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Pet tracking devices: Worth buying or waste of money?

Pet tracking devices claim you will never have to worry about losing your cat or dog. But are they worth the money?
Posted at 6:50 AM, May 17, 2023

Worried about your cat or dog wandering off and getting lost? Worry no more.

You might have seen small devices on the market that help you track your keys, luggage or wallet. Now you can do the same thing with your pet. 

John Worman and his dog Hank are going camping and Worman doesn't want to risk losing his best friend.

"If they see a deer or something and chase it, they might not be able to find their way back," he said.

So he stopped by his local pet shop, the Anderson Family Pet Center, to ask about tracking devices. Owner Daryl Meyerrenke has been using one on his collie, Paddy Bear.

He showed us how it clips to Paddy's collar and how he can see where the dog is at any time.

"It shows that Paddy Bear is right here at the store with us," he said, showing the locator app on his phone.

He says prices vary between $50 and $150, though most require a monthly cell network fee of $12 to $15.

"You can get something very simple or very complex," he said.

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The difference from microchipping

Don't be confused by the chips offered by vets. Tracking devices are very different than microchips inserted under an animal's skin.

Consumer Reports explains that microchips rely on someone finding your pet, reading it electronically, and contacting you.

Sometimes the person finding the dog keeps it and never has the chip read. Trackers, on the other hand, show your pet's location in real-time in an app on your phone.

Consumer Report's Scott Medintz says while most trackers are accurate, they are not precision instruments and have limitations.

"It might tell you to go to this address," he said, "but it's next door or down the block or something like that."

For the best results, he says stick with trackers that use both satellite GPS and cellular service in case of weak cell signals.

"Some of the ones that don't have that are cheaper and so people may be tempted to use them," he said. "I would say it's just not worth it."

Consumer Reports has information on the best pet trackers on its website.

Medintz's last tip is to do a few practice runs so you know how it works before it's too late.

"You don't want to figure the thing out when you're panicking because your dog's gone," he cautioned.

Worman thinks it's worth it.

"As they say, you don't need it 'til you need it," he said.