HEALTH & CARE

Dog Tracking Chip: Unnecessary Expense or Life Saver?

GPS tagg pet tracker
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dog tracking chip devices are quite useful in finding lost or stolen pets. And the data is there to support it. Statistics show that over 10 million pets are lost annually; nearly 90% of them are never going to be reunited with their owners – they will become truly homeless and even euthanized in shelters.

The results of National Lost and Found Pets research survey, conducted by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), revealed that approximately 93% of all dogs that have been reported lost over the past five years have been happily reunited with their owners, and more than 15% of them — thanks to a dog tracking chip either implanted or installed on the collar of the pet.

The above information clearly shows how likely is it that your dog gets lost and how important is to act responsibly and be prepared in case the unexpected happens.

On the other hand, popular as animal tracking technology has become, and in case of chip implantation – safe as the procedure is, many dog owners still have many concerns and are quite reluctant to opt for neither micro chipping their pet, nor attaching a dog tracker on its collar.

Some of the challenges that pet owners face are quite reasonable, while some are based on lack of awareness about the seriousness of the problem and misinformation. In the following lines, we have tried to address the most frequent questions pet owners have regarding proper dog identification and tracking.

Lost dog poster nailed to a lightpost

What is a GPS microchip for dogs?

In the 21st century, location services and identification systems are literally everywhere. Most of us are so used to having GPS navigation in their smart phone or smart wristwatch that we almost do not think about the fact that almost every web based application “knows” who we are and what our whereabouts are.

Contrasting with this hi-tech mentality, many of us are still genuinely confused when it comes to the issue of their dog’s identification and the available options for pet location monitoring and tracking.

Garmin DC 50, GPS Dog Transmitter

It seems that the most common misconception is that the microchip your pet’s vet implanted under the skin of your beloved dog is actually a GPS microchip device for dogs that can help you locate your pet in case it gets lost. In fact, microchips for dogs and GPS tracking devices are two different options. Each has advantages and disadvantages; however both systems may come extremely handy in case your dog gets lost or stolen.

To learn more about microchips, please read our article on microchipping your dog, the benefits, and what the process entails.

Microchip implants are approximately the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the skin of the animal. These implants are in fact passive radio frequency devices – they do not have their own power supply and do not transmit continuous signal.

While a microchip actually contains a lot of useful information (unique ID of the chip, breed, description, vaccination schedule, owners contact details, vet’s contact details, etc.), it can only be read by a special scanner, once a lost or stolen dog has been found and brought to a shelter or to the authorities responsible for handling stray animals in the country.

GPS microchips for dogs are larger devices that are worn externally, usually on the collar of the dog. They have their own, internal battery and work via the Global Positioning System (GPS) just like a car GPS system works – they send continuous signal to the global satellite system that defines the exact coordinates of the device, and therefore – of the dog wearing the device.

In addition to providing the exact location, modern dog GPS trackers offer supplementary features — message and email alerts for extreme temperatures, information about activity levels, health monitoring and so on.

Which is the best option – implanted or external GPS chip?

Having read all of the above, it is natural to start asking yourself which is the best choice for proper dog identification and tracking. If dog ID microchip implantation is mandatory in your country, it is very likely that you have already micro chipped your little friend. In that case, all you need to decide is whether to buy a GPS tracking device as well.

If your dog hasn’t been micro chipped yet, it is recommended that you do that whether or not you are buying an external GPS chip for dogs. Both options have advantages and disadvantages and that is why a combination of implanted ID chip and a GPS tracking device can provide extra safety and security for your dog.

Microchiped dog

A real advantage of implanting a microchip under the skin of your pet is that the chip provides permanent identification that cannot be removed. In case your dog is lost, once found and brought to a shelter, a veterinarian clinic or the authorities responsible for stray animals in your country, the information in the microchip will be read and you will be contacted. On the other hand, there are several serious drawbacks associated with microchip implants for dogs:

  • A microchip implant will not provide any information about the whereabouts of your pet
  • Not all vets and stray animal shelters have microchip scanners; microchip scanners in the same country many not be unified.
  • International standards regarding the way information is encoded on microchips do not exist, so if your dog gets lost and found abroad, a chance exists that the microchip scanners used by the authorities in that country cannot read the microchip you had implanted in your dog.

