|Best Overall||Garmin Alpha 200i||SEE IT||
Has almost everything you need in a track and train system.
|Best Simplified||Garmin Pro 550 Plus||SEE IT||
Simple and effective tacking unit.
|Best with Maps||Dogtra Pathfinder SE||SEE IT||
Intuitive smartphone use and capabilities.
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GPS technology is a grand achievement of human ingenuity that we can’t imagine existing without now, and it has improved our and our dogs’ lives tremendously. With dog GPS trackers we can know exactly where our dog is located in the field or in the event they choose to leave the yard. When it comes to the best dog GPS trackers, there are plenty of choices for dog owners. And with a healthy competition in a hot market that addresses the diverse needs of dog owners, it might seem intimidating if you’re jumping into this market for the first time.
- Best Overall: Garmin Alpha 200i
- Best Budget: Fi Series 2
- Best for International Hunting: SportDOG Tek 2.0
- Best with Google Maps: Dogtra Pathfinder SE
- Best Simplified: Garmin 550 Pro Plus
I tested five of the best dog GPS trackers with the help of my Brittany and trusted, expert dog handlers to see how they perform in the field. The goal of my review is to provide you with the information that helps you find the best GPS collar for you. After all, considering the plethora of GPS trackers available, it’s best to paint with broad strokes, and cover the Ford vs. Chevy brand choices. As with vehicle choice, two things are true: 1) brand loyalty among users is huge (more on this below), and 2) the latest options from each brand do a great job with core functions. It basically comes down to personal preference and which features best fit your needs.
How to Choose a Dog GPS Tracker
The GPS tracker you choose will depend on your budget, desired features, and your hunting style. Dog GPS trackers range from basic trackers that work with an app to units with a several mile range and a long list of functions. If you’re a dog owner that has an escape artist for a pet, a simple unit like the Fi Series 2, will help you locate a lost dog. But, the Fi isn’t the a good option for hunters who need to track their dogs and give commands through the collar.
It’s important to note that my take on these units is necessarily slanted by my position as a pointing dog owner who uses one dog to hunt birds, often with friends and their dogs. While the list above is a good starting point for anyone considering the best dog GPS trackers, I encourage deeper research to determine the best fit for your specific needs.
Pay attention to what your hunting buddies use or who you’re running dogs with. For instance, most of the bird dog folks I hunt with use Garmin devices. I’ve learned as much from my hunting buddies about the devices I own, before and after purchase, as I’ve learned from any other source. Using the same brand of equipment they do allows us to work together and track each other and our dogs.
Many distributors offer great online video reviews and other helpful information. My go-to is always Gun Dog Supply and owner Steve Snell’s video reviews. I always work through the information they provide before making a purchase, but there are plenty of other distributors and independent reviewers who offer similar insights on their sites. For independent reviewers, find someone who represents your situation best (ie. if you are a bear hunter using hounds, or a bird dog owner hunting in the mountains, find a reviewer who is the same).
Best Overall: Garmin Alpha 200i
- External top and side buttons
- 9-mile range when paired with Garmin’s latest TT15x collars
- Tracks up to 20 dogs/collars
- Cell service not needed
- All maps come pre-loaded
- Integrated inReach capability
Why It Made the Cut
Garmin’s latest full-featured offering for hunting dogs, the Alpha 200i, is the true Swiss Army knife of track and train collar systems.
- Does almost anything you need from a track and train system
- Highly customizable
- Easy-to-use buttons
- More accessible for tracking hunting partners and/or their dogs
- Maps and screen clarity lacks compared to smartphone options
- Complex set up and navigation
- Lacks integration options with non-Garmin products
For those already sold on Garmin products who need an all-in-one track and train option, the Alpha 200i beats the masses. It’s compatible with Garmin TT 15X collars, which have up to an 8 hour battery life and 9 mile range. Garmin improved the features that won fans in the Alpha 100 and addressed the most commonly cited weaknesses of that unit, the in-field e-collar/training functions. The previous unit’s reliance on its touchscreen to change stimulation levels was a turn-off for many of us. But I like the Alpha 200i’s more efficient activation of stimulation that I think better serves hunting dog owners who use it to communicate with their dogs in situation-appropriate ways. That’s a game changer for pointing dog owners whose training systems depend on silent command (e-collar) communication.
To increase the comprehensive nature of the 200i, Garmin added inReach capability to the Alpha 200i (though you can opt out and save money with the Alpha 200 if you don’t need inReach), so the unit can function as a satellite communicator and emergency SOS device with a Garmin subscription service. I did find that these features require a complex set-up and steep learning curve. If you need full-featured mapping capabilities and want your unit to do everything, the Alpha 200i is tough to beat.
