Regular old dog collars with ID tags are old school. Now we’re all about getting our buddies a smart dog collar – aka, a device that helps you track every aspect of their safety, all in one.

Which might look like real-time location tracking, escape alerts, and logging in your daily walks…to monitoring your dog’s health and well-being and figuring out when to get them to a vet based on their sleep and activity. (Or a Health Alert.)

But with all the hundreds of results that pop up when you look up “smart dog collar” – it’s pretty understandable if you’re feeling…well, spoiled for choice.

Because while all these shiny new gadgets might seem like the best investment ever – you do want to make an investment that ends up being worth it in the end. Both for you and your buddy.

So let’s dive right into the world of the smart dog collar – and what to look out for before you add it to your cart or hit that ‘Buy’ button.

What’s a smart dog collar in the first place?

A smart dog collar is essentially a high-tech collar with superpowers.

A white dog walking into the woods
  • Smart dog collars are also built to be tougher and more durable than regular ones with ID tags. (Which may fall off, get lost, or smudged – making them useless in case someone’s trying to identify your lost dog.)
  • Some even come equipped with behavior modification features to reduce unwanted behaviors in your dog. (Like excessive barking, pulling the leash, or aggression.)

Now with all these perks…which one to pick from the endless list of options out there?

Well, to start with – if you’re like us, your dog isn’t just a pet – but as precious and loved as your family. So when it comes to keeping them safe, it’s always worth going that extra mile.

A woman and dog in embrace - white dog wearing Tractive GPS dog tracker

So here’s what to ask yourself at each point you come across:

  • Will this help me in an emergency – like if my dog’s bolted off and I don’t know how to find them?
  • Can this device help me better understand my dog’s behavior and habits?

With that covered – let’s get started. Here’s what to look out for in a smart dog collar – if you’re finding yourself on the fence before hitting ‘Buy.’

What to look out for in a smart dog collar

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s help you shut off those endless Amazon tabs, one by one. Here’s what to look out for in a smart dog collar that’ll ensure your peace of mind.

Real-time tracking

Imagine being able to track your moving dog – with just a glance at your phone? That’s where following their every step in real-time can be a lifesaver.

Which means for a smart dog collar to be worth the investment, your buddy is safest when you’ve strapped a dedicated dog GPS tracker to their collar.

Tractive GPS app feature screenshot LIVE Tracking

With real-time – or LIVE – tracking, you can follow your dog’s every move, even while they’re on the move and bolting down a street at a hundred miles per hour.

Which can help you figure out where they’re headed off to – or if they’ve been, say, targeted by pet thieves. (If you notice, for example, that your dog is suddenly traveling at 50 miles per hour – meaning they might’ve been tossed into a car and are now being driven away.)

With real-time tracking, you can also keep an eye on your dog if they’re out on a walk with someone else. Keeping both your buddy and your dog walker (or sitter) safe.

💡Most smart dog collars only update your dog’s locations every few minutes. Precious time you might lose out on if your dog’s, say, run out on to a busy street or a forest full of hunters, bear traps, and predators.

A man heading into the woods with his dog

With a Tractive GPS tracker, on the other hand, you can check on your dog’s live location every few seconds. Enough time for you to intervene – and have 100% peace of mind when you know exactly where to find your dog, no matter where they’ve run off to.

What do you lose out on without real-time tracking?

Well, firstly: imagine only being able to track your dog only every couple of minutes – time you lose out on that can make all the difference between finding your dog safe and sound…or potentially never seeing them again.

A dog overlooking a cliff in a forest

Secondly, imagine finding yourself searching for your dog while you’re out in the woods or wilderness…and all you have to help you are GPS coordinates you’re now wondering how to decipher. (And likely wishing you could just track your missing dog in real-time instead.)

⚠️ That’s what you might get with a GPS logger that uses the wide-range tracking magic of GPS systems – but doesn’t include any real-time tracking.

While they do tend to be more affordable than smart dog collars or dedicated pet GPS trackers, they’re also not the best fit for an energetic, constantly-moving dog.

Read more: Is There A Cat Or Dog GPS Tracker Without Subscription?

A dog looking over a mountain cliff down into a forest

So summing up:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarReal-time GPS tracking – with quick live location updates.
Will this help in an emergency?Yes.
Tractive Trustpilot review

Discover Tractive GPS


When it comes to picking a smart dog collar that’s worth your while – go for one with unlimited range. Which, if it’s built on GPS, is pretty much a given.