GPS tracking devices manufactured as stand alone collars or designed to be attached to an existing dog’s collar, transmit real time information about the exact location of the pet. Most devices come with a smart phone application that displays the location of the tracking device on a map and provide you with directions how to get there. Basically, GPS trackers will provide the location of your pet at any given time, as long as the device is on and still attached to the pet’s collar. The most significant drawbacks of GPS trackers are:

  • The larger size of most GPS tracking systems makes them unsuitable for all dog breeds.
  • They may fall off or be removed on purpose (in case the dog has been stolen)
  • Since they are battery powered, GPS signal will be send until the battery runs down
  • GPS chips for dogs work only in areas with good GPS coverage, and sometimes require cell-phone network coverage as well.

What to consider before getting a microchip?

There are several very important things any dog owner must consider prior to getting a microchip implant or GPS chip for their four-legged companion.

Many pet owners are truly hesitant when it comes to implanting an ID microchip under the skin of their dog. Very often they doubt the safety of the procedure and worry about possible side effects that may be dangerous for their beloved friend. The truth is that microchip implantation only sounds serious and scary – the procedure is not more complicated than a simple vaccine shot.

A microchip ID implant is as large as a grain of rice and comes preloaded in a special syringe. The only difference between a vaccine injection and microchip implantation is that the later is done using a slightly bigger needle. Just as with any other medical procedure certain health risks exist – hemorrhage, chip migration and infection, however these are very rare side effects and the risk is insignificant if the shot is made by a qualified vet.

Dogs microchips

Regardless of the general safety of the procedure, here is what you need to check in advance:

  • Make sure you are taking your dog to a qualified vet. Complications from microchip implantation often arise if the chip has not been injected correctly and/or in the right spot
  • Microchip implants utilize radio frequencies. In order for a scanner to read the information stored in particular chip, it needs to be set at the same frequency as the chip. Check the type of scanners used in the stray animal shelters in your area, or look for more universal microchips.
  • In case you plan to travel abroad and take your little pal with you, check what is the microchip system used in the destination country. European countries not only use different microchip frequencies but have dog microchips implanted in different area of the dog’s body.

Buying a GPS chip for dogs may also be a difficult task, even if you have unlimited budget. These are the most important things to consider:

  • The technology utilized by dog tracking devices is different. Older dog tracking collars use radio technology which provides rapid response once you are in range; the drawback of this technology is that you need to be in that specific range in order to pinpoint the position of your dog. Newer dog tracking systems use GPS technology. It offers improved accuracy, and the most accurate one is the Wide Area Augmentation System GPS (WAAS-GPS).
    However, GPS trackers may perform poorly in areas with little open sky view and most of them depend on cell phone network coverage as well. Typically, GPS trackers that do not rely on cell phone coverage are more expensive yet they offer a real advantage of sending the signal from the GPS chip on the dog’s collar directly to a hand held unit.
  • Tracking devices depend on internal power supply. It is of utmost importance to select a dog tracker with pro-grade battery that can offer longer battery life. On the other hand, battery life depends on the specific settings of the device – if the GPS transmits signals to “check in” often, the battery life will be shorter. Radio trackers generally have longer battery life compared to dog trackers featuring GPS chips.
  • Size, weight and durability. Modern dog trackers are not very bulky. However, certain models may still be too big for smaller dog breeds. Make sure the size and weight of the dog tracker are adequate for the size and strength of your dog and that the tracker will not cause any discomfort or limitations of your dog’s movements. Go for durable, hit-resistant and waterproof devices.
  • Many GPS chip trackers come with additional features such as text message and email alerts, health status reporting, activity levels monitoring, weather alerts, extreme conditions alerts, integrated maps and directions, history, statistics, etc. Usually, these supplementary extras also add to the overall cost of the device well as to the subscription you may need to pay on a monthly basis. Carefully evaluate each additional feature and consider whether it could be really useful or not.
  • Look for well-known, established companies – if the provider of your dog’s tracking device goes out of business, the device becomes useless.

