Whether you’ve got an active dog or a more chill one, the great outdoors is the perfect place for them to get the exercise, sunlight, excitement, and sensory stimulation they need to be happy and healthy. But have you ever wondered…what are the best outdoor dog breeds? And can some dogs actually live – and enjoy living – outdoors safely?

Turns out, some dog breeds are naturally built for spending extended periods of time outside. Let’s take a look at the best outdoor dog breeds, how to keep them happy and healthy – and how to prevent them from getting lost on their outdoor adventures.

What are the best dog breeds that can live outside?

The 15 popular dog breeds listed here are the experts’ top choices for dogs that can spend extended periods outdoors due to their high energy and working-dog pedigrees. Do your homework and decide which breed is right for your lifestyle, members of your household, and your outdoor space. 

Read more: All About Working Dogs: Their Roles, Breeds & More

If you’re looking for low-maintenance outdoor dog breeds, remember that all dogs, whether they spend their lives indoors or out, thrive with basic dog obedience training and lots of attention from you. That investment of training and attention will build a lifelong bond between you and your pup.

1. Alaskan Malamute

Weighing 75-85 pounds as adults, Alaskan Malamutes were bred to carry large loads by sled over snowy terrain. These tough, loyal dogs have thick fur, which keeps them warm in cold weather. Malamutes can be strong-willed, yet they are intelligent and hard-working.

⚠️ Malamutes do, however, have a strong prey drive. Aka, hunting instincts which might lead them to chase down smaller pets or woodland animals. Which is one of the top reasons why dogs run away.

Read more:

An Alaskan Malamute sitting outdoors in a sunny field

2. American Foxhound

Ideal for rural areas with plenty of room for running, American Foxhounds were bred for speed. These extremely energetic dogs make great jogging companions due to their high stamina. Adults weigh 40-65 pounds. Experienced pet owners recommend training your American Foxhound while young for the best results.

Read more:

An American Foxhound wearing a red vest in a snowy field

⚠️ Much like Malamutes, all hounds have a keen hunting instinct that might lead them to chase down woodland animals. (Or fellow joggers!)

American Foxhounds clock in running speeds of around 22.7 miles per hour (or around 36 kilometers per hour) – around the speed of a slow-moving car. (Or Usain Bolt on a good day!) Which makes it a bad idea to try and chase yours down in case they go running off into the woods while out on a run or a hike.

So make sure to get your Foxhound microchipped at the very least, so that a helpful stranger can take them to a vet or shelter – and identify you as the rightful owner.

Read more: Dog Tracker Chip: What Are Dog Microchips vs GPS Trackers?

3. Australian Cattle Dog

A classic working dog, Australian Cattle Dogs are popular outdoor breeds. Their medium size – about 35-45 pounds – loyalty, and intelligence make them good choices for families. As long as you are able to establish yourself as the pack leader and keep your pup busy outdoors, you and your Australian Cattle Dog will thrive together.

An Australian Cattle dog carrying a stick in their mouth running in a lawn

💡 Make sure to get your outdoor dog enough exercise. A long run or thorough playtime session doesn’t just keep them healthy – it’s also a great way to prevent them from escaping. (Because a tired dog is…well, too tired to run off to burn off some extra energy.)

Plus, when you track your outdoor dog’s active minutes, you can both ensure they’ve gotten enough exercise – and catch on a drop in their energy early on. (Which might indicate they’re sick – even if they seem normal or healthy otherwise.) So you can take action early, get them to a vet…and avoid an expensive vet bill down the line.

Read more: Is My Dog Sick? Signs Of Illness In Dogs

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4. Bearded Collie

Intelligent and agile, Bearded Collies were originally bred as herding dogs for livestock. At 35 to 60 pounds, these shaggy dogs require frequent grooming due to their long coat. Bearded Collies can be playful companions for your family.

Read more: 5 Easy Dog Grooming Tips You Can Do At Home: The Ultimate Guide For Dog Parents

A Bearded Collie running on a beach

⚠️ Just watch out for your Beardie’s tendency to get bored easily – it’s why vets recommend keeping them busy with plenty of playtime and training.1 Boredom is also one of the key reasons why dogs run away.

