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 best smart dog collars.