Microchips, GPS Trackers and the Possibilities of a GPS Chip for Dogs
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 15 percent of pet owners had lost their pet in the last five years. The good news is that 93 percent of the lost dogs were recovered. Most interestingly however is how they were recovered. According to the survey, 49 percent dog owners found their pets thanks to microchips inserted under the skin. NOT a GPS Chip for Dogs, mind you.
Thousands of dog owners lose their pets every year and a big proportion of them are fortunate to get their dogs back. For most of these dog owners, they have technology to thank for the recovery. Pet owners today can go about with much more peace of mind knowing that their pets are much safer and even if they wander off, the chances of getting them back is quite high.
There are two main technologies used in dog protection and recovery. We have already mentioned the first one, microchips. The second type of technology is GPS trackers. Both these types of technology work best together. That is why is it unfortunate when pet owners fail to use GPS trackers claiming that their dogs already have microchips inserted.
Our main aim in this article is to compare the two technologies; Microchips and GPS trackers. We are going to see their differences and explain why you should not rely on just one of them to keep your precious pet safe.
Dog Microchips Explained
As from April 6 2016, all dogs in the UK had to undergo compulsory microchip implantation to promote responsible dog ownership and relieve the burden on charities and local authorities. In the United States, pet owners are not compelled by any law to get microchips for their dogs, but most still opt to go ahead with the process.
A microchipped dog has much higher chances of being recovered after getting lost. This added layer of safety gives most pet owners reason to undertake the process. But what exactly is a microchip and how is it implanted into a dog?
RFID chips as baseline technology
As the name itself suggests, a microchip is indeed micro. It measures roughly the same as a large grain of rice. It is an RFID (Radio-frequency identification) device. RFID is an identification technology used in many applications such as barcodes and passports. It uses electromagnetic fields to identify tags attached to objects.
Dog microchips are passive, meaning that they do not have an internal power source. Most of the time, it just lies there until it is activated by a reader. A vet or animal shelter will use a special reader to check for RFID tags in a dog. If a microchip is present, it is automatically activated, sending out the information contained in it.
In most cases, a microchip contains just a single ID number. When entered in a database, the ID number provides details of the pet owner including contact information, name and location. This is why it is essential to keep your contact information up to date. It can mean the difference between finding your pet or losing it forever.
How microchips are implanted
To insert the microchips, the vet uses a special syringe to implant the tiny device at the back of the neck just between the shoulder blades. The process causes very little discomfort to the animal and is over within seconds. For worried pet owners, the microchip causes no health complications on the dog, short term or long term. Over time, the microchip is surrounded by connective tissue, helping to keep it secure. In fact, you can usually feel for it under the skin.
Because of the design and make, microchips generally last the lifetime of the pet.
Dog GPS Trackers Explained
GPS trackers for dogs work on a vastly larger scale compared to microchips. For reasons we are going to see shortly, GPS trackers are not implanted underneath the skin. Instead, they usually appear in form of dog collars.
A GPS tracker is much bigger since it contains a lot more equipment within it including a battery. This is actually one of the reasons why you will not come across a GPS chip for dogs. The tracker works by communicating with satellites and getting exact location coordinates. These coordinates are then sent over a cellular network or GSM to the pet owner’s mobile phone, usually in form of an SMS.
Because of the dependence on cellular networks, the pet owner may be unable to get location details (or it might take too long) in places with low or no cellular coverage. In such cases, an alternative is to use a handheld GPS unit to receive location coordinates directly from the satellites. This is a popular option for pet owners going hunting with their dogs or dog trainers working in remote terrain.
However the location details get to the pet owner – whether by mobile or GPS unit – the huge difference in scale between microchips and GPS trackers could not be more obvious:
- Microchips rely on handheld readers that need to be in the range of a few inches.
- GPS trackers on the other hand rely in satellites that are hundreds of kilometers away above earth.
Why you Probably Need Both
While each of the above tracking methods are very helpful in pet safety, there are even more benefits in incorporating both of them. For one, implanted dog microchips have a major disadvantage that pet owners tend to overlook. Your dog first has to be found by a good Samaritan and handed over to a vet or dog shelter. Only when it has been found can the microchip be scanned and your contact details found in a database. This means that your pet could wander for days with you having absolutely no idea of its whereabouts.
Pro GPS tracker
This is where a GPS tracker is immensely helpful. It is a more proactive form of pet protection. Instead of waiting around until someone finds your dog, you can get into action finding the pet yourself. You can use your phone to find its exact coordinates. As a bonus, most GPS trackers come with added safety features. One such feature is a virtual fence. This is an area, such as your home or the park, within which you deem your dog to be safe. If it crosses over the virtual fence, you are immediately alerted and you can act to prevent it from getting lost.
