Nowadays, there are now trackers that can help find our pup's real-time location. We'll dig deep into how it's made possible as we discuss how GPS trackers for dogs work.

If your pup is a bit of a trouble maker, investing in a GPS dog collar is a great idea! It is your job to handle your pet and the one responsible for their safety.

Sometimes our energetic dogs tend to be good at playing hide and seek. If your dog tends to run or cause mischief here and there, these devices can help you find and track their movements.

As dog owners, one of the worst nightmares for us is losing our dog. Research shows that millions of dogs go missing or run away from their home.

There are many reasons why dogs run away. It can simply be because they want to run free.

On the other hand, abused dogs run away to escape. Keep in mind that even the best-trained dogs run off when they are frightened.

Dogs with GPS trackers

How GPS Trackers for Dogs Work: What is a GPS Tracker for Dogs?

A Global Positioning System or a GPS tracker for dogs is a device that can track your dog's real-time location. GPS dog collars also have features that offer faster escape alerts.

GPS tracker for dogs can track your pup's activities, sleep, and calory in its designated app on your phone.

But if you're wondering whether you should still invest in a GPS tracker even if your dog is microchipped, my answer would be yes!

There is a huge difference between a microchip and a GPS tracker when it comes to finding a lost dog.

Difference between a Microchip and a GPS tracker

There are 3 main differences between a chip and a GPS tracker. These are its hardware, size, and function. Let's talk about these one by one:


To know what's the difference between these two devices, we have to look into their hardware. So let's start with the microchip's hardware.

The hardware of a microchip is just a small electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder. Its function is to provide an ID number linked to your dog.

But when it comes to a GPS tracker, it needs a lot of essential components. For instance, for a GPS tracker to function, they need GSM Modules, GPS Antenna, LED Light, Speakers, a Battery pack, and a SIM card.


The sizes of these devices will depend on their hardware. That means the size of a microchip is so small that it can be compared to a grain of rice.

Because all it needs is a small electronic microchip for it to work and serve its function.

On the other hand, the size of a GPS tracker will be a bit bigger because of its hardware. Generally, the average GPS tracker's dimensions are 72 x 29 x 16 mm and it weighs 30 grams.


Now the main difference between a chip and a GPS tracker is their function. Let's say your dog ran away.

The microchip can only help you get your dog back when a good samaritan finds your dog and take them to a vet to get the chip scanned.

But with a GPS tracker, you can see your dog's real-time location. You won't have to wait or worry for someone to find your dog.

You can easily go pick them up yourselves.

On the other hand, there are a few different types of GPS dog trackers and they all work in different ways. Here are the most common types of GPS trackers for dogs:

dog playing with GPS tracker

Types of Pet Trackers and How They Work

Cellular Trackers

These trackers are just like any phone you have on. It has a sim card inside and it relies on cellular towers to transmit data about your dog's location through your phone.

Usually, cellular GPS trackers include a GPS chip and a sim card. You'll get your pup's location through the chip but cell coverage is required for the data to be sent to you.

How Cellular Trackers Work

  1. Attach the transmitter to your dog's collar
  2. This transmitter has a GPS chip inside that acquires the signal broadcasted by GPS satellites that orbit around the Earth to determine your pet's location.
  3. With its cell coverage, the transmitter sends the GPS coordinates to your phone. Usually, there's a specific app that will display your pet's location.
  4. In most cases, Wi-Fi is also used to determine the pet's location. Wi-Fi towers nearby are used as an alternative that can increase their positional accuracy.

On the other hand, two disadvantages of buying a Cellular GPS tracker is that these types of trackers need a monthly subscription fee. You must pay for the service even if you are using the tracker or not.

Another disadvantage is that you won't be able to track your pet if they are stuck in remote areas since they are not covered by cellular networks.

Radio Trackers

When it comes to radio trackers, you'll get your pet's coordinate depending on the handheld transceiver rather than an app like in cellular trackers.

Even though these also include a module to be attached to their collars, it is usually big and bulky. But larger means longer battery life. It also doesn't have monthly fees or subscriptions.

Instead of using your phone, you'll be using a radio transceiver that displays your dog's location.

How Radio Trackers Work

  1. Attach the module to your pet's collar
  2. You have to carry the radio transceiver
  3. The transceiver will continuously send signals to the module for their location
  4. The module will give you either the exact coordinates if the module also has a GPS chip or it will give you its direction and distance. It is like playing “Marco Polo” at this point. The closer you are to your dog, the stronger the signal.

