The Best Pet GPS Tracker

The best pet GPS tracker gives you a better shot at wrangling furry escape artists before they've gotten too far from home. We researched 32 pet trackers, tested 13 for function and convenience, and found two that will help you keep your pet safe.

The 2 Best Pet GPS Trackers

Best for Smartphone Users
Whistle 3 Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor
Whistle 3
The perfect balance between long battery life, prompt updates, and well-designed app.
Pros
Battery life
Accurate notifications and tracking
Customizable safe zones
Bonus insights
Cons
Subscription fee

Why we chose it

Battery life

The quality that most sets the Whistle 3 apart is its battery life. When we took the devices out of their safe zones for five hours to test live tracking, the Whistle 3 returned home boasting a comfortable 93% charge. If your pet runs away, this ensures that you've got more than a few hours to find him. And when we ran our more controlled, stationary battery life test, Whistle 3 came out on top again, with a remarkable 86% battery after 24 hours.

Accurate notifications and tracking

The Whistle 3 doesn't make a trade-off for its battery longevity, either. When we left safe zones or re-entered them, it always sent notifications within two minutes, and usually sooner. Notifications from others (like Pod 3) lagged behind substantially, sometimes never showing up at all. Plus, Whistle 3’s notifications aren’t just prompt, they’re specific and informative.

Alert-comparison-for-Pet-GPS-Tracker

“Heads up, Tony is 300 feet from Home” with an approximate address was more useful than the generic messages we got from nearly every other tracker.

Tracking the device when your pet is on the run is similarly practical: Touch the “Track” button, and it loads the tracker’s current location quickly and updates continuously until you tell it to stop.

Whistle-collage-for-Pet-GPS-Tracker

Customizable safe zones

We loved how the Whistle 3's safe zones are entirely in your control: Just type in an address, then adjust the four corner points into whatever arrangement works best; oddly shaped yards or specific off-limits areas are accommodated with ease. You can also add as many zones as you like, perfect for pets who stay somewhere else while their owners are out of town.

Bonus insights

In addition to effortless activity tracking, Whistle includes a few extras, offering insight into your pet’s activity, and letting you set daily goals based on measurements for a healthy pet of the same breed — helpful if you're watching your pet's weight. We appreciated these extras on top of the Whistle 3's already stellar performance.

Points to consider

Subscription fee

Aside from the Nuzzle, every pet tracker we tested requires a subscription. The app is free, but you’ll have to pay $80 for the device itself, then choose a service plan. Whistle gives you three options: $10 for monthly payments (with a year’s commitment), $95 upfront for a year of service; or $167 upfront for two years of service. That’s slightly higher than average, with several devices going as low as $80 for the device and one year of service.

Best for Users Without Smartphones
Trax Play GPS Tracker
Trax Play
Not quite as impressive as the Whistle 3, but a solid runner-up that doesn't require a smartphone and uses T-Mobile rather than AT&T.
Pros
Web application
Customizable safe zones
Sleep mode
Comparable pricing
Cons
T-Mobile 2G coverage
Not waterproof

Why we chose it

Web application

Lots of trackers, including the Whistle 3, require a smartphone to operate. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us, given that a recent survey from Pew Research Center found that 77 percent of Americans own smartphones. But if you're one of the remaining 23 percent, Trax Play GPS Tracker is one of the only pet trackers we saw that can be accessed through a web application in addition to a smartphone app.

Customizable safe zones

The Trax doesn't offer a ton of extras like activity tracking, but the features it does offer (geofencing and outdoor tracking) are thoughtfully customizable. In fact, Trax Play’s geofences are even more customizable than Whistle 3’s “places” — you can make them any polygon you please or draw them freehand and set them up to be active only on certain days of the week. Say your workplace allows pets in-office on Fridays or you drop your pet off at doggie daycare every day before work — you can activate pre-set safe zones for each scenario.

Trax-Play-collage-for-Pet-GPS-Tracker

The Trax Play app is simple: The homepage is a map showing where you and the tracker are located, a geofencing tab allows for customization of safe zones, and another tap lets you search for your dog using Augmented Reality.

Sleep mode

The Trax also has a “sleep mode” to help preserve battery life: The devices goes to sleep after five minutes of inactivity, reactivating as soon as it senses motion. This meant that, even when we requested 15-second location updates, the battery lasted over a day (although it still didn’t come close the Whistle 3). If you don't need quite such frequent location updates, you can also select from a range between 10 and 60 seconds.

Comparable pricing

If you go with Trax Play, you’ll have a similar pricing scheme to Whistle 3. The device costs $99, and a plan costs $54 for six months of service, $72 for a year, or $96 for two years. That’s $4 less than the Whistle 3 for a one-year commitment.

Points to consider

T-Mobile 2G coverage

One key difference between the Trax Play and the Whistle 3 is its cellular service provider. Rather than AT&T — the carrier Whistle 3 uses — Trax Play uses T-Mobile 2G. Generally, T-Mobile offers less comprehensive coverage than AT&T. But its coverage is better in some urban areas (a discovery we made when we reviewed cell phone plans).

