With today's technology, dog owners can make use of the global positioning system to locate pets wearing a collar fitted with a GPS tracking chip. Implantable microchips, sometimes confused with GPS for dogs, contain information about your dog that animal shelter workers can retrieve if they find your dog. Though these two technologies are very different, you can use them together to prevent the loss of your dog.
The GPS System
Launched in 1993, the global positioning system consists of 24 satellites that are constantly monitored by the U.S. Air Force. Though the technology was originally developed for the military, civilians now use it to accurately calculate their location with GPS receivers. As the technology has improved, these receivers have become small enough to hold in your hands or be incorporated into a cell phone. GPS systems can track your dog's movements, as well.
GPS Collars and Fencing
A GPS dog tracking system consists of two parts: a small transmitter that fits on the dog's collar and a handheld receiver. Some transmitters work with your cell phone or computer. The receiver keeps track of your dog's location and gives you real-time updates on his movements. Some systems allow one receiver to track several dogs at once, each with his own transmitter. Virtual fencing systems for dogs also use GPS technology. These systems can send you an instant text message alert on your cell phone or through a special receiver to let you know that your dog has escaped confinement. This allows you to quickly recover your dog.
GPS technology has its limits, as the receiver must be within range of the transmitter to function, receiving its location via radio waves. This distance varies up to about five miles, with some systems having a shorter range of several hundred feet. If your dog escapes out of the range of the receiver, you will not be able to locate him using this device. Both the receiver and transmitter require batteries, which must be replaced or charged regularly. Some GPS collar systems require a monthly service fee.
To guard against the loss of your dog by accidental escape or even theft, have him implanted with a microchip. Unlike collars, these chips cannot come loose, be removed by hand or get out of range of a satellite. These chips, the size of a grain of rice, are implanted by a veterinarian under the skin between the shoulder blades; each contains a unique identification number and service provider phone number. Once you register the chip with its service provider, that number is linked to your contact information in a database. Animal shelter and veterinary office personnel usually have a scanner that can read the information on the microchip. If one of these organizations finds your dog, you will get a call to come pick up your pet.
Microchip technology is limited as to standardization. Some shelters may use scanners that cannot read certain chips. GPS collars require no implantation and provide real-time tracking of your dog, although some GPS collar attachments may be too large for small dogs. If you are worried about your dog's safety because of his proclivity to escape, have your dog microchipped and use a GPS collar to keep track of him. This ensures that if your dog goes out of range of your handheld receiver, a rescue organization will be able to contact you if he is found.