Published on: April 12, 2024
Author: Alix Mitchell

As much as we love our dogs and try to keep them safe and secure, accidents happen that can result in your dog escaping and getting lost. Unfortunately, in the United States, one study conducted in 2011 indicates that 15% of dog owners had lost a dog in the past five years1. One of the most effective ways to ensure your dog’s safety, and ultimately their return to you if they were to get lost, is to equip them with a GPS tracker or a microchip. 

How Dog GPS Trackers Work

If your dog has a habit of sneaking out, or even if you just walk them off-leash and want added peace of mind, you should consider a dog GPS tracker placed on your dog’s collar. GPS trackers work by displaying your dog’s location in real-time, but different types of GPS trackers all function differently. 

Cellular GPS Trackers

Cellular GPS trackers utilize a built-in GPS chip that transmits data with GPS satellites orbiting the Earth and then pings nearby cellular networks to send your dog’s coordinates directly to your smartphone. With current technology and cellular coverage becoming more reliable, this is the preferred type of dog GPS tracker today. 

Radio GPS Trackers

GPS trackers that utilize radio waves were the first types of GPS trackers invented. These trackers use a GPS receiver that is adhered to the dog’s collar and a separate handheld device, instead of an app on your smartphone. Signals are transmitted to and from satellites and the GPS receiver to calculate your dog’s position, and then your dog’s exact coordinates are pushed to the handheld transceiver. 

What are the Benefits of a Dog GPS Tracker? 

GPS trackers and microchips are both beneficial in preventing your dog from being lost, with GPS trackers offering several benefits. 

Data for your dog’s specific location. The primary benefit of using a GPS tracker for your dog is that it offers specific coordinates for your dog’s exact location. This means that you have a much better chance of going to that location and finding your dog. 

Specific location updates in real-time. Since GPS trackers are constantly relaying satellite communications, they are simultaneously updating in real-time. You have a much better chance of receiving specific coordinates promptly so that you can go to that location and find your dog before they run off.

Peace of mind with geofencing alerts. Many GPS trackers come with additional virtual fencing, or geofencing, features that can provide extra peace of mind. This feature allows you to set up a specific area as a virtual fence, and if your dog leaves the outlined area, you get immediate notifications. 

Additional activity tracking information. GPS trackers can also track and record your dog’s activity, like steps walked, calories burned, hours slept, and more. This data provides an overall look at your dog’s health to ensure their physical needs are being met. 

What is a Dog Microchip?

Microchips are small, radio-frequency identification (RFID) electronic chips enclosed in a glass cylinder that is implanted under your dog’s skin. The chip transmits a specific identification number via radio waves when it’s scanned with a microchip scanner, and then that microchip number is displayed on the screen of the microchip scanner.2 

Once your dog has been microchipped, you must register your personal information with your dog’s microchip number in an online database found at PetLink. This ensures that your dog will be reunited with you in the event they’re lost and someone scans them. 

Dog Microchip Capabilities

It is important to reiterate that microchips only transmit the microchip number when scanned with a microchip scanner. Microchips do not have any GPS capabilities, nor do they transmit or store other medical information, like Rabies vaccine information. Microchips are simply permanent identification. 

When your dog is scanned with a microchip scanner, their microchip number will appear on the screen. As long as you’ve registered your personal information along with your dog’s microchip number in a database, anyone scanning your dog’s microchip can know how to contact you to reunite you with your dog. If you don’t register your personal information, the microchip won’t provide any useful information to anyone scanning it. 

What are the Benefits of Microchipping Your Dog?

While microchips may not have as many benefits as a GPS tracker, the peace of mind they provide at such an affordable cost is important to consider. 

Permanent Identification. Since microchips have a unique identification number that is placed under your dog’s skin, they are quite literally a way to permanently identify your dog. 

Easy and Inexpensive. The implantation procedure is quick and easy and can be done at any vet appointment. Plus, the total cost averages only $25 – $70 for the procedure and online registry. While microchips are inserted with a needle, this is a quick and easy procedure that can be done at any regular veterinary appointment; however, many dog owners will opt to have this performed when their dog is already undergoing anesthesia, like a neuter or dental. Plus, microchips are an affordable option and have little chance of failure, thus ensuring the one procedure and cost of microchipping your dog will benefit them their whole life. 

National Databases. Microchips are registered in national databases that any veterinary, shelter, or animal control officer will know how to access if they scan your dog and find a microchip. 

Cost of Dog Microchips

Microchips are extremely affordable, with an average cost ranging from $25-$70, and this covers the entire cost, including the implantation procedure. This procedure can be done during any appointment with your veterinarian, though you can choose to have it done at the same time as your dog undergoes anesthesia for a surgical procedure if that gives you more peace of mind.  

Dog GPS vs. Microchip

While GPS trackers and microchips are both helpful in preventing your dog from being lost, they have distinct differences you should take into account when considering the best option for your dog. 


Feature Microchip

GPS Tracker

Upfront cost $25-$70 Varies, based on device
Ongoing cost None Varies, some require annual subscriptions
Functions as Permanent Identification Yes No
Location Tracking No Yes
Real-time Location Updates No Yes
Rely on strangers to find your dog? Yes No
Additional capabilities, like health monitoring No Yes


Our dogs are part of our family, and we want to keep them safe. In many cases, it is worth it to have the double layers of security by microchipping your dog and using a GPS tracker. Both options together will ensure that you have the best chance of being reunited with your dog if they were to escape.