5. Australian Shepherd Dog

Known as the cowboy’s top choice for herding, Australian Shepherd Dogs were bred as livestock guardians. Known as “Aussies,” these dogs excel in agility competitions and make great hiking or running partners. These 35- to 70-pound dogs need plenty of exercise to keep them happy.

An Australian Shepherd dog exploring a forested path

⚠️ Australian Shepherds are notorious for being the #1 runaway dog breed. (It’s likely all that extra energy they have – plus their curious, inquisitive, friendly natures.)

And unfortunately, just a microchip won’t be of much help if you want to actively track yours down when they escape. Rather, you’ll have to wait for a stranger to pick up your dog instead, take them to a vet, scan their microchip, and then contact you. (Which might not happen if your dog is picked up by a pet thief instead.)

So once you’ve gotten yours microchipped, strap a dog GPS tracker to their collar. Which can help you track their every move in real-time. Or set up a “safe zone” in your backyard – and get an escape alert the minute your dog tries sneaking past it.

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6. Belgian Sheepdog

Known as easy to train, Belgian Sheepdogs are agile and obedient. Their excellent tracking skills make them invaluable members of search and rescue teams.

Belgian Sheepdogs are large, weighing 60-75 pounds, so they require a well-maintained fence for containment. Because they do well in warm and cold weather, Belgian Sheepdogs are regarded as one of the best outdoor dog breeds. 

Read more: 15 Dog Fence Ideas For Your Escape Artist Buddy

However, combined with their keen sense of smell, Belgian Sheepdogs have a strong prey drive. (Which means they’ll chase nearly anything that moves.) Don’t skip out on their obedience training – especially their recall.

A Belgian Sheepdog in a grassy lawn

💡Search and rescue (SAR) teams around the world rely on Tractive’s real-time tracking to find missing people and pets. For example, Ontario-based SAR expert William Bolton uses his dog Sheba’s Tractive device for water rescues.

Read more: Why Tractive Makes The Best GPS For Search And Rescue Dogs

7. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bred in Switzerland as watchdogs and herders, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a calmer temperament than many other herding dogs. Their large size of 70-115 pounds contrasts with their gentle personality, making them suitable for families with children. The thick coat protects these dogs in cold weather, but they shed all year long.

A Bernese mountain dog in a sunny field

⚠️ Bernies, sadly, are vulnerable to separation anxiety.2 Which means they can get restless and antsy if you leave them alone even for short periods of time. Separation anxiety is also one of the prime reasons why dogs run away from home.

But here’s how you can instantly catch on to your Bernie’s escape attempts from home – with a Virtual Fence.

Tractive GPS Dog Tracker Virtual Fence Feature Illustration
  • Just use your trusty Tractive device to set up a “safe zone” around your backyard.
  • Now, the minute your anxious pup tries to run off to find you when you’re at work, you’ll get an escape alert on your phone.

Read more:

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8. German Shepherd Dog

Loyal, intelligent, and courageous, German Shepherds are a popular breed that is used worldwide as police, service, and guard dogs. German Shepherds enjoy a moderate amount of activity and are even-tempered, making them suitable for families.

These dogs weigh 75-95 pounds and are strong and agile, so they require exercise every day. German Shepherds are all-weather dogs, but their thick coat can pose a risk in extreme heat.

Opie the Shepherd mix dog standing outside with his red ball.

💡Pictured above is Opie, a white Shepherd mix whose Tractive device clocks in a whopping 300-500 minutes of exercise a day!

Says his mom Autumn, “When Opie arrived at the farm as a puppy in November 2020, we thought we were crazy for a while. Then, we discovered Tractive and were relieved to find out we weren’t crazy – Opie really was the most active dog around.”

Read more: Mud about adventure – Meet Opie the energetic White Shepherd mix

9. Great Pyrenees

Hardy mountain dogs, the Great Pyrenees was bred to guard and herd livestock in the Pyrenees Mountains of Europe. Their thick coats protect them from the cold. Weighing up to 130 pounds, these outdoor dogs are moderately active and highly intelligent.