If you live in an area that has spotty cell reception, we'd suggest comparing T-Mobile and AT&T to see which is the best option. And we'd suggest using RootMetric's mobile coverage map to do this. This third-party survey operation provides an unbiased report of coverage at the neighborhood and even the backyard level.

Not waterproof

One of the Trax Play’s greatest drawbacks is that it’s only water-resistant, rather than waterproof. That means it won’t be protected if it gets completely submerged underwater. If your dog’s running down to the local watering hole for a swim every chance they get, you’re better off opting for a totally waterproof pet tracker like the Whistle 3.

Attachment method

The Trax Play attaches to a pet’s collar via a flexible silicon case. You thread the collar through that case, then stretch the case over the device — there’s nothing directly connecting it to your pet’s collar. We’re confident it’ll stay on through everyday wear, but if a branch were to catch it at precisely the right angle, it would be less likely to stay put than the Whistle 3.

Trax-Play-attachment-for-Pet-GPS-Tracker

How to find the right pet tracker for you

Be familiar with local signal strength before you buy a pet tracker

Tall buildings can interfere with a GPS signal (although we didn’t have any issues testing in downtown Seattle); weak cell service can also impact reliability. We suggest testing any tracker you order in your own neighborhood before trusting it to keep your pet safe, and making sure your tracker uses a cell carrier with good coverage in your area. Our top picks use AT&T (Whistle 3) and T-Mobile (Trax Play).

Consider alternatives for poor reception areas

If you live in a GPS or cellular dead zone, GPS may not be the tech you’re looking for. Other options, like Radio Frequency or Bluetooth trackers, can bypass the need for your phone to connect with a cell tower or satellite.

Trackers that use Radio Frequency (RF) are often advertised as being more light-weight than GPS trackers — but they also have a shorter range. Scott Amyx, Managing Partner of Amyx Ventures and wearable tech pioneer, told us that RF trackers can pick up a signal within a 25- to 50-mile radius, depending on the vendor.

If you're interested in going this route, the MARCOPOLO was one model we ran into quite a bit. Bluetooth trackers are another option but have the shortest range of all (one, Pawscout, advertises 300 feet as its limit). Depending on your location, one of these options may be more practical than GPS, but for everyone else, it's hard to beat a GPS tracker’s theoretically unlimited range.

Decode waterproof ratings

If your dog is a frequent swimmer, a waterproof rating can (literally) make or break a pet tracker. Trax Play’s rating is IP65 (protected from water shooting out of a “nozzle”); Whistle 3’s is IPX7 (protected from immersion in water up to three feet).

Set up your pet tracker

Setting up your pet GPS tracker typically involves five steps:

  • Download your device’s accompanying app
  • Set up your profile and cellular service plan (if needed)
  • Activate the device, usually by typing in a serial number or via Bluetooth connection.
  • Establish a GPS connection, usually by standing outside “in an open area for 15 minutes.
  • Customize your settings, like safe zones and refresh rates.

Pet GPS Tracker FAQ

Are there any pet trackers for cats small dogs?

Not exactly. All the devices we saw in our research are marketed as “pet trackers,” but the term is a little misleading. If you’ve got a small dog or a cat, even the most diminutive devices are bulkier than small animals are likely to tolerate. That’s because a tracker’s functionality can suffer if it gets too small, usually in regards to its battery life. If you do have a smaller pet, Paby or Trackimo were the smallest devices in our tests, but they also had some of the worst battery life.

How long do pet tracker batteries last?

We recommend changing your pet tracker every night, just like a smartphone. Some devices, like the Whistle 3 and Pod 3, utilize WiFi networks connections or Bluetooth connections when available in order to limit battery-sucking cellular communication. The Pod 3 and The Nuzzle provide an extra battery to switch out when one dies. (Thoughtful, but not always practical.)

Despite these efforts (and despite some trackers claiming days of battery life), most of the devices we tested needed charging after less than a full day of testing. But we were putting the trackers through the wringer with our tests (live tracking, several alerts, etc.)

Should I microchip my pet?

Yes. A GPS tracker can alert you before your pet gets too far away to find, but a microchip services a vital purpose if someone else finds your pet first, or if your GPS tracker dies before you can locate them.

A microchip allows a shelter or vet to scan the chip in an emergency and find identifying and contact information. “When you microchip a pet, you’re able to capture other vital information about their pet, such as medical conditions or whether they were spayed or neutered,” Dr. Robert Trimble, Head of Veterinary Services at Fuzzy Pet Health told us. “You record the owners’ contact information, as well as the veterinarian’s. That information is always available, and no battery is required!”

Our Pet GPS Tracker Review: Summed-Up

Whistle 3
Trax Play
The Best
For smartphone users
For users without smartphones
Price
$79.95
$98.64
Subscription fee
$95 per year
$72 per year
Mobile app
Web tracking
Waterproof rating
IPX7
IP65

More Pet-Related Reviews

There’s a lot more to keeping your pet happy and healthy than tracking their whereabouts. Check out some of our other reviews for pet owners: