog leaves the home zone. Some units will also allow you to send alerts to designated neighbors or friends.
  • A downloadable app for your smartphone for tracking your dog’s movements.
  • Real-time tracking of your dog on a map, usually a Google map.
  • Activity monitoring is being added to some units as well to help you track how active (or inactive) your dog is throughout the day. If you utilize a dog-walking service, the GPS will enable you to monitor whether your dog was walked for the specified amount of time.

GPS units have traditionally been sized for medium-to large-breed dogs, although smaller units are now coming onto the market. Beyond the initial cost of the hardware, most GPS systems will include a nominal monthly charge for the tracking service. For a modest investment, your dog will be safer, and you will have one less worry.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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