If you have a dog, chances are good that it wears a collar of some sort at all times. Usually this collar is chosen for its good looks more than its function. Sure, some dogs require special collars, but the average pup just needs something to hold the ID tags.
A growing range of products makes these collars into more than just fashion statements. While training collars (especially ones to curb barking) have been around forever, there’s a new class emerging which gather information about what your dog is up to and where.
These smart collars use GPS, wi-fi, and sometimes even cellular data to send stats to your smartphone, regardless of where your dog may be. It’s the next generation of ensuring your dog’s health — not only knowing where they are, but if they’re getting enough activity.
For this list, we’ve included several of the new class of information-gathering collars, though to be absolutely clear, only a handful of them are actual collars — most are small devices designed to attach to the collar your dog is already wearing. In addition to these fully modern, be-all, end-all contraptions, we’ve also included a few solutions that perform only one function, be it locating lost dogs or helping with training. We’ve broken out each style into different categories to make shopping easier.
On the whole the reviews for these products tend to be harsher than a lot of other pet tech products we’ve covered. Partly this is due to the fact that smart dog collars are a relatively fledgling technology; they’ve just not been around quite long enough to work out the bugs. The other reason — and this is absolutely key — is that most GPS dog collars and related products rely on cellular networks for tracking.
It makes sense, if you think about it. How else can these relay messages across great distances? However, that means two things: If you don’t have great cell coverage where you live, it’s unlikely that most of these will work as well as you might like. Second, some rely on aging cellular infrastructure, including 2G networks, which are on their way out. These sorts of complaints are common to virtually all of these products, so keep that in mind while you’re shopping.
As an alternative, you could consider personal trackers such as the Spy Tech GL300, which we put on our GPS tracking devices for cars post. They aren’t specifically designed for the job and they’re on the large side, but it’s an option.
For those who want to keep closer tabs on their dog, here’s our list of the top ten best smart dog collars.
Smart Dog GPS and Activity Tracker Collar
These collars monitor your dog’s activity level and location at all times. All of these send data back to your smartphone, so you have ready access to the most vital information whenever you want it.
1. LINK AKC Smart Dog Collar
Winner of the “Best of Innovation” prize at CES 2017, this all-in-one solution combines a GPS locator with an activity tracker into an single attractive collar. Available in brown leather or a black sport pattern, this is a complete solution for knowing your dog’s whereabouts and activity at all times.
Along with the home base, this collar creates a so-called “digital safe zone” around your home. If your dog leaves that area, it will send an alert to your smartphone immediately. As it tracks your dog’s activity, it will make recommendations tailored to your pet to encourage healthier habits. The app will also let you record vet records so you have a complete picture of your dog at any given time. To top it off, the collar has as bright LED that is controlled with the app.
You can use this with your own collar, but the tracker and the collar holster for it are both clad in brown leather, so you might be better off with the one included.
There is a service charge associated with the device, starting at $6.95 per month, which you can read more about here. You can also choose to bundle a year of service with the purchase of the device.
Price: $75.57 to $129 (device only)
- GPS tracking shows the location of your dog at all times
- Customized activity level recommendations
- App-controlled LEDs for visibility
- Ambient temperature alerts
- Requires monthly service plan for connectivity — starting at $6.95 per month
- Not recommended for dogs under $10
- Battery life (three days max.) shortened by very active GPS use
2. Black+Decker Smart Dog Collar
Another very similar model comes from an unlikely sources — toolmaker Black+Decker. This is an ultra-sleek, modern-looking collar that offers virtually the same functionality as the Link AKC, with one additional bonus: two-way audio.
Much like the pet cams we discussed in this post, you can use the app to call your dog’s collar so it can hear your voice and you can hear what’s going on around it. That’s in addition to the expected GPS location, activity tracking, and safe zone options all on-board.
This water resistant unit also contains a large OLED screen, which displays your dog’s name and your contact information normally, but can be updated with a different message during special situations. It’s available in your choice of black or purple.
Like the others, it requires a $6.95 per month subscription, and the first 90 days are free. It relies on T-Mobile’s 2G network, which is fairly limited. There’s a coverage map on the product page to give you an idea of where it will work best.
- Two-way audio
- OLED screen displays pertinent info about your dog
- Customizable geofence zones
- Water resistant up to three feet
- Only fits dogs with a 15 to 21 inch neckline
- Relies on T-Mobile’s 2G network, which is outdated
- Somewhat pricey considering the network drawbacks
- Requires monthly service plan for connectivity — starting at $6.95 per month
3. Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor
The Whistle 3 is an improvement on previous versions of the device that separated the GPS tracker and activity monitor into two different devices. This release is a single, streamlined unit that fits on any collar or harness that is one inch in width.
This waterproof smart dog collar tracker utilizes AT&T’s cellular network to relay information back to your smartphone. This includes notifications about leaving a pre-defined safe area, which piggybacks on your wi-fi connection and ensures that your dog is close to home at all times. It also includes daily activity information, which can be tailored to your pup’s age, breed, and weight. These notifications can be delivered via text, app, or email.