Because you now have a sky full of satellites helping guide you along to where your dog might’ve run off – no matter where they are. (Or where you are!)


Most smart dog collars offer a range between 9 miles (14 km) to unlimited – if they’re built with GPS functionalities, of course.

Because with all the reasons that dogs run away, you do want to ensure your smart collar can both track them in real-time – but also no matter how far they run off.

  • Even small dogs can run off up to a half mile (~1 km) – simply because they’re bored. 
  • Bigger dogs can cover even longer distances – up to 5 miles/8 km!

And this is only once you’ve picked up that they’re lost or missing. If it’s been a while since, your dog might’ve covered an even wider range – or run into some danger.

Why non-GPS trackers might not be best for dogs

Now you might’ve seen Bluetooth trackers like Apple AirTags or Tile trackers on your search page. And in a nutshell: their limited range and lack of real-time tracking capabilities are their biggest downside when it comes to reliably tracking a moving dog.

bluetooth vs gps tracker comparison infographic limited range

Ultra Wideband (UWB) trackers are similarly at a disadvantage. While some do offer real-time tracking, they’re primarily built for finding non-moving items at a super limited range.

Here’s a quick distinction – range-wise between these two, compared to GPS:

UWB techBluetooth trackersGPS trackers
Up to 650 feet/200 meters
(best within 3-164 feet/1-50 meters)
33-400 feet (10/121 meters)Unlimited
Built for non-moving itemsBuilt for non-moving itemsBuilt for moving items (like cars & pets)

Because why track your dog if you can only track them so far?

Rather, with a smart dog collar with unlimited range – you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you can track them at a glance, even while you’re on vacation.

⚠️ Just make sure to check and double-check whether your smart dog collar works outside of your country. Many of them on the market currently only work within the US.

Besides, what’s the point of buying a smart dog collar that’s useless once you’re on vacation away from the country where you live? Imagine being on holiday – and being unable to find your dog if you’re off hiking or traveling together?

A man hiking in the woods with his dog

💡 With its built-in SIM card, your trusty Tractive device connects to mobile networks across 175 countries. So no matter where you are in the world, you can rest easy always knowing where your dog is.

Track Your Dog On Vacation

Wrapping up:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarUnlimited range + ability to work in multiple countries.
Will this help in an emergency?Absolutely.

Read more: GPS Tracker Without SIM Card? Your Questions, Answered.

Escape alerts

Now when you’re looking up smart dog collars, you might’ve definitely hoped it can make your life as a dog parent easier. Aka, not having to monitor your dog 24/7.

Which is why most smart dog collars come with built-in escape alerts. I.e., once the collar tracker picks up that your dog is trying to sneak past a “safe zone” – you get an instant notification on your phone or tablet.

With the Tractive GPS Virtual Fence, for example, you can set up safe zones and no-go zones – and then sit back and relax while your tracker does all the hard work for you.

Tractive GPS virtual fence

Because when you think about it – setting up a physical fence is a long-term, expensive investment. (Especially if you’ve got between $2000-6000 to spend to set one up.)

And even once you’ve set it up – your dog might still jump over it or dig underneath it anyway!

Which is where a virtual fence can be a smart, humane, affordable option.

Once you’ve set your Tractive device up, all you need to do is:

  • Set up a “safe zone” around your home or backyard. (It takes under 5 minutes – 1 if you’re quick.)
  • Sit back and relax while your tracker monitors your dog’s whereabouts.
  • Collect your dog once you get an escape alert – and prevent them from escaping.

Read more: What’s A Virtual Fence & Which One Is Best?

💡Just make sure to go for a smart dog collar with quick escape alerts. Most on the market might take anywhere between 5-10 minutes to notify you your dog’s escaped.

(By which time it might be too late – and now your dog’s running down the highway at full speed.)

Or you could go for a Tractive GPS tracker that’ll notify you within 2 minutes in default tracking mode. (And within a few seconds in LIVE tracking mode.)

Just in time for you to intervene and bring your dog back to safety.

So in a nutshell:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarQuick escape alerts.
Will this help in an emergency?Definitely. The faster the better.

Set Up A Virtual Fence


One of the biggest gripes you’ll see about pet GPS trackers online? How they’re useless once you lose mobile connectivity.

And yes, to an extent, it’s true that GPS is primarily an outdoor systemand it does depend on a network. Most smart dog collars work like smartphones and need at least a phone signal to function.

But if you’ve run into a versatile option like Tractive, you’re in luck.

With its Heat Map and Location History, for example, you can still log your dog’s wanderings – even if you lose connectivity for a while.