It also doesn’t hurt to add some extra protection in helping your dog be found. Not everyone will be equipped with a GPS tracking program, so make it easy for any layperson who finds your dog to return him to you quickly by reading our article on dog identification tags.

Which are the most reliable GPS microchips available on the market?

GPS tracking devices for dogs are rapidly gaining popularity. Nowadays, companies offer a large variety of dog trackers and dog owners can choose between numerous models, an array of exciting features, various shapes, colors and sizes.

Tagg Pet GPS Plus - Dog and Cat Tracker Collar Attachment

The sheer variety makes selecting the most appropriate GPS microchip for your dog an overwhelming task. To make your search a bit easier, we have compiled a list of the top 5 dog tracking systems.

  • Track your pet location and monitor its activity with Tag GPS Plus. The complete tracking system costs just under $100 and there is $9.85 monthly fee. Some of the advantages of Tag GPS Plus include long battery life of up to 10 days – longer compared to the battery life of the majority of similar devices, and minimum rechargeable time (approximately an hour).
    Besides standard GPS tracking, Tag GPS Plus comes with several useful applications for Android and iPhones such as maps and directions, text and email alerts, activity and health monitors.
  • Although Trackimo is not particularly designed for dogs, it is the preferred choice of many dog owners. The device offers highly accurate GPS location service along with several other great features – worldwide coverage, text, email and app alerts for location, sudden movement or impact, and a SOS button.
    Trackimo is very suitable for small dog breeds such as Chihuahuas – it is very light-weight and measures only 45 mm x 18 mm x 40 mm. For $139,99 you will get a fully equipped GPS microchip unit, 12 month activation and 10 months free text alerts. Additionally, the monthly fee is only $5 and there is no need to sign up a contract.
  • Garmin is a company with long history in GPS positioning and tracking devices. They offer a range of dog gadgets designed to assist in dog training and tracking. The Astro 320 with T5 GPS chip device is a pro-grade tracking system originally designed for sporting dogs. It can track the location of up to 10 dogs at up to 9 miles radius while providing advanced mapping with optional BirdsEye satellite imagery and TOPO maps.
    A feature that might be extremely important in case your dog gets lost is the Rescue mode. This mode, when turned on, automatically preserves and extends battery life, providing you with more time to find your dog. Although Garmin dog trackers are more expensive compared to other GPS trackers for dogs (prices range from $449,90 to $749,99), these are highly durable, professional devices that will provide you with extra piece of mind.
  • Another reliable GPS chip pet locator is PocketFinder GPS. It is a portable GPS device that can be attached to your dog’s collar. It is less than 2 inches wide and weighs just 1.4 ounces which makes it suitable for smaller dog breeds. The cost of the GPS unit is $134,95 and there is a monthly service charge of $12,95.
  • RoamEO™ Pet Monitor System is a great choice for dog owners who are interested in buying a well built and functional GPS chip tracking device without any additional features.
    RoamEO™ Pet Monitor System offers accurate and quick GPS location of up to 2 dogs and is designed for outdoor use. The pack includes RoamEO Receiver and Collar, two Batteries and a Charger. Although it is slightly more expensive compared to similar systems ($179.00), there are no activation, subscription or service fees to use RoamEO™ Pet Monitor System – it is fully configured at the factory and can be used right out o the box.

Most dogs enjoy running, exploring new territories, or just goofing around. The sad news is that no matter how well trained your dog is it may easily become disoriented and get lost. Even dogs that are always kept inside the house can get lost – a family member may accidentally leave the front door open, the dog may slip out through a hole in the fence, or during a natural disaster. Of course, any dog may get stolen.

Once lost or stolen, your dog is pretty helpless and it is up to you — its guardian, find it. New technology has a lot to offer when adequate identification and tracking for you pet is required. A GPS chip device attached to its collar will allow you to constantly monitor the location of your little friend and track it down in case it gets lost.

A microchip implant will provide your dog with proper identification which could mean the difference between life and euthanasia in case your dog is lost and later brought to a dog shelter.