After a charge of two hours, this will last seven days, depending on usage. Being that it uses a major carrier’s network, there is a monthly subscription fee starting at $6.95, same as the Link AKC above. This is managed within the app and doesn’t require a separate contract. Whistle also provides above-average customer service, should you have any questions or issues.
- Works on any collar up to one inch wide
- Defined “Whistle Zone” alerts you when pet leaves the area
- See trips your dog took in the last 24 hours
- GPS tracker requires monthly service plan for connectivity — starting at $6.95 per month
- Not ideal for dogs under eight pounds
- Battery life (seven days max.) shortened by very active GPS use
- A bit pricey considering you still need to supply your own collar
4. Dott The Smart Dog Tag
Though it doesn’t quite fit this category, we’ve opted to include the Dott here because it interfaces with a lot about modern pet ownership. This is a non-GPS-enabled device that leverages a network of users to help locate pets, while also making pet health and activity tracking possible within the app.
If you’ve ever lost a pet (as I have), you know there are pretty dedicated neighborhood Facebook groups that do an okay job of updating the status and keeping an eye out for lost animals. This device takes that idea one step further: each user in the Dott network using a connected device covers an area of 384,844 square feet. If the Dott is within the range of just one, it is ‘in-network’ and trackable on the app. In addition, when a pet goes missing, the entire network is notified, supplemented with social media posts.
This is also meant to interface with apps like Wag and Barkly, or any other pet caretaker role. You can send invitation codes from the app which will allow whomever is taking care of your dog to enter walks and potty break activity, along with the benefit of the tracking should your dog escape during this time.
Since it doesn’t rely on a cellular network, there are no subscription fees. However, like the others, this will be far more successful in populated areas where many people are using the app so that the coverage area is better. The other upside is that the battery life is measure in months, not days, since there are no energy-intensive radios on board.
We’ve featured the iOS version here, but an Android version is available in beta release. Think of this as a next-generation pet chip that anyone with an app can leverage.
- Six to nine month battery life
- Activity and pet health tracking
- No subscription fee
- Lost pet notification platform
- No GPS – must be within a certain range of devices
- Activity tracking isn’t automatic; manually-created records
- Android version still in beta
Dog GPS Trackers
If you don’t require the activity tracking portion, you can save quite a bit of money by opting for one of these GPS-only units that are aimed at pet recovery. These are specifically designed to broadcast your pet’s current location for their speedy return home and don’t have additional functions.
5. Find My Pet GPS Pet Tracker
If all you need is a dedicated GPS tracker for your dog, consider this option. Using GSM 2G, it tracks your pet’s location and alerts you via email, SMS, or in-app notifications. Battery life for this unit is up to seven days, depending on area and use. Not much for bells and whistles here, just a purpose-built GPS locator for your pup.
More recently, they’ve introduced the Find My Pet GPS Nano, which adds Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity options to help improve accuracy. The reviews are slightly better, but both appear to suffer from buggy tracking and battery life.
We’ve included it on the list because the brand has been around for awhile and was one of the first, and in good coverage areas, the performance should be better. Definitely not the option for those in rural areas, but the price has come down a lot since it’s been on the market, so it could still be worth a try.
- Monitors and sends alerts
- Light enough for most pets
- Free app
- Helpful customer service
- Requires monthly service plan for connectivity — $4.99 per month
- Expensive for what it is
- Unclear instructions
- Relies on 2G networks
6. Tractive GPS Pet Tracker – 3G US Edition
A slight step up from the Find My Pet would be this option from Tractive. It uses 3G cell service, not 2G, thanks to an integrated SIM card. The app allows for real-time tracking with a location history so you can keep up with your dog’s movements.
The battery takes two hours to charge and will last between two and five days, depending on activity. There is, of course, a virtual fence option that alerts you when your dog leaves a certain area. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
The monthly subscription starts at $5 with different options for notifications. It’s also a bit on the large side compared to other options, so this would definitely be best for larger pets.
- Location history
- Virtual fence
- Water resistant
- Real-time tracking
- Overly large
- Slow to connect
- Somewhat confusing to set up and use
- Requires monthly service plan for connectivity — $5 per month
7. Garmin Astro 430/T 5 Dog Tracking Bundle
We included a Garmin device on our training collars post because they make excellent, high-quality units that are very reliable. This is aimed at the sport dog who will be out tracking and hunting, rather than the suburban dog who might escape your yard. Still, for short term use or perhaps on larger plots of land or farms, it offers powerful GPS tracking.
This collar and GPS receiver unit bundle allows you to track up to 20 dogs at a range of nine miles. It combines traditional GPS and GLONASS reception for greater accuracy. It updates every 2.5 seconds for close to real-time tracking.
Maps are preloaded, but the bundle includes a one year subscription for updating the satellite imagery. At this price, it’s probably overkill for dogs that never leave the yard, but a nine mile radius is likely to cover the majority of runaways, so if you have multiple uses for it, it’s definitely worth considering.
