From the archives: GPS dog collars ensure you can (almost) always find a lost pet
If you have a runaway dog, consider the new GPS collars which work with smart phones
My six-year-old Scottish Terrier Bridget is a bolter. She’s escaped from our fenced-in backyard, out the front door when we were moving, and on the occasional off-leash walk. The habit has actually gotten worse as she’s gotten older and acquired more confidence about her ability to survive in the big city without her annoying peeps.
Yes, she has a tag with our contacts and a microchip, but neither of those are any help until she has been captured by a human who phones to tell us Bridget has been found. Sometimes, we spend hours worried she’ll be dognapped or hit by a car. That’s why I want to get her a GPS collar that will let me locate her right away on my iPhone.
Garmin GTU vs. Tagg Pet Tracker
In the U.S., there are two brands of GPS dog collars that work with smart phones: the Garmin GTU 10 ($200) (shown at left) and the Tagg Pet Tracker ($100) (shown above), both of which are available on Amazon.
Garmin uses the AT&T network and the $200 price tag includes a year of service after which there’s a $50 annual renewal fee. Tagg uses the Verizon network and the price includes one month of service after which you have to pay $7.95 monthly. Those different terms explain the price discrepancy.
With both Garmin and Tagg, you can track your dog (or cat) on your computer or via an app on your smart phone to pinpoint their location. You configure boundaries or what Tagg calls a “geofence” and then if your pet breaches them, you get an email or text letting you know. Or if aptly-named Rover runs off while you’re out on a walk, you just whip out your phone and let the app and GPS system tell you where he’s gone. The range is unlimited — as long as there’s data coverage.
Consumer Reports rates Tagg better than Garmin for its battery life. The Tagg Pet Tracker comes with a base station and when the pet is close by, the battery loses hardly any charge. It only runs down on walks, which means that it can hold a charge for four to 30 days depending on how far from home you roam. The Garmin device is charged by plugging in into a computer and, as a result, its battery life tends to be limited to a few days.
RoamEO Pet Monitor: $200 with no separate service required
This system works through “a patented combination of satellite and radio signals,” which means you don’t have to give one extra cent to your telcom provider. The GPS unit is contained in an adjustable rubber collar which communicates with a handheld receiver that monitors your pet’s movements and updates continually.
Your unfaithful Fido had better not leave you too far behind, however, because RoamEO maxes out at half a mile. According to Consumer Reports, the battery charge lasted about 24 hours.
But will my dog like a GPS collar?
All the collars are a tad on the bulky side and, though they’re billed as being okay for small dogs and even cats, it probably depends on what your dog will tolerate. Some users have suggested that any animal under 12 pounds is not a good candidate for these collars.
Coverage in Canada
The Tagg Pet Tracker is not available in Canada but the Garmin GTU 10 works on the Rogers network with one year’s service included in the price. After that, you purchase additional coverage from Garmin. Here is a map, which shows coverage for Canada.