Safe dog at home

The huge variety of GPS tracking chips for dogs currently available at the market allows dog owners to select the device that best suits their budget and needs.

While no device can guarantee the absolute safety of your little companion, modern identification and tracking systems greatly reduce the risk of loosing your pet, and increase the chance that your darling pet will be brought safely back home in case it gets lost. In the event that your dog does get lost, we have a great article on setting up a plan for finding your lost dog, so don’t give up hope if it does happen to you.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • May Walker

    I like how both the pros and cons given for both the GPS and microchip. This is very informative, and I’m going to admit that there’s not much difference between the two for me before but the article saw to it that I finished reading with a lot of info under my belt. I’m considering having our dogs both having a GPS and a microchip at this point.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      As a pet parent, you really have to weigh things out between the pros and cons. The pros and cons are not static, as they really depend on your need and that security and peace of mind that you would like to have. More features, greater coverage, and comprehensive support are some of the factors that should be taken very seriously.

  • Lucy Wilde

    Collars can break and someone else may remove them. Though there’s no fool proof way than microchipping, it’s nigh impossible to have a gps-enabled microchip, small enough to be implanted to a dog. A gps collar would have to suffice. These are great deals but I’d like specific details on how the signals are triangulated, if the collars rely on cell signals… etc. Sometimes the signal is weak. Need more info.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Hi, Lucy,

      I completely understand your concern about the transmission and fluctuating signal. Some microchips emit stronger signal compared to others, but it will really depend on your current requirements to determine which microchip will work for you.

  • Sandra Underwood

    I’ve read so many happy stories of lost dogs being found and returned to their owners, thanks to microchips. My question is how much does it usually cost? How do I check the microchip information for accuracy? I understand there’s a serial number on the microchip. Is there a way of checking that information online?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Some microchip installations have a database online or a registration-like scheme where pet parents and their fur babies are registered for easy reference and access. For the cost, some cost less than 100 but there are some that cost a bit more.

  • Joan Richard

    This is very useful. I am looking for a tracking chip for my Dog Donna and I think I know what to boy now. I was also get some info of http://www.gpsfordog.com

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is a great additional information. Joan. Thank you for sharing and believing that GPS chips are not just some fancy gadget for our dogs.

  • Christopher Mills

    Really useful thing, especially if you live in a big city. These technologies allow to find your pet very fast, before he gets in trouble.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is a feature that some pet parents often overlook. They always think that «oh my dog’s always safe and will never get lost» mentality. But I really do believe the cost of having a tracking chip done pays for itself. Saves you from the trouble as well.

  • edmun

    Really this things are very helpful for the safety of our beloved pets. I’m using a 3G Trackimo for my pet and really am glad to have one of this for my dog because it got lost a few months ago and had found him using this technologies. I’m really thankful for this pet trackers.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      The 3G Trackimo is a good tracking system because of its high accuracy and does help in finding your dog in a much wider radius. I’m glad this tracking device helped you find your dog.

  • Donna Christensen

    Where can I purchase gps chips that can be injected just kpikeva microchip

    • Wyatt Robinson

      In depends on your region or state, Donna. I would recommend shops that your veterinarian would recommend to make sure that you’re getting the correct and accurate microchip for your dog.

  • Lori

    What about the roam eo does it work well it has no subscription but it covers 2 dogs

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is quite subjective for me Lori. The advantage of subscription-based chips is that you are guaranteed to have full coverage and customer support, compared to subscription-less options.

  • Mari’an van Loon

    I am living in the Netherlands. Here in Europe there is an excessively growing risk of dogs getting stolen for deadly dogfighting by people from Russia, Romania and countries around these two. Therefore a collar is of no use for it will instantly be removed once a dog gets stolen. A combination of implantable microchip WITH gps would be much better. Not risk-less I am sure for they are probably to be hacked and disabled. However the first question is: is this anno 2017 already available on the market. I am sure the technology is already available. I found a website called mygpspets but the weird thing is there is latin on some pages and translating that latin gives really weird text. So I hope you can help me with some information.

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