- Nine mile range
- 20-40 hours of battery life
- Virtual fence
- Track up to 20 dogs
- Long antenna means this probably won’t be worn all the time
- Very expensive
- Not unlimited range like cell-enabled options
- No smartphone compatibility
Dog Activity Trackers
Naturally, they go the other way, too. If your pet is not at all a flight risk and is, in fact, quite lazy, you can use one of these purpose-built units to measure your pet’s activity and ensure they get the right amount of exercise. Well-exercised pets live longer and are generally happier. These are FitBits for your dog.
8. Poof Bean Pet Activity Tracker
This one-inch activity tracker utilizes Bluetooth to sync fitness data to your phone. This includes calorie and sleep tracking as part of a general activity profile. This profile can then be added to the Poof community for added gamification.
The scoring and ranking is probably unnecessary, but if you find yourself motivated by your FitBit, the same idea works here. If nothing else, pure competitiveness will help remind you to bring your pup for a walk more often than you might otherwise.
This is a super small unit, measuring only an inch. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 60 days, though some users report that it can be a little wonky at times. If you don’t want to take the chance, Poof also make the Pea model, which uses a coin cell battery instead.
As an added bonus, you can post that your pet is lost and it will broadcast to the community. If your pet happens to come within range of another Poof user’s device, it will send a notification and help to reunite them. The range of a Bluetooth device is only 33 feet, but it’s better than nothing.
- Bluetooth enabled data sync
- 60 day battery life
- Waterproof up to one meter
- Available in four colors
- No location tracking
- Some units have faulty batteries (if this is a concern, consider the Pea model, which uses a coin cell battery)
- Lacking user instructions
- Some users find the app limited
9. FitBark 2 Dog Activity Monitor
Like the Whistle above, the FitBark has moved on from past iterations and has only improved. At its heart, this is a Bluetooth-enabled activity tracker with Android and iOS support. It tracks all activities, including things like distance traveled and calories burned, as well as monitoring heart rate to indicate high-anxiety situations.
The Sleep Score portion can also help determine if your dog has oncoming skin disorders by determining whether it’s waking often to scratch. The Health Index brings all these metrics together into one score so you and your vet can make a determination about the overall condition of your pup.
Two vast improvements over the first version: 1. The battery life has improved from a maximum of 14 days to a staggering 6 months. This partly explains the increase in the size of the unit over the first version. 2. You can link your activity tracker including FitBit, Apple Watch, Health Kit, Google Fit, or Jawbone devices so all the time you spend running together is stored in one place.
To top it off, the customer service is quite good and easily accessible within the app.
- Six month battery life
- Tracks calories, sleep quality, and distance traveled
- Interfaces with your FitBit, Apple Watch, and more
- No location tracking
- Some complaints of dead units
- Second-generation device is slightly larger than predecessor
- Only available in black
Smart Dog Training Collars
While the collars above focus on location and activity of your dog, a smart dog training collar can be used to correct a variety of unwanted behaviors. These include going places you don’t want them, barking, and more.
10. PetSafe Smart Dog Trainer Collar
Most traditional dog training collars require you to carry around a radio transmitter in order to trigger the corrective action. PetSafe has paired its collar with a Bluetooth radio so you can use your smartphone instead. We all carry our smartphones in the normal course of our day, so this improves the convenience of such a devices considerably.
The effective range on this is about 75 yards, which is fairly limited for this sort of device. However, assuming you’ll only put it on when you’re actively training, this may not be too much of a concern, and should certainly work inside the house. Correction stimulation includes one level of beeping, one level of vibration, and 15 levels of “static stimulation” or shock to prompt corrections. Shock collars are relatively standard and generally do not cause any harm, but if you’re opposed to them, you’ll still have the first two options available to you with this collar.
- Waterproof, submersible up to five feet
- Three types and 15 levels of stimulation
- Replaces typical handheld unit with smartphone functionality
- Free dedicated app
- Range is only 75 yards
- Instructions for use lacking
- Shock mechanism may be considered inhumane for some users
11. PetSafe Pawz Away Pet Barrier
Another PetSafe product, this unit is meant to keep your dog (or cat) away from specific places in the home. By placing a transmitter about the size of a smoke detector in a spot where you don’t want Spot, you can passively train your dog to stay out of trash cans, off furniture, or even out of rooms where you prefer they not go.
This relies on static/shock correction, automatically progressing through several different levels as they draw nearer to the transmitter. Between three and 15 seconds, it will use the highest level of correction, but then shut off to prevent injury and overstimulation. For most pets, the first level is more than enough, and some reviewers report that it isn’t necessary to use all the time. A few rounds of training with this, as well as subsequent reinforcements, should be enough for your pet to understand.
- Trains dogs to avoid areas of the home
- Adjustable range from one to six feet
- Correction prompt stops after 15 seconds
- Additional barrier transmitters can be added
- Recommended continuous use of 12 hours or fewer
- Some dead spots in the range radius
- Collar is bulky for smaller pets
- Shock mechanism may be considered inhumane for some users