Best Budget: Fi Series 2
- GPS technology for collar location and cellular service communication with smartphone app
- Unobtrusive collar unit
- Good selection of collars and styles from the manufacturers and third party vendors
Why It Made the Cut
The Fi Series 2 offers a reasonable entry-level option for those who don’t need the more robust and expensive options available for hunting dogs.
- Intuitive, easy-to-use app
- Good activity tracking
- Not as accurate as more expensive options
- Requires subscription service (around $100 per year) to use tracking features
There are more and more GPS tracker brands out there, and many of them won’t be around in a few years. You don’t want to invest in a unit only for the manufacturer to go belly up, and with it goes all the support. Fi is a safe bet though and their relatively strong market share means you don’t have to worry about them disappearing overnight.
The collar has a great battery life compared to others I’ve used and when you use it with Wifi, battery life is greatly extended. I found the promise of up to three weeks of battery life to be conservative. Even with active use away from the base station, we made it a bit past three weeks before I had to charge the collar again. Putting the unit in “lost dog” mode will activate the collar’s light for better visibility and greatly increases the accuracy of the tracking but also greatly reduces battery life. Fi only promises up to two days of battery life in this mode, assuming a start with a full charge. Still, considering the need to quickly locate a lost dog, this is a great feature for peace of mind, as is the geo-fencing escape detection that provides alerts when a dog is separated from an owner’s smartphone and/or is outside of the range of the home. While I find the features less compelling in terms of my needs, other users may also enjoy the fitness, sleep tracking, and social media features the app provides.
It’s important to realize that the Fi lost dog mode should be used for emergencies only and you can’t rely on it to be 100 percent reliable. Without good cell service, the tracking features of this collar are useless, and you’d need more robust options available for hunting dogs in areas where there’s no cell reception. Still, this unit has its place, and if you need a GPS tracker that will do in a pinch, the Fi is a good option at its price point.
Also Consider: Whistle Go Explore
Best for International Hunting: SportDOG TEK 2.0
- Intuitive map view, directional arrows, and real-time tracking display
- Upgradable to training functions with ecollar plate
- Rolling dial for handheld functions and ecollar stimulation (once upgraded for training functions)
- Voice updates
- 10-mile range for direct collar-to-handheld communication
- Tracks up to 21 dogs/collars
Why It Made the Cut
SportDOG’s Tek 2.0 is the best for compatibility with international GPS technology and laws. It also offers great tracking-only services without e-collar functionality, but you can easily upgrade to training functions without purchasing a separate unit.
- GPS technology is more compatible internationally
- Cell service not needed
- Pre-loaded maps
- Not as popular or pairable as competitors
- Latest product not as recent as competitors
For those who need the more robust and dependable GPS tracking functionality of a hunting dog collar, but aren’t sure they need ecollar/training functionality, the SportDOG Tek 2.0 is a great option. You can easily add the ecollar prong plate to the GPS-only collar to make the upgrade later if you change your mind. For those who need training features and want to use the same collar during field trials (which generally forbid ecollar use), this is an attractive option from the manufacturer that was the first to offer a track and train combo system.
While I haven’t personally used this unit, my favorite Canadian bird dog expert, Craig Koshyk, does. I talked to him about his experiences to get input from his many hours of use. He was quick to point out he only uses the SportDOG TEK for its tracking features. On that front, he has found that it meets all of his needs and is easy to use. He has had to replace the batteries after a couple of years but they were easy to find and replace. And for anyone who might be hunting in Canada, the TEK 2.0 is hands down the best option in terms of compatibility.
When upgraded to ecollar use, the SportDOG Tek 2.0’s distinctive smooth dial can more precisely adjust stimulation levels (1-99 levels). The SportDOG Tek 2.0 moving arrows indicate the current direction of a dog in motion, which is an attractive feature. And the SportDOG system can be used in Canada, if you have Canadian birds on your hunting bucket list. Outside of the United States and Canada, the SportDOG system also offers the least legal and technical limitations internationally.
SportDOG’s main drawback is its smaller share of the market. For those wishing to take advantage of tracking their hunting partners’ handhelds or dogs, the SportDOG comes up short compared to its competitors. But if you plant to hunt outside the country, the Tek 2.0 is hard to beat.
Best with Google Maps: Dogtra Pathfinder SE
- Integrated smartphone use with Google Maps
- Compatible with Dogtra GPS or GPS and ecollar combo collars
- 9-mile range for direct collar to transmitter/phone communication
- Tracks up to 21 dogs/collars
- Cell service not needed
Why It Made the Cut
The Dogtra Pathfinder SE is the only full featured track and train collar system that relies almost entirely on a smartphone for handheld mapping and training features.
- Reasonable price
- Utilizes Google maps
- Integration with non-Dogtra tech like AppleWatch
- Smartphone use isn’t convenient for training features
- Must use separate transmitter
The Dogtra Pathfinder SE track and train system pairs your smartphone with an external transmitter to track your dog. For those with a pre-existing compatible smartphone, this is the most economical choice because you only pay for the transmitter that links your smartphone and app to the dog collar.