Contra GPS tracker
But even GPS trackers on their own have certain weaknesses. One obvious one is a dead battery. GPS battery trackers have longevities as low as 2 days and as long as a full month. What happens if the dog happens to wander off just as the battery is dying down? Or what if the pet goes into an area with no cellular coverage and you cannot get its location? Or what if the dog gets lost and the tracker gets damaged (for instance if it is not waterproof)? In such situations, a microchip might well be the pet’s savior.
Instead of assuming that one is better than the other, we recommend you be on the safe side (and bring your pet with you too) by using both pet safety mechanisms.
What about a GPS Microchip For Dogs?
Knowing that both the microchip and GPS tracker are important, why not combine the both into one simple effective device. In this case, a GPS microchip for dogs that cannot be lost or fall off because it has been implanted.
This proposal runs into more than a few challenges. The biggest one is this; how do you make a GPS chip for dogs that is small enough to be implanted under the skin? Unlike an RFID microchip that is passive, meaning it does not require a power source, a GPS tracker cannot do without one.
Designing a battery small enough to fit into a microchip is almost impossible, at least in regards to current technology. This is not even counting all the extra equipment needed by the GPS tracker to send and receive location signals and then transmit them to your mobile phone.
Until someone figures out how to create a safe and small enough GPS for dogs, we strongly advice that you buy a GPS dog collar and also get your pet implanted with a microchip.
Top 3 Microchips for Dogs
Since microchips should only be implanted by an experienced professional, your vet will likely already know the best brand to use. But for your knowledge, here are three of the top microchip brands.
1. Avid FriendChip
This microchip is used in a variety of animals from dogs to livestock and even wildlife. When implanted under your dog’s skin, the chip offers a lifetime of protection. Within the microchip is a unique 9-digit ID which will help identify the owner of the dog in the event it is lost.
One big advantage of the FriendChip is that it included encryption. This prevents a cloning or duplication of the ID number, providing another layer of protection. Additionally, the chip remains unaffected by MRI or X-Rays.
2. HomeAgain Microchip
HomeAgain provides a range of pet-related services including access to experts, help with pet travel and pet recovery. For pet recovery, they have a 12mm microchip that is implanted under the skin of dogs just behind the neck area. It includes an anti-migration feature, which ensures that the chip stays in the same place for the life of the pet.
If your dog is lost, the ID number retrieved from the chip, after scanning, can help get the pet back to you. HomeAgain has its own large database of pet owners who have registered their dogs’ ID numbers with them.
Unlike the Avid FriendChip, HomeAgain does not employ encryption in its microchip. Though this is usually not a major issue, it is worth knowing if it is at the top of your concerns.
3. 24PetWatch Microchip
This is an unencrypted microchip with similar features to most other microchips in the market. The implant procedure is quick and painless with the chip lasting as long as the pet is alive. 24PetWatch operates its own database in the US and in Canada that comes in handy when identifying owners of lost pets.
Top 3 GPS Trackers for Dogs
1. Loc8tor GPS Tracker
Loc8tor is one of the few GPS trackers that come with no monthly charges. Once you set up the device, it can transmit your dog’s location to within five meters. Location details can be transmitted to your phone, tablet or computer, allowing you to map you dog’s movements even when you are abroad. It works both outside and inside the house.
As an extra safety measure, you can set up a virtual safety zone. If the dog wanders beyond it, you will be immediately notified. The Loc8tor GPS Tracker has an average battery life of 7 to 10 days.
2. KYON Pet Tracker
This is one of the most advanced GPS trackers for dogs in the market. One unique feature of KYON Pet Tracker is 3D GPS tracking. This means that elevation is included in location details, telling you what floor your dog is on if it is in a building.
The GPS collar comes with a virtual feature, allowing you to establish a safety area of up to 300 feet. GPS tracking is automatically activated if the dog wanders beyond the virtual fence.
As if this is not enough, the collar uses special technology to read the dog’s mood. It can tell you when your furry friend is sick, sleepy or itching to go for a walk. The battery life is a long 30 days, one of the most impressive in the market.
3. Garmin Alpha 100
Garmin designed the Alpha 100 specifically for dog trainers, hence the high price tag of $799.99. The device does not use cellular networks; instead, location details are transmitted directly to a handheld unit. The unit can track up to 20 dogs in a 9-mile range, giving the trainer unprecedented control even over a large number of dogs.
Other features include a virtual boundary and a touch screen display with a plethora of dog statistics such as speed and elevation.
GPS Chip For Dogs – Until The Opportunity Strikes…
Getting both a GPS tracker and a microchip is quite an investment (though there are plenty of low cost options in both cases), but one that is completely worth it. You will rest peacefully knowing that your dog is safe.
Does your dog have both tracking options? What is your experience in terms of safety and pet recovery with both or one option in use? Feel free to leave your comment below.