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This article was produced in partnership with Tractive, who reached out to us for a fair assessment based on our own product testing.
As the parent of an extremely curious dog, I have often considered purchasing a GPS device to keep an eye on his whereabouts. My Cattle Dog-Border Collie mix, Enzo, is typically good at staying close to home, but I wanted a safety net for the peace of mind of knowing his location if he decided to go on a solo adventure.
Tractive was founded in Austria about 10 years ago and makes one of the leading dog activity and GPS trackers in the US. At $49.99, their device is more affordable than most competitors’, with subscription fees on the low end for comparable plans. I spent a few months trying out the Tractive GPS device on Enzo to evaluate how it compared to other activity trackers I’ve tried—and to see if its features meet the company’s claims (spoiler: they largely do!).
How Does the Tractive GPS Tracker Work?
The Tractive GPS Pet Tracker is able to connect to networks worldwide via SIM card to track your pet’s location. It has an unlimited range, which means that you could feasibly track your pet from the other side of the world. (I tested this successfully while on an out-of-state trip and had fun seeing where my pup was spending time.)
It’s designed to be useful in a variety of scenarios:
- For pet parents with escape artists, who want an alert when their dog leaves a designated safe area and the ability to track them
- For those interested in monitoring their dog’s activity levels for health reasons (or fun)
- As a general safety precaution in the event a dog gets separated from their human
My Tractive device arrived with a helpful quick-start guide, a nifty blue rubber fastener, and a charging cord. Tractive offers four different color versions for the dog GPS tracker: snow, coffee, midnight blue, and white with a USA flag cover. They currently have one color option for cats: black, with or without a collar.
The charging cord is specific to Tractive (not a USB-C), so you’ll have to use the charger provided, though you can purchase additional spare cords and collar attachments relatively cheaply.
The Tractive device has a sleek design and attaches snugly to a collar that’s at least one-inch wide. The device itself is pretty narrow and extremely lightweight at just 1.2 ounces, so it works well even for small dogs over eight pounds. Enzo was not bothered by it being attached to his collar full time, and I found the attachment to be very reliable; I never saw it slip out of place or snag on anything, even during the wildest of zoomies.
Waterproof and Adventure Proof
The Tractive GPS Device is 100% waterproof and shockproof, so pet parents need not worry about removing the device for inclement weather or swimming. We inadvertently tested out the waterproof claim on multiple very rainy Seattle walks, and the device proved up to the task. It also withstood some rocky hikes and many rowdy trips to the dog park.
Tractive states that the GPS device’s battery will last about seven days on a single charge, but I found it to be closer to eight to ten days, depending on the usage. This is a shorter battery life than some other dog fitness trackers on the market, and it’s worth noting that some features will drain the battery faster than others. Given the Tractive’s lower price point, this felt reasonable, especially since the device is quick to charge, taking under two hours.
I opted to use the device’s power-saving mode, which turns off tracking if your dog is within range of your WiFi network. Pet parents have the ability to connect the device to up to five networks, so you can designate “power-saving zones” at home, doggie daycare, or work. This feature seemed to prolong the battery life, and it didn’t seem to take away from the functionality of the tracker. If my dog was out of range of the WiFi network, the device would automatically resume tracking his location via GPS.
You can monitor your pet’s health and fitness with the activity monitoring features available on the Tractive app. The device tracks your pet’s active time, calories burned, sleep, and “calm time” (not sleeping, but not active). These metrics are customized using the height and weight entered on your pet’s profile during setup. You can see Enzo’s current active minutes on the left side and daily average on the right:
Unlike other activity monitors, the Tractive device does not track behaviors like licking, scratching, eating, or drinking. I still found the activity and sleep data points very helpful, and I was particularly surprised to see just how much Enzo sleeps (I, too, would love to average 12 hours of sleep)!
The Tractive app offers a Live Tracking option, which is one of its main selling points. This didn’t refresh quite as quickly as I hoped during my testing (around every 15-60 seconds), but it was accurate. It’s worth mentioning that Live Tracking will drain the battery faster, so I don’t recommend leaving the feature on long term—but it is helpful for locating your pet in a pinch.
The device also has a small LED light and a sound feature you can activate remotely from your phone, which can be useful for finding a pet at night or in a dimly lit area. I used the light to locate a stubborn Enzo in our yard at night when he didn’t want to come inside.
He was a bit startled by the noise feature, but it worked well as a training assist to grab his attention when he was fixated on a squirrel and ignoring commands.
Does the Tractive GPS Pet Tracker Work in Areas Without Cell Service?
Since Enzo and I are avid hikers, I was curious to see if the device would still work in areas with poor or no cell service. Like with other devices on the market, the Tractive GPS tracker requires a mobile network connection in order to send GPS data from the tracker to the app on your phone.
The device may not work perfectly if you’re in an area with high GPS interference (think thick trees, tall buildings, indoors) or a spot with no cell coverage. That being said, the tracker can connect to the networks of multiple carriers—unlike the Whistle Go, which uses solely GPS and AT&T cell towers—so if a cell phone works in the area, you’re likely to be able to use the Tractive device.
Tractive also offers a Find Mode with all devices, which allows you to use Bluetooth to determine if you’re getting closer to your pet when your phone and the tracker are within range of each other. This feature works even if there isn’t a network connection, so it could potentially be a handy back-up if you’re in an area with poor service.