A woman hugging a Great Pyrenees dog in a field

At the same time, Great Pyrenees tend to be quite stubborn by temperament – which might make them difficult to train. But with time, patience, and consistency, you can improve your Pyrenees’ recall to keep them safe when off wandering the woods or wilderness together.

Read more:

But if your Pyrenees’ herding or hunting instinct override their training…

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10. Irish Wolfhound

Weighing up to 120 pounds and standing nearly three feet tall, Irish Wolfhounds are one of the largest dog breeds. Due to their size, Irish Wolfhounds need large outdoor spaces to run and play. Their coarse fur keeps them comfortable in a range of climates.

Despite their somewhat intimidating size, Irish Wolfhounds are not aggressive and are a great fit for an active family.

Read more: Active Dogs: 10 High-Energy Dog Breeds For Outdoorsy Folks

An Irish Wolfhound wearing a harness and sitting by a river

⚠️ But much like Foxhounds, watch out for your Wolfhound’s prey drive. They were built to chase down and hunt wolves after all! And in the winter months, snow can actually mess with your dog’s sense of smell – and make it difficult for them to sniff their way back home.

11. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Strong and powerful, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were bred in the Swiss Alps to pull carts and act as livestock guardians. Weighing 85-140 pounds, their short coat enables them to be outdoors in cool and warm weather. 

Greater Swiss Mountain dogs are less energetic than other herding dogs. But they do enjoy being included in household activities and getting daily exercise.

A Greater Swiss Mountain dog in a garden

⚠️ Don’t mistake a drop in your dogs’ regular activity as them just being “chill”. Often, your dog might seem normal and healthy – while still struggling with an infection or illness. (Especially if they’re on the less energetic side in the first place.)

It’s why vets recommend regularly tracking and monitoring your dogs’ active minutes.3 I.e., so you can catch on to a drop or a spike early – and get them to a vet before their condition worsens.

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12. Labrador Retriever

Faithful, playful, and energetic, Labrador Retrievers were originally bred to help hunters and fishermen.  Adults weigh 55 – 80 pounds, and Labradors come in a variety of coat colors from yellow to chocolate.

These active adventure dogs need high amounts of mental and physical stimulation in the form of play, work, or human interaction. Else, they do tend to get bored easily – which can trigger a runaway attempt. (Especially if they’ve sniffed out a snow pile nearby or some sight, sound, or smell in nature.)

Read more: How to Keep Your Dog Mentally Active

💡But if you’ve invested in a dog GPS tracker (like this smart family below), you’re that much closer to 100% peace of mind – no matter where your outdoor dog is off adventuring.

lab dog with man and woman in the snowy forest in winter, wearing a gps dog tracker

13. Norwegian Elkhound

If your family goes outdoors often, a Norwegian Elkhound may be a great fit for your active lifestyle. Originally bred for herding reindeer, these dogs prefer staying outdoors and getting their rough and tumble time in the snow. Their thick coats help keep them warm in the cold.

Norwegian Elkhounds are loyal, loving, and make for excellent family dogs. (And funnily enough, despite their name, they actually originate from Sweden!)

A Norwegian Elkhound sitting outdoors

⚠️ With their powerful builds, Elkhounds are capable of bringing down large prey animals – like moose, wolves, and even bears. Which is why it’s a good idea to walk them outdoors on a leash. (To prevent any bolting or injuries from picking a fight with the wrong predator.)

For max security, make sure you’ve gotten yours microchipped – and with a GPS tracker attached to their collar. (In case they bolt off into the distance chasing some far-off prey animal, where they might get lost, injured – or worse.)

Track Your Dog

14. Samoyed

A working dog bred in Siberia to pull sleds and guard reindeer, Samoyeds are gentle and devoted to their owners, making them a great match for families with children.

Samoyeds have thick fur to protect them from subzero temperatures. They’re known for their playfulness and friendly personality – sometimes so playful, they might even knock you over or drag you along on a walk rather than you walking them!

Sally, an off-leash Samoyed, sitting in a forest wearing a Tractive GPS tracker

💡Pictured above is Sally, a cheerful Samoyed who wanders off-leash through the Scottish countryside – with a little help from her Tractive device.