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Bluetooth Trackers

Bluetooth trackers have a limited range only. This is because they use Bluetooth technology.

Bluetooth trackers only have a maximum range of 33 feet or 10 meters. Bluetooth trackers were not made as dog trackers.

It was made explicitly for certain objects that you tend to lose like keys and wallets.

How Bluetooth Trackers Work

  1. Pair the pet's module to your phone
  2. Attach the module to your dog's collar
  3. Similar to cellular trackers, these trackers also have a specific app. It will tell you the distance and direction to where your dog is.

Mixed Trackers

As the name suggests, a Mixed Tracker is a type of GPS tracker that can be used by 2 methods for giving your pet's location.

Mixed trackers rely on a module with a GPS chip that is attached to your pup's collar. This tracker also has an app on your phone.

The collar module connects to another module that the pet parent will be carrying. Your pet's location will be transmitted to you via radio waves.

These trackers are gaining popularity since it connects to their phone but it doesn't require a separate SIM card or line of Cellular service to work.

Also, these trackers don't have any monthly fees like Cellular trackers.

How Mixed Trackers Work

  1. Attach the small module to the dog's collar. This module has a GPS chip that allows it to acquire your pup's location through GPS satellites.
  2. The pet module now sends its coordinates to the second module )the one that you are carrying).
  3. The second module serves as a gateway between the pet module and your phone. It will forward the GPS data to the phone without the need for a SIM card or cellular coverage.

What To Consider When Purchasing a GPS Tracker for Dogs

Best GPS Trackers for Dogs

Now that we've discussed how GPS trackers for dogs work, let's discuss the best GPS trackers out there.

There are plenty of GPS trackers out in the market today. But choosing the right fit for your pup is essential.

They have to be comfortable on these GPS dog collars. You would also need to consider their size and weight.

Fi Smart Dog Collar

Below is a list of the best GPS trackers for dogs:

    1. Fi Smart Dog Collar
    2. Halo Dog Collar
    1. Whistle Health & GPS Tracker
    2. Tile Mate
  1. Tractive GPS Tracker for Dogs

Frequently Asked Questions About How GPS Trackers for Dogs Work

Can You Track Your Dog If It's Microchipped?

If your main goal is to track your dog's exact location, well the answer is no. As we've discussed above, the function of a microchip and a GPS tracker is different.

You can only track your lost dog through their microchip when a person takes your pup to the vet and gets their chip scanned for identification.

Other than that, a microchip can't send you the coordinates of your dog.

Can I Scan My Dog's Microchip With My Phone?

No. No phone can and will be able to read a dog's microchip. There are no apps for smartphones that can do this.

Microchip scanners are separate units that can't be a part of your phone since they are stand-alone devices.

These devices have a specific coil and capacitor that are designed to be sensitive to a particular radio frequency.

And always remember that your pet's microchip is useless unless it's registered in a database that is actively searched.

Are Pet GPS Trackers Safe?

Generally, GPS trackers for pets are safe. You might be scared that your pup can be exposed to some radiation, and we get it.

Fortunately, these trackers are completely safe as they are on the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

How to Choose the Best Dog GPS Tracker
Photo: Tractive

How GPS Trackers for Dogs Work: Summary

To determine how GPS trackers for dogs work, we must first classify what type of tracker you have.

The four main trackers are the Cellular tracker, Bluetooth tracker, Radio tracker, and the Mixed tracker.

The cellular tracker might be one of the most popular out of these four. It is reliable, convenient, tried, and tested. However, most of these products require a monthly subscription fee.

But as dog owners, our pet's safety is essential. GPS dog collars can help us find our dog's real-time location.

We won't even need to wait for a good samaritan to pick up our dogs, take them to the vet, and get their chipped scanned.

Can you imagine the hassle? Not only it is a hassle, but it can take days or weeks, or in some cases, they won't even get to see their dog again.

On the other hand, radio and Bluetooth trackers have a disadvantage because of their limited range. Unlike cellular trackers, the Radio and Bluetooth trackers can only locate your dog about a few meters away.

It will also not give your pup's exact location. It can only give their distance.

Lastly, mixed trackers are the newest type of trackers. With these devices, you'll be able to track your dog's exact location without the need for a SIM card and a monthly fee.


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Toby loves spending time with his dog and two cats. They are the best stress reliever and affectionate pets, especially his Belgian Malinois, Shawie. Shawie's favorite activity is running or jogging. But their go-to spot is to chill and swim around a nearby river.