The Tractive GPS Heat Map feature which helped locate the kittens.
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

💡Besides, your dog’s Heat Map can help you identify where they like to hunt, hide, or hang out the most. Which, in an emergency – like if they’re lost, can actually help you figure out where to look first.

Like the case of Imogen the Borzoi who crashed through the ice of a frozen lake nearby – but was rescued, safe and sound, because her mom picked up on her location through her Heat Map and Location History.

Here she is, pictured below, next to her Tractive GPS.

Imogen the Borzoi sleeping on a bed next to her Tractive GPS

Read more: Imogen The Dog Saved From Frozen Lake Thanks To GPS Tracker

So as you’re scrolling through Amazon:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarFeatures that work even in areas with poor connectivity.
Will this help in an emergency?Absolutely.
Can it help you understand your dog better?Yes – especially where they like to spend most of their time. (And where to look first if they get lost.)
Tractive Trustpilot review

💡Besides GPS, your Tractive device also comes equipped with Bluetooth, Augmented Reality (AR), and Light & Sound features. Perfect for locating a pet that’s hiding indoors, in the dark, or at close range.

Discover Tractive GPS


Another question to ask yourself when scrolling through smart dog collars on Amazon or elsewhere: would my dog be comfortable wearing this?

Because on one hand, you do want to avoid one that’s:

  • Too big, which might cause your dog to gnaw at it – or get a smaller dog stuck somewhere.
  • Too small, which might create a swallow/choking hazard instead.

Ideally, you want a device that’s so unobtrusive, your dog doesn’t even notice it. Plus, one that’s:

  • Built for dogs as small as 9 lbs (4 kg) or heavier than 45 lbs (22 kg).
  • 100% waterproof
  • Equipped with a 10-30-day battery life – without charging
  • Completely bite-proof and built with fiberglass-reinforced casing
  • Built to easily clip on to any dog collar or harness
Two dogs wearing Tractive GPS trackers on their harnesses
Tractive Trustpilot review

Most smart dog collars come with a durable build. But in the case of the Tractive DOG XL Adventure edition, you can swim, hike, run, jog, and enjoy all your rough and tumble adventures outdoors – with 100% peace of mind.

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.

Get Shopping

So before you buy:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarA durable, waterproof build, good battery life, and a size that’s designed for collars and harnesses.
Will this help in an emergency?Yes – like if your dog’s gone for a spontaneous splash in a lake or you’re both in the habit of running or hiking together.

Health monitoring

Now when it comes to tracking your dog’s safety, we don’t just mean where they’re off wandering.

Rather, many smart dog collars also come equipped with built-in health monitoring features, including Activity Tracking, Sleep Monitoring, and even Health Alerts.

Which, over time, can help you understand your dog that much better. Including how active they are on a day-to-day basis, how much sleep they’re getting – and when there’s a change in these behaviors. (Which could signal that something’s wrong.)

tractive gps activity monitoring for dogs app screen

So imagine having actionable data at hand – so you can have a more productive conversation with your vet?

Or catching on to a dip or a spike in your dog’s activity – which might indicate they’re sick, injured, or in pain?

💡 With regular Activity and Sleep Tracking, you can take an active role in your dog’s health – and get them to a vet before they worsen. (Helping you avoid an expensive medical bill down the line.)

Plus, you can also:

  • Set goals and stay accountable to your dog’s daily exercise.
  • Figure out what’s the right amount of exercise for your dog.
  • Ensure your dog’s getting the quality sleep they need to stay healthy and strong.

Now most smart dog collars might include some level of health monitoring. But the question to ask yourself is:

Am I tracking something that’s actually relevant to my dog’s health?

After all, you do want to keep an eye out for changes in your dog’s behavior that actually mean something serious. (And not just any little change – that’s just a recipe for more stress for you and your dog both.)

💡 Which is why it makes sense to focus on what matters – aka, your dog’s activity and sleep.

In fact, vets recommend tracking your dog’s daily activity to see if they can keep up with you – so you can spot a drop in their daily movement early on. (Which could indicate they’re growing older, not feeling their best, or even struggling through pain.)

And even if you miss a day of tracking – no worries. Our Health Alerts have you covered.

Health Alerts feature in the foreground with dog sitting on couch in the background
Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

“It can be easy to miss out on changes in your dog’s or cat’s regular activity – or just if they’re on the move more or less than usual.

So we’ve set up Activity Degradation alerts for when your pet’s active minutes drop significantly.

They can help you intervene in a situation where your pet might be struggling with an infection or even just pain.”

