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The Difference Between GPS Microchips and Collars for Dogs

written by: Sheila Robinson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/12/2010

GPS microchips and collars for dogs are high tech solutions that are used for identifying and locating your lost furry friend. Is a GPS for dogs worth spending the money on? This article describes the difference between the two devices and what they can do for you and your dog.

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    GPS Microchip Collars and Implants for Dogs

    Doberman GPS microchips do not function like a tracking device. The name implies that the chip utilizes GPS satellites. This is a misconception. There is no “GPS" microchip. This is a misleading marketing tactic to sell the product. In reality, the microchip’s main function is for identification purposes. They are small implants that can be placed under the dog’s skin through injection at a veterinarian’s office. It works with a radio frequency identification technology (RFID) that does not require a power supply or battery. The chip is programmed with the owner’s name in code form, along with the dog’s name and description. GPS microchips have been around since the early 90’s, and are currently made with bioglass materials. These implants can last up to twenty-five years. As for the health and safety issue, there is debate on the long term effects of the microchip and the possibility that it may cause cancer or tumors.

    A GPS microchip collar works the same as the implant version. The chip is placed within a collar and is used for identification. The main difference is the chip itself. Since they don’t need to be injected, their construction is larger and can utilize a USB or memory card type chip. PetSafe Micro I.D. Rescue collar is a brand that uses this technology.

    The downside of a “GPS" microchip collar or implant is that your pet needs to be found first before he can be identified and returned to you. Although animal shelters may have the ability to scan for implants, it is possible that the microchip can move to a location within the dog’s body where it can not be read effectively.

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    GPS Collars for Dogs

    A GPS collar is an effective tracking system that allows you to see a dog’s location with a compatible handheld receiver, Internet or web enabled cell phone. Updates can be constantly transmitted via email, SMS or phone call. The distance the collar can track varies from one mile to several miles. Some GPS collars are a bit bulky and should only be used on larger dogs. However, newer models are becoming available that can adapt to smaller breeds.

    Global Pet Finder The Global Pet Finder is a GPS location device that can attach to any collar. Weighing less than five ounces, it can track your dog and call you if he runs away. You can also set up a “virtual fence" perimeter that can notify you if your furry friend crosses it. Unfortunately for this convenience the cost of GPS for dogs is a bit high. Price is $300 plus a monthly service fee of $18.

    Another GPS device used with dog collars is SpotLight. A lightweight 2.5 ounce attachment hooks on to any dog collar. It includes a LED light that can be activated and then be visible from up to 100 yards. Location can be accessed immediately through PC, cell phone or Smartphone. Tied into the American Kennel Club service, alerts can be set up by text or email. Cost is $250 with a monthly service cost ranging from $8 to $20.

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    Choosing Between GPS Microchips and Collars for Dogs

    When you compare the option between GPS microchips and collars for dogs, it all comes down to your location, dog’s behavior and cost. While a microchip implant can be useful for identification purposes, it does not provide any tracking options and relies on human intervention. There is also the health risk issue and whether or not it can cause problems for your dog. Alternatively, GPS collars and devices are an effective tracking tool. However, they are a bit costly, may not fit properly or may not be appropriate in the location that you live. Owners in urban areas may want to focus on training their dog to stay in their home area before resorting to this option. However, if your furry friend is prone to wandering off, a Global Pet Finder or other type of GPS for dogs may be a worthwhile investment.