A good friend of mine, Jonathan Eastwood, uses this unit and its mapping detail is what most stands out for him. “The mapping detail is fabulous and is most useful for reviewing terrain that you may have missed. I love the status information it provides on point, bark, running and the stats it provides for distance covered and time spent hunting. It’s well built, intuitive, super fast, and responsive, and functions well in every category for which it was designed,” Eastwood said. As a pointing dog owner, however, he finds the reliance on the smartphone screen for accessing training features to be a disadvantage. “If I were running any kind of hound or chase dog, the Pathfinder would be the ultimate for me,” he said.
If you’re the type of hunter who wants to leave your smartphone in the truck while you hunt, this might not be an appealing option for you. And Eastwood suggests yet another consideration, “The Pathfinder eats phone batteries for lunch, in the same way any GPS enabled app does. So I have to carry a backup battery accessory if my hunt might last more than four hours or if my phone wasn’t fully charged when I started,” he said. But for those who don’t mind using their smartphone and prefer the intuitive Google Maps, the Pathfinder SE is probably the best current option for mapping multiple dogs.
Best Simplified: Garmin PRO 550 Plus
- Has most commonly used tracking, GPS, and training features
- 9-mile range when paired with Garmin’s latest TT15x
- Tracks up to three dogs/collars
- Does not utilize cell service
Why It Made the Cut
It’s been three years since Garmin introduced this unit, and it’s still the best option on the market for 95 percent of what many pointing dog owners need from a dog GPS tracker.
- Intuitive tracking/GPS and training
- Physical buttons for training features
- Garmin means increased opportunity to pair with hunting partners
- Mapping features must be added with app
- Only tracks three dogs at a time
If I could only choose one dog GPS tracker, I’d pick the Garmin PRO 550 Plus every time. While I own the Alpha 100 and other ecollar/training-only systems, I bring them with me on hunts 9 times out of 10 only as backups in case my PRO 550 Plus miraculously falters. The tracking capabilities are admittedly basic, but they give pointing dog owners most of what they need from any in-field tracker like distance and direction of the dog and whether it’s on point or treed. This handheld doesn’t offer maps and won’t track other Garmin hunting partners or mark your truck. It only tracks 1-3 dogs and displays them one at a time, and you can cycle between them with a simple toggle switch. Paired with the Garmin Explore app on your smartphone, it offers some mapping features but nothing as compelling as the Alpha 200i or even the Alpha 10.
In addition to giving me the things I most need out of a tracker, this handheld really shines as an ecollar/training unit. It provides a system that I can use instinctively to give my dog situation-appropriate stimulation, like silent commands or, on rare occasions, diverting him from danger and/or using higher levels of stimulation to break him from chasing anything he shouldn’t. While the design of the handheld isn’t perfect for e-collar/training functions (I sometimes accidentally switch the toggles between collars and between momentary and continuous stimulation), it’s pretty damn close.
Read Next: How to Pick the Right Tracking Collar for Your Dog
Q: What is the best GPS tracker for dogs?
Because it offers so many tracking and mapping features, the Garmin Alpha 200i is the best GPS tracker for dogs. Not only is this unit reliable, there’s a good chance that others at camp probably have Garmin products as well so linking up with them will be a breeze.
Q: Are GPS dog trackers worth it?
If you’re a serious dog hunter, GPS dog trackers are worth the investment. As I stated earlier, GPS trackers don’t mean that your dog can’t get lost, but if it’s well-trained there’s a lot less chance of that happening. Even if you just want peace of mind for your non-hunting dog, a budget GPS tracker like the Fi Series 2 is a good option.
Q: Can I track my dog with my phone?
As long as your dog GPS tracker has smartphone capabilities like the Dogtra Pathfinder SE, then you can use your phone to track your dog.
A tracking collar is not a guarantee a dog will not get lost. They should be thought of as a risk-reduction rather than a risk elimination strategy, and that’s especially true when considering lower budget options. Also, if your dog isn’t trained to obey your calls, a GPS tracker won’t change this, though it certainly won’t hurt anything. While you get what you pay for, like all technology even the best dog GPS trackers will malfunction. Think about everything that can go wrong with your car GPS and you’ll have a good idea what can go wrong with any tracking dog collar.
While the homo sapien/canis familiaris close relationship goes back tens of thousands of years, it’s tough to imagine a time without GPS tracking technology. Can you, like your ancestors, make do just fine without it? I suppose. Are you likely to want to after experiencing the technology’s benefits and the additional peace of mind these devices give? Highly doubtful. From serving as another enhancement to our dogs’ safety to increasing our effectiveness as hunters, there’s really no substitute for GPS tracking technology. Do your research, pick one of the best dog GPS trackers that suits you, and start enjoying all the benefits they offer for you and your dog’s outdoor adventures.