In her mom Clare’s words, “To us, Sally wearing her Tractive GPS means she spends less time leashed and has more time for off the leash play, which means a happier and more thoroughly exercised pup.

Plus, all the extra opportunity we have to practice “come back” has led to Sally having more dependable recall. This means she can now be safely allowed off leash in new and unfamiliar places.”

Read more: Off the leash: Safer travelling with Tractive GPS

15. Siberian Husky

Friendly and affectionate, Siberian Huskies are good companions for families. Weighing 35-60 pounds, Siberian Huskies are outdoor dogs bred to pull sleds in cold climates. They are energetic and active, and love to run – even out of the back yard if the opportunity arises.

Read more: Dog Jumping Fence? How To Handle An Escape Artist Dog

A woman walking a Siberian Husky on a leash outdoors

⚠️ Keep your Husky well-exercised to prevent them from running off to burn some extra energy. They were bred for speed over strength – and clock in an easy 30 miles (or 48 km) per hour without a sled. (In case you were planning on chasing yours down.)

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What makes a good outdoor dog? 

Every dog needs to spend a few minutes outside daily to take care of business. Some dogs dash back indoors as soon as they can, while others enjoy hours and hours of outdoor play. What are the characteristics to look for in an outdoor dog?

Their coats fit the climate

Imagine if you had to survive a winter night outdoors in a t-shirt or spend a hot summer day wearing a parka. Not recommended, right? The same is true for your dog. Choose an outdoor dog breed whose coat is compatible with the weather where you live.

A Border Collie playing with a purple chew toy on a snowy mountain side
  • Dogs with thick fur can remain toasty warm in wintry weather. But they won’t do well outdoors in very hot climates.
  • On the other hand, dogs with short hair cannot tolerate cold weather for extended periods, but they may be less likely to overheat in warm climates.

Read more:

They’re active, high-energy dog breeds

An outdoor dog is typically bred to work and has lots of energy. These adventure dogs enjoy running, playing, and interacting with their humans. Its best to provide these dogs with large amounts of space to run and burn off their boundless energy.

Two puppies play in a lawn with a ball

They get plenty of human interaction 

Outdoor dogs are not loners. They’re domestic animals bred to be part of a human pack, and you are the leader of that pack! Plan to interact with your outdoor dog multiple times per day by inviting them to work alongside you or join you on a playful adventure, hike, or camping trip.

Read more:

dog wearing gps tracker and young woman kneeling down in a grassy meadow or field

The best reasons to get an outdoor dog

If you decide to get an outdoor dog, plan to spend as much time as you can time outside running, working, or playing with your dog! 

You plan to train your dog

Outdoor dogs need to be trained, just like indoor dogs. If you want your dog to accompany you on adventures on or off your property, dog training will make your life easier. With proper dog training, your pup will always know what you want them to do.

A man training his dog the Paw command in a garden

You live an active lifestyle

If you run, camp, fish, hike, or hunt frequently, an outdoor dog can be your best buddy. Taking your dog on an outdoor adventure can be a wonderful bonding opportunity for you and your furry friend. For your dog, the best part of this experience is being right by your side! 

A man running through the snow with his dog

You live on a working ranch or farm

Working dogs are bred to do specific jobs, and they are happiest when they are busy doing that job right alongside you.

  • Shepherds, for example, will stay busy minding your animals.
  • Retrievers will accompany you on hunting excursions.

Plus, riding in a vehicle around your property might make your dog the happiest pooch on the planet.

Three dogs in a grassy field watching the sunset

You have a large yard or access to places where your dog can run

A rural area with large fields or forests where your adventure dog can safely run is an ideal setting for an outdoor-loving dog. In the suburbs, adventure dogs benefit from daily walks, runs, trips to the dog park, or vigorous play sessions.

black dog wearing gps tracker running outside

You have shelters where your dog can get out of the weather

Dogs are domestic animals, not wild animals, so no dog should spend 24 hours a day completely outdoors. Always place a shelter in your backyard, and bring your pooch indoors when temperatures get extreme.

