In recent years, technology has made it much easier for humans to track just about everything we do—how much we sleep, how many calories we eat, how many steps we take in a given day, and so much more.
These insights can make it easier to manage key aspects of our health and wellbeing. After all, as the saying goes, “What gets measured, gets managed.”
So it should come as no surprise that we’re just as eager to gain such insights into our pets, as well. The market for wearable pet tech is booming, with research projecting 2024 sales to be more than double what they were in 2018.
But pet trackers don’t simply tell us more about our pets, they can unlock life-saving benefits, too—especially when it comes to reuniting lost pets with their worried families.
To learn more about the benefits of this smart technology for pets first-hand, I tested out a Tractive GPS Pet Tracker on Goose, my one-year-old Husky mix, to see how well it worked and whether I’d recommend it.
Save $10 off a Tractive GPS device with the code GREAT10
What Are Dog GPS Trackers?
If you’ve ever used a Fitbit or smartwatch to track your running route or daily steps, dog location trackers work in a similar way. Though the technology and performance vary from brand to brand, dog GPS trackers generally track and transmit your pet’s location in real-time using data collected from satellites circling the earth.
Most GPS trackers also come with extra bells and whistles beyond location tracking. Some can also provide location history, track activity, temperature, and sleep patterns, and even serve as a way to connect with other dogs and pet parents in your community.
Unlike other types of trackers that require Bluetooth or a wifi signal within a certain range to work, GPS trackers can tell you where your dog is no matter how far away they are. The only requirement is that your dog is somewhere that has cell service.
GPS trackers aren’t meant to replace traditional safety measures, such as pet ID tags or microchips—both of which can facilitate a quick reunion, if your lost pet is found by a neighbor or Good Samaritan. Nor does having a GPS dog tracker mean you should forgo leashing your dog, training them to respond to a recall command, or keeping a watchful eye on them, in general.
But GPS pet trackers do offer a reliable safety net that can help you easily find a lost pet, should any of your first-line defenses fail. Plus, they provide peace of mind and valuable information about your pet 24/7, which can benefit you and your dog every day, not just if your dog goes missing.
What Is Tractive?
A global leader in the GPS pet tracker market, Tractive was founded in Austria in 2012 by a group of entrepreneurs who wanted to make the world safer for millions of pets using the power of technology.
Now, Tractive GPS pet trackers monitor cats and dogs around the globe. The easy-to-use tracking can be used in over 175 countries, offering pet parents a way to keep tabs on pets, while also monitoring important health and wellness info.
Through Tractive Gives, the company partners with organizations, like shelters and charities, to provide free trackers and vouchers that can be used for events, auctions, and giveaways.
How Does Tractive Work?
Tractive monitors your pet through a small tracker device that attaches to your dog’s collar or harness. The device contains an integrated SIM card (just like your cell phone) that connects it to cell towers in the area so it can track and transmit your pet’s GPS information. You can then monitor your pet’s location through the Tractive website or an app on your phone.
Tractive doesn’t just tell you where your dog is at any given moment, it also shows you where they have been. Standard GPS tracking provides updates on your pet’s location every 2-60 minutes, while LIVE mode increases that frequency to every 2-3 seconds, so you can track your pet’s every move in real-time.
From the app, you can also have the tracker make a sound or turn on a small light—very helpful features if you’re trying to find your dog at night or in a thickly wooded forest.
With the Tractive app, you can also establish Virtual Fences to help keep track of your pet. For example, you can create a virtual perimeter — or “fence”—around your house and yard. If your pet leaves this designated area, you will automatically receive an alert. If your dog reenters the virtual fence, you’ll receive a notification that they’ve returned, too.
Tractive can also help monitor your pet’s periods of activity and calm throughout the day, as well as sleep cycles, to detect whether your dog is getting enough exercise, rest, or sleep.
There’s also a small social component. Tractive’s Leaderboard connects you with pets locally, as well as globally. The Leaderboard shows you where your pet stands in “Active Minutes” compared to other Tractive users, so you can also track your pet’s activity compared to other dogs and even add friends.
Tractive says the battery can last for up to seven days, but this will depend on how you use the device. It takes about two hours for it to completely charge. And you never need to worry about getting caught in the rain or your dog taking an impromptu swim—the tracker is both waterproof and shockproof.
How Much Does a Tractive Dog Tracker Cost?
In addition to the $49.99 cost of the tracker, pet parents must purchase a monthly subscription plan to activate the tracking capabilities. Pet parents can choose either a Basic or Premium subscription plan, both of which start at only $5/month (though you have to commit to a longer-term plan to lock in that price for the Premium subscription).
The Basic subscription covers GPS tracking and unlimited LIVE tracking for $12/month. But you can get a discounted rate of $7/month if you pre-pay $84 for the full year, or $5/month if you prepay $120 for two years.
A Premium subscription unlocks a host of additional features, including worldwide coverage, access to 365 days of location history, and the ability to share location tracking with family and friends, to name a few.
There is no month-to-month payment option for the Premium plan. Pet parents can sign up for a full-year plan for $96 ($8/month), two-year plan for $144 ($6/month), or five-year plan for $300 ($5/month).
To save even more, pet parents can get $10 off any Tractive GPS device by using the exclusive code GREAT10 at checkout.
Putting the Tractive GPS Pet Tracker to the Test
Tractive GPS devices are sold on their own or as part of a dog-tracking collar bundle. Since my dog Goose wears a harness, I opted for just the tracker and found that it clipped easily onto the back strap. The tracker is lightweight, so Goose didn’t seem to notice or care about it.