Tractive GPS Subscription Options
Tractive’s subscription plans start at $5 per month if you sign up for the two-year plan, or $12 if you opt to pay monthly. They offer a basic or premium subscription option.
The basic plan includes both general and live GPS tracking—the only features you really need to find your pet in an emergency—while the premium subscription delivers additional convenience. If you’re debating between membership tiers, here are a few key considerations:
- Family sharing: You’ll need the premium subscription if you want to be able to share your pet’s location with multiple humans.
- Worldwide coverage: With a premium subscription, the device can send position updates in real time in over 175 countries, making it a good fit for pet parents who travel outside of the country or live near the border. If you opt for the basic plan, you’ll be able to track locations in one country of your choice (which may be just fine for many pet parents).
- 365-day history: A premium subscription gives you access to 365 days of your pet’s location history. You can adjust the timeframe to see where your pet was at any given time, and there’s a heatmap overlay option to see where your pet spends the most time. With a basic subscription, you’ll be able to see the same information but only for the past 24 hours.
I personally found the premium subscription to be worth the couple extra dollars per month. It was handy to be able to add multiple family members so my partner could receive notifications about Enzo’s whereabouts. I also enjoyed seeing the heatmap overlay and location history. It was particularly funny to see our time spent sitting in traffic when a bridge malfunctioned!
If you’d like to track multiple pets, you can use the same Tractive GPS app for all of them—but you’ll need a subscription and a device for each pet.
Setting Up the Tractive GPS Dog LTE
Setting up the Tractive device was straightforward, and the app seamlessly guides you through much of the process.
- Charge the device. Tractive recommends fully charging the tracker for at least two hours before the first use; you’ll see the light on the tracker turn green once it’s fully charged.
- Set up your account. While you wait for the device to charge, you can set up your account and your pet’s profile on your phone. The Tractive app is available for Android or iOS, and you’ll need to create an account with email, or with an Apple, Gmail, or Facebook account.
- Activate your tracker and pair it with the app. Download the app, then enter the eight-character ID on the back of the Tractive device. You will need an active subscription plan for the tracker to start working; if you purchased a plan when buying the tracker, you should have a prepaid activation code waiting in your email inbox. Otherwise you can purchase one during set-up.
- Set up a profile for your pet. You’re able to include their name, type (dog, cat, other), breed, birth date (or your best guess), gender, height and weight, and pictures if you choose. Your pet’s height, weight, and birth date are required for the activity monitoring feature. I enjoyed this level of customization, because it made the profile and recommendations feel more specific to Enzo.
- Set up “Safe Zones” and “No Go Zones,” which allow pet parents to receive notifications if their pet leaves or enters specific geographic areas. I live in a pretty densely populated area, so the smallest option for a virtual fence extended a bit beyond our property, but it was still nice to know I’d be notified if Enzo strayed a few houses down. I found the notifications pretty timely when testing them out for myself.
Is the Tractive GPS Device Worth It?
Use Case #1: For Dogs Who Are Escape Artists
Though my dog is mostly indifferent to slipping out of our yard (he enjoys his cushy life too much), I was able to test the device on a foster pup who was less of a homebody: Maybee. When the rescue dropped her off at our house, they warned us to check our fence for any weak spots and shared that she was a bit of a “flight risk” because of her past life as a stray.
Though Maybee didn’t make any escape attempts (thankfully), it gave me a ton of peace of mind to know that I could track her location if she snuck out of our yard or hopped the fence at the dog park.
Use Case #2: Tracking Your Dog’s Activity Levels
I was most interested in the device for its GPS tracking abilities, but it was a nice bonus to also see regular stats about Enzo’s level of activity. The app provides some useful information about your pet’s active minutes, how often you’ve reached their activity goal (suggested by the app, but also customizable), and their most active day of the month.
It also displays info about the quality of your pet’s sleep and how often their slumber was interrupted throughout the night. Though not all pet parents will need this level of information, it was nice to have on hand to share with Enzo’s vet if needed.
You can also see how your dog stacks up on leaderboards, which are provided at the national level, by breed, and by location. You can also connect with friends or family via invite link or Facebook.
Enzo ranks 22nd locally for active minutes in the month of April. He did not fare as well on the Cattledog leaderboard, where he couldn’t compete with Ruth Bader Ginsdog.
Use Case #3: A Safety Net for Even the Most Well-Behaved Pet
Enzo is mostly uninterested in sneaking out of our yard, but he does have a very high prey drive. The second he has a squirrel or rabbit in his sights, he forgets everything else in the world and loses all previously acquired recall training. Multiple times, Enzo has slipped out of a family member’s home and gotten lost in the unfenced area behind their house. If we had the tracker, we could have tracked his exact path and hiked up to retrieve him.
Accidents can happen with even the most well-behaved dogs (though that is not a designation I’d claim for Enzo), and a GPS device like the Tractive offers reassurance that you’re prepared for an emergency.
The Verdict: Enzo and I Approve of the Tractive GPS Pet Tracker!
The Tractive GPS Pet Tracker can be used for a variety of purposes, and we found that it was more than worth its comparatively low price point. The Tractive offers a comprehensive set of options for tracking your dog’s location and activity and an optimal tracker design. I would wholeheartedly recommend this device for anyone who wants the peace of mind of being able to track their pet’s location.
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