Even working dogs sleep in barns when it’s cold or rainy and get invited into the house during bad weather. No dog owner wants their best buddy to suffer needlessly when there’s an easy way to keep them comfortable by allowing them inside.

A dog rests inside an outdoor wooden shelter filled with straw

You want to understand your outdoor dog’s favorite hangout spots

In an outdoor setting, keeping tabs on your dog’s location can be a lifesaver. Just think about it – if you can follow your dog’s every move, you can ensure they:

But let’s admit it – tracking your dog every passing minute of the day can get pretty tedious.

Luckily, your trusty Tractive device has you covered.

The Tractive GPS Heat Map feature

Pictured here is your Tractive GPS Heat Map & Location History. Which helps you easily pick up where your outdoor dog likes to spend most of their time – whether that’s for hunting, hiding, finding a mate, or scavenging for food.

Tractive’s Location History has even saved the lives of dogs around the world.

Like Imogen the Borzoi, who ran past her yard fence – and crashed through the ice of a nearby frozen lake.

Luckily, her Tractive device’s Location History helped her mom track her down – and rescue her from freezing and drowning.

And the best part? Location History even works in areas with poor cell coverage. Your dog will have to have wandered back into GPS range – but their tracker continues logging in their location, even in areas with patchy network.

Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive

“If you want to pinpoint your pet’s location or store their Location History, you don’t actually need a cellular connection. So once you’ve equipped your Tractive GPS, there’s no need to worry if your device loses coverage for a little while. Your tracker stores your pet’s positions securely. So you’ll be able to see where they’ve been even if you’re offline.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

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Reasons not to get an outdoor dog

If you are looking for an outdoor dog because you don’t want to invest too much time or energy in the dog, you may want to reexamine the type of dog that’s best for you.

You want a low-maintenance dog that can live mostly alone outdoors

Outdoor dogs require just as much work as indoor dogs. As domestic animals bred to be part of a human pack, all dogs need human interaction every day, multiple times per day.

Leaving your dog alone in the yard is not good for your dog, for you, or for your neighbors! Lonely dogs often get into trouble, including escaping, digging, scratching your door, and barking. (Since boredom is a key reason why dogs run away from home.)

A small white dog barking in a lawn

You don’t have much outdoor space

Dogs that are well-suited to the outdoors are usually larger and have lots of energy, so apartment living may not be right for them. If your small yard isn’t large enough for your dog to engage in active play, plan to take them on long walks, runs, or to the dog park every day.

A big dog sitting in a grassy field by the sea

If you don’t keep your adventure dog busy, your pup will apply its energy to some other forbidden task, like digging – or escaping.

Read more: How To Tire Out A Puppy – And Keep Them Safe

Your dog is not well-behaved

Banishing your adventure dog to the outdoors is not a solution to bad behaviors observed inside the home. Invest in proper dog training so you and your dog will overcome the frustrating issues that led to their eviction to the backyard. A well-trained dog is a happy dog!

A man training his dog in a forested area

Keeping your dog safe while outdoors

Life outdoors can be enriching and exciting, but it’s also filled with potential hazards for your adventure dog. So once you’ve gotten your dog microchipped, here are some steps to keep your dog safe and healthy outdoors.


Make sure to supervise your dog when they spend time outdoors. Leaving a dog alone outdoors can lead to escapes, unwanted encounters with wildlife, or other dangers.

A dog peeking from between the slats of a wooden fence

So engage in active play, start a game of fetch, or allow your pup to follow you around as you garden or do yard work. Being with you is your dog’s favorite thing – after all, you are the leader of the pack in your dog’s eyes! 


Dogs can get heartworms if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. Heartworms are dangerous parasites that can grow to a foot long, live within your dog’s heart and lungs for years, and cause death.

If you have an outdoor dog, it will be likely exposed to mosquitos. That’s why heartworm preventatives are so important for your outdoor dog. Talk to your veterinarian about heartworms to get more information.

A dog sitting on a porch overlooking a garden of tropical plants

Fleas and ticks

Any adventure dog that spends time outside is going to encounter fleas and ticks. Fleas can be spread by other animals, including stray dogs, raccoons, and opossums. Ticks are found in tall grass and attach themselves to your dog. Both fleas and ticks can transmit disease, so talk to your veterinarian about flea and tick medication to keep these pests from pestering your outdoor dog. 