I found the set-up to be pretty simple. The tracker was almost fully charged when I received it, but I charged it back up to full relatively quickly and easily. Once I downloaded the Tractive app, it gave step-by-step directions for connecting the tracker and getting started. The entire process took less than 5 minutes and tracking began immediately.
It was really interesting to track Goose’s Active and Calm minutes throughout the day. This is a good feature to use to make sure your pet is getting enough exercise and rest daily. You can even look back at previous days and compare your daily minutes with your pet’s average, or set goals. I also found myself keeping an eye on the Leaderboard and attempting to climb the ranks of the Local Leaderboard by making sure my dog got enough daily active minutes.
I like that Tractive tracks sleep to catch issues in your pet’s sleeping pattern. However, this feature requires that you leave a collar on your pet at all times. For safety, I take my dog’s harness off at night and when I leave her alone at home, so I wasn’t able to capture this data.
I do wish that the activity and sleep monitoring was a little more detailed. The data is presented on a timeline that shows periods of more or less activity, so it was hard to tell whether Goose was asleep or simply resting.
I was overall impressed with the Tractive’s battery life. It only takes two hours to charge, and that charge lasted me lasted several days before I had to recharge it. However, the battery may drain faster if you’re using the LIVE tracking option, so your mileage may vary.
I turned the tracker off each night and rarely used LIVE mode. I also didn’t connect to my home’s Wi-Fi, though the Tractive site mentions that you can set up a Power Saving Zone by connecting to a trusted WiFi network. The remaining battery percentage can be tracked in the app, and it also sends several notifications when the battery needs to be charged so you don’t have to worry about it turning off unexpectedly.
I only had a few minor issues while using Tractive. One thing I noticed was that it was not always 100% accurate about where my pet was. For example, I had set up a Virtual Fence around my home so that it would notify me anytime Goose left the area. While this is a really great feature that worked 99% of the time, I did receive one alert that she had left the area…while she was laying on the bed right next to me. I could clearly see she was safe, but had I been away from my house, that notification would have caused unnecessary panic.
The other issue I had was with adding a Wi-Fi network. I attempted to connect to WiFi several times, but I always got an error message. My home internet tends to be finicky, so perhaps the issue was with my WiFi network. Ultimately, I had no problem with the battery life, so connecting to WiFi wasn’t a must for me. However, it could be an issue for someone else.
I was fortunate to never lose sight of my dog while testing Tractive. But the tracker would have really come in handy a few weeks ago when Goose took off across several backyards in my neighborhood.
While Goose eventually returned home on her own, a Tractive GPS device would have helped me immediately pinpoint her location so I could bring her home quickly and safely. And if the worst had occurred and she didn’t come back at all, it would have helped me ensure that she didn’t get lost for good.
From my experience, Tractive seems like a great investment in a pet’s overall wellness and a vital resource when it comes to finding a lost pet. In addition to tracking habits and behavior data, it has all the tools to locate your dog wherever they might be, plus features like light and sound to make finding them easier. As long as cell service is reliable in your area, Tractive will help get your pet back to you.
Things We Like
- Easy to set up and very user-friendly
- Low battery notifications
- Waterproof and shockproof
- Light and sound to help locate pet
- Affordable initial cost
- LIVER tracking mode
- Calm and sleep tracking
Things to Consider
- Tracking data may not be 100% accurate
- Data is less specific than I would like
- Only works with a collar or harness
- Monthly/yearly payment
- Must have cell service to work
Tractive Pet Tracker Reviews: What They’re Saying
There are over 11,000 Tractive reviews on the Trustpilot website, where Tractive earned a TrustScore of Excellent (4.6 stars out of 5). Here’s what a few reviewers had to say:
- “This GPS tracker is pretty much perfect. I have used others and this one is much better and more affordable.”
- “Jessica is normally excellent at staying on our property but she is also fascinated by lambs and sheep, and we are in a very rural location. I set up the safe zone. Within 2 minutes of her leaving our property (after finding a weak point in the perimeter), I had an alert on my phone. Within 10 minutes she was back on my property, and the gap in the fence was fixed.”
- “I love my Tractive device because my English Setter is so active and playful that she’ll wander off on our walks in the woods whenever anything catches her interest. But with Tractive I always know where she is!”
Tractive: Our Verdict
Tractive is easy to set up, easy to use, and overall a reliable tool for tracking your dog. While I was lucky to never have my dog run off while using it, I know I would be grateful to have it should that ever happen.
While it’s not an absolute necessity for all dogs, Tractive would be especially useful for off-leash hiking, dogs who live on large properties, dogs used for hunting, and adventurous dogs who tend to run off. It’s also a great tool for bringing pet parents some peace of mind—if your dog ever accidentally gets out, Tractive can give you “eyes on” your missing pet so you can ensure they get home quickly and safely. It can also be a great tool to monitor how active your pet is and to make sure they are getting enough exercise (and sleep!) each day.
GPS trackers offer the comfort of always knowing your dog’s location, and I found that Tractive was a solid option with all the necessary features needed to help me keep tabs on Goose and her activity.
Tractive GPS for Dogs: Tips and Advice
- When deciding between subscription packages, remember that the longer you commit, the more you’ll save. But be aware that, once you have pre-paid for a subscription, you may not be able to get a refund if you change your mind.
- While the Basic subscription may work for most people, choose a Premium subscription for more flexibility and a broader range of features. E.g., if you need multiple family members to track your pet from their own phones, a Premium subscription is your best bet.
- The tracker itself is lightweight and designed to fit dogs of all sizes. Even small dogs should have no problem wearing the tracker on a harness or collar.
- If you have multiple pets who use a Tractive device, they can all be tracked within the same app. However, because each device needs to connect to cellular data, they each require a subscription.