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet-sitter
Tractive Trustpilot review

Get Activity Tracking

So in the end:

What to look out for in a smart dog collarHealth monitoring for relevant, vet-approved metrics. (Like your dog’s everyday activity.)
Will this help in an emergency?Yes. In fact, by monitoring your dog’s activity and sleep – you can actually prevent a health emergency by taking your dog to a vet for a checkup early.
Can it help you understand your dog better?Yes. Like how active they are – even compared to other dogs of similar age, size, and breed!

Behavior modification

As much as we love them – our dogs can still get on our nerves a bit. Especially if you’re dealing with undesirable behaviors like barking, leash pulling, or bolting off at the slightest sight, sound, or smell.

Which is why some smart dog collars come equipped with built-in behavior modification features. Including a beep, vibration, or even a static shock. These are meant to discourage your dog from, say, digging a hole in your plants – or lunging at other dogs while out at the park.

A pair of dogs play fighting at a dog park

⚠️ At the same time, vets strongly discourage the use of a static shock to train your dog any behavior.

  • There’s always the chance you give your dog a stronger shock than intended – which can majorly stress your dog out.
  • Left in the wrong hands, a shock collar (or e-collar) can cause permanent damage or seriously injure your dog.
  • Over time, the constant experience of shocks can cause your dog to experience heightened anxiety, fear, and stress around you. Which might cause them to act out defensively – or even run away from home.

Shock collars might even be banned in certain countries and US states. So make sure to check your local laws and regulations first before making a purchase.

Read more: Fearful Dog: Our Expert Reveals Everything You Need To Know About Fear In Dogs

Now while you might be dealing with some serious behavioral issues in dogs, you do have some smarter, more humane options at hand to deal with them. So rather than investing in damaging behavioral modification techniques, you could:

  • Invest in a solid obedience training class. Where your dog gets to socialize with other pets and people – and you have the peace of mind knowing they’re in expert hands.
A woman training a small puppy
  • Take up a training method built on positive reinforcement, like clicker training. Dogs of all ages and temperaments respond excellently to it – plus it’s easy to get started with even if you’re not an experienced trainer yourself.
  • Help your dog learn their boundaries safely – by teaching them what are “safe zones” and “no go zones.” With time, they’ll learn to associate you picking them from a certain spot as areas they need to toe the line around.
Infographic Tractive GPS VIrtual fence

Zero stress, zero shocks – just the peace of mind knowing you can always keep your dog safe, without compromising on their love for and trust in you.

💡 Some dog parents also use Tractive’s high-pitched Sound function to “train” their dogs to come back home around mealtimes.

Track Your Dog

A history of saving dogs’ lives

Finally, when you’re comparing smart dog collars and wondering which one to pick, it helps to ask yourself: what’s this product’s track record in actually helping dog parents in an emergency?

Because our track record in this respect is actually why Tractive dog parents around the world – just like you – are investing in our life-saving technology.

And a story just from this month – Tanker, a Vancouver-based Labrador, whose Tractive device helped save his life when he bolted off from home while on a bathroom break…and ended up trapped beneath a steel beam.

Read more: B.C. Labrador ‘Tanker’ rescued from steel beam with help from GPS, fire department

Or stories from countless dog parents around the world, who are following their dogs’ every step – and keeping them safe – with us right by their side:

Tractive Trustpilot review

Read more: Tractive Trustpilot reviews

Now with these points in mind, do you think you’ve…

Found a smart dog collar that checks all these boxes?

Being spoiled for choice might seem fun – until your dog’s health, well-being, and safety are involved. Because like any loving dog parent, you know it’s worth it going the extra mile for them.

So when it comes to picking a smart dog collar for your buddy, keep an eye out for:

green check markReal-time GPS tracking
green check markAn unlimited range + ability to work in multiple countries
green check markQuick escape alerts (<2 minutes)
green check markFeatures that are built for areas with poor connectivity
green check markA durable, waterproof build, good battery life, and small size
green check markHealth monitoring for relevant, vet-approved metrics (like your dog’s activity)
red xBehavior modification features – we’d recommend you avoid shock collars.
green check markA proven track record of actually saving dogs’ lives

Which, once you’ve checked all your boxes, leaves you with the smart, sane solution dog parents around the world are going for:

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

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.

Discover Tractive GPS

Want to see the Tractive DOG XL Adventure edition in action? Here’s a short, sporty video to get you pumped!

And if you’ve liked this post, share it with a fellow tech-savvy dog parent – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.