Read more: Tick Control for Dogs: How to Prevent and Remove Tick Bites on Dogs


Be certain to stay up to date on your outdoor dog’s rabies vaccine and any other vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian. 

A vet injecting a dog with a vaccine at a clinic


If your dog spends most of the day outdoors, keep an eye on the weather. Be sure your dog has a shelter and access to shade and water.

If a thunderstorm rolls in and your dog is alone in the yard, they may become afraid – and run away as a result. Always protect your dog from extreme weather by bringing them inside

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An unattended outdoor dog that gets bored or lonely is a prime candidate for escape. Make sure your fences, gates, and locks are secure before allowing your dog outdoors.

black and white outdoor dog running away through a field of grass

Give your dog toys to keep them busy, or best of all, spend time with your dog outdoors rather than leaving them alone. If your dog does escape, make sure they are wearing a GPS dog tracker so you can track and find them immediately.

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If you have your property treated with fertilizers or pesticides, keep your dog out of that area for a few days after application.

  • Be aware of any poisonous snakes, toads, or spiders that your dog could encounter while outdoors.
  • Stagnant pools of water can contain parasites that your dog could ingest, so remove those from areas that your dog might visit.

Read more:


Whether you live in a rural area or the suburbs, your outdoor dog is likely to meet local critters up close and personal. Raccoons, opossums, coyotes, stray dogs, and cats may wander onto your property, especially at night. These creatures can spread fleas, get into physical alterations with your dog, or frighten your pet.

A dog and a deer facing off in a grassy field

Again, the best way to avoid these encounters is to check your fences and gates, construct a large kennel with a roof, or bring your dog indoors at night

Grass awns

Last but not least, grass awns can pose a threat to your outdoor dog, so be aware of their presence in your yard or dog’s territory.

Grass awns might seem harmless at first, but their tiny, barbed, and needle-like structure can cause them to get stuck under your dog’s skin, causing injury and infection. Remove grass awns from your dog’s coat as soon as you find them.

brown and white dog standing in field of grass awns

Are there small dog breeds that live outdoors in cold weather?

Most outdoor dogs are medium or large-sized breeds. That’s because larger dogs do better than small dogs outdoors in cold weather. Larger dogs have greater body mass to retain heat.

Small dogs often don’t have enough body mass to comfortably spend many hours outdoors in the cold

dog wearing dog jacket walking outside in snow

Experts suggest three small dog breeds which might be able to spend extended periods outdoors, depending on the weather. Norwegian Elkhounds, Tibetan Terriers, and Welsh Terriers may tolerate colder temperatures, but not extreme cold. Like all outdoor dog breeds, these smaller dogs will need access to the indoors to spend time with you and remain healthy.

Best outdoor dogs for hot weather

If you live in a region where extreme heat is the norm most of the year, consider getting short-haired outdoor dog breed. Dogs with long coats will not tolerate the high temperatures well, and so will not enjoy enough outdoor adventures with you to satisfy their high-energy lifestyle. 

A small dog sitting in a grassy field on a sunny day

Read more: Heat Stroke In Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Enjoy an active lifestyle with your outdoor-loving adventure dog!

Time spent outdoors with your dog is not only fun, it’s good for you and your dog’s mental and physical health. Take advantage of outdoor activities in all types of weather, and bring your adventure dog along for the experience. You’ll create wonderful memories together!

woman running outdoors with dog

Once you’ve found the best outdoor dog for you, you can also try out these sporty activities together:

And finally – keeping in mind how outdoor dogs like to roughhouse – strap a GPS tracker to your dog’s collar. Ideally, one that’s:

  • Bite-proof
  • Reinforced with extra tough fiberglass casing
  • 100% waterproof
  • Equipped with a 30-day battery life
  • …and built with love for you and your buddy
Tractive Trustpilot review

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

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Want to see the Tractive DOG XL Adventure edition in practice? Here’s a video to get you pumped for your next outdoor adventure!

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, share it with a friend or a loved one – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.