Dog Microchips vs GPS Trackers: What's Best for Tracking?

Dog Microchips vs GPS Trackers: What’s Best for Tracking?

Last Updated on September, 2022

Losing a furry family member is the most stressful thing that can happen to pet parents. But thankfully, there are now products like microchips and GPS trackers that will help keep your pets from getting too lost.

However, there are lots of common misconceptions when it comes to pet tracking technology, particularly when it comes to dog microchips vs GPS trackers.

For one thing, people assume that these two devices serve the same purpose and are interchangeable. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it is easy to see how these kinds of confusion can occur.

Read on if you are hazy on how microchips and GPS trackers differ because, in this article, I will be going over these differences and clearing up popular misconceptions.

Quick Summary

Microchips and GPS trackers are not the same, and they serve different purposes.

Microchips only contain an ID number that can be used to identify a lost pet, while GPS trackers provide real-time location information.

Pet owners should use a microchip and a GPS tracker to keep their pets safe.

Microchips

What is a Microchip?

Microchips for dogs are radio-frequency identification implants. They are essentially small electronic chips that each carry a unique identification number.

The chip ID should be registered in a microchip database, and it will be linked to the owner’s contact information.

A microchip is usually enclosed in a glass cylinder about 11-14 mm long and 2-2.3 mm thick. Microchips are around the size of a grain of rice and weigh 0.025 grams. 

a human holding dog microchip

How Do Microchips Work?

The tiny microchip with its identification number is inserted into your dog’s skin near the shoulder blades. This does not harm your pet in the slightest. 

Once your vet injects the chip in, they would have to register the chip for it to be of any use. The microchip ID can then be read using an RFID reader that uses RFID technology and is generally available at shelters or vets. This device has a range that varies between 3 to 10 cm.

If your pet gets lost and is found by someone, they would have to take your pet to a vet or shelter and read the microchip, which will help identify them.

Related article: How to read a dog microchip with a phone?

How Will a Microchip Help You?

A common misunderstanding is that microchips, like GPS devices, will help you track and identify your pet’s precise location. 

This is not the case. Microchips are far too small to be able to store GPS and other localization information and can only be used for identification purposes.

The only way a microchip will help you find your pet is if someone kind enough to take them to the vet discovers them. They then need to get the chip read and contact you with the linked owner’s contact information.

a veterinarian inserting a microchip into a dog

For this to work, you would have to keep your contact details up to date and hope that your pet is found by someone who’ll take them to a vet. The microchip will lead to a dead end if your contact details are not up to date.

So, a microchip won’t help prevent your pet from getting lost, but it can help if they go missing.

Pros and Cons of Microchips

Pros

Does not harm your pet.
Ensures that if your pet is found, the finder can return them to you.

Cons

Does not help you track your pet in any way.
Has a limited range.
Requires a particular reader.
Involves an invasive procedure.

GPS Trackers

What is a GPS Tracker?

A GPS tracker is a tracking device that can track your pet and relay its location information to you in real-time via an app.

Unlike a microchip, using a GPS tracking device is non-invasive as it only needs to be attached to your dog’s collar. 

GPS dog trackers are generally durable and adventure-proof so that the tracker won’t suffer damage from your pet’s mischievous frolics. 

a dog is wearing gps tracker

GPS dog trackers work on rechargeable batteries and are usually about the size of a matchbox. The smaller the GPS device, the better because you can use it on smaller dogs too.

The device consists of a GPS chip, an antenna, a SIM card and a battery pack.

How Do GPS Trackers Work?

GPS trackers use GPS technology which stands for Global Positioning System. Through GPS, locations are relayed in longitude, latitude, and altitude. 

The GPS dog tracker will triangulate satellites to identify your lost pet’s location. The location is then conveyed to cloud-based servers using cellular technology.

Many GPS trackers also come with features that allow you to set up safe spaces and monitor your pet’s health and activity levels.

To track your pets, you must purchase a GPS device, select a subscription plan and download the free smartphone app by the GPS tracker company.

How Will a GPS Tracker Help You?

A GPS dog tracker will help prevent your pet from getting lost in the first place.

You will get notified every time your pet leaves a safe zone that you have set up, and if you still can’t find your pet, you can track them in real-time. 

Location updates will reach you every few minutes, and you can view your lost pet’s precise location on the map in your app.

You can also view their location history if you’re curious about where your pet has been.

a dog is wearing gps tracker and dog's location in phone screen

Most GPS tracking devices also provide other pieces of valuable information like:

  •  The distance your dog has traveled.
  • The number of calories they’ve burned.
  • Their activity levels.

Additionally, you can share your dog’s location information with friends and family so they can keep track of your dog or pitch in to help find a lost dog.

So, even pet parents who don’t always have their dog in sight 24/7 will still know everything about their pet if they have a GPS tracker.

Pros and Cons of a GPS Tracker

Pros

Prevents your dog from getting lost with safe zones.
Enables you to track pets who wander off.
Provides activity and health information.
Only has to be attached to a dog’s collar, which is non-invasive.

Cons

Live tracking drains the battery very quickly.

Summary of Differences Between Microchips and GPS Trackers

DescriptionMicrochipGPS Tracker
PurposeHelps the identification Helps locate the dog
SizeSize of a grain of riceSize of a matchbox
ProcessInvasiveNon-invasive
InformationOnly contains the microchip ID numberProvides location data and activity and health information.
Range10cm: A dog can only be identified after being foundUnlimited range: Dog can be tracked from anywhere
ReaderRequires an RFID readerRequires just a smartphone

Best GPS Trackers for Tracking Pets

fi smart gps tracker and tractive gps tracker

There are tons of dog tracking devices on the market, and many dog owners can find it challenging to pick the best ones.

If you’re concerned about keeping your dog safe but have no idea what devices to choose, you should check out the Fi Smart Dog Collar or the Tractive GPS Tracker, both great GPS pet trackers.

The Tractive GPS tracker works in over 150 countries and offers live tracking, activity, and health monitoring features. It has a battery life of up to 7 days on a single charge and a good, durable design. You can check out Tractive here!

The Fi Smart Dog Collar offers 24/7 location tracking and insight into your dog’s activities. It boasts a battery life of 3 months and is highly durable. You can further look into the Fi dog collar here!

Also, we’ve got a list of the best GPS dog trackers; click here to check them out.

Bottomline: What’s Better?

The most important thing to know about a microchip implant and a GPS tracker is that they are not substitutes for each other. 

Instead, they complement each other and must be used together to keep your dogs safe.

You can do many things with a GPS tracker, and it is vital in preventing your dog from getting lost in the first place. But implanting a microchip can be crucial if your dogs go missing, as the microchip ID number will help identify your dog.

So, while it may be tempting just to get a microchip or a tracker and be done with it, your best bet for keeping your pets safe is to use both devices simultaneously.

FAQs

Microchips do not contain navigation or localization technology, and you, therefore, cannot track your pets using their microchips.

The average cost to microchip pets is around $50. This includes the cost of the injection and the microchip registration procedure.

You can’t find lost dogs with a microchip per se as you cannot track pets using it. Instead, a microchip will help return your pet to you if they get lost, as a microchip enables pets to be identified.

For this to happen, lost pets will have to be found by someone kind-hearted enough to take them to a vet, get the microchip read and get in touch with you.

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Author
Stefano Giachetti
Stefano Giachetti is always excited to share his knowledge and love of animals with you through our blog, IPetGuides. And he has always loved animals and has been blessed to have many pets throughout his life. Currently has a Pomeranian Dog Breed.

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