If you're in the market for a GPS pet tracker, you probably want one that informs you as quickly as possible of your pet's escape. The $49.99 Tractive GPS Dog LTE Tracker offers the fastest escape alerts of any tracker we've tested, in a convenient design that securely attaches to your dog's existing collar with a rubber clip. We also like that a Basic subscription, which includes live location, activity, and sleep monitoring, is more affordable than you get with competitors. Although its battery life could be longer and we'd like to see more health and social features, the Tractive still offers top-notch GPS tracking for a resonable price, earning it our Editors' Choice award.
Tracktive sells two versions of its GPS and LTE pet tracker, one for dogs and one for cats, each of which costs $49.99 plus subscription fees. Both are IPX7 waterproof, shock resistant, and promise up to one week of battery life depending on usage. The canine version is meant for dogs that weigh at least 8.8 pounds; it's a better option for small pups than the Fi Smart Dog Collar Series 2, which has a minimum weight recommendation of 10 pounds.
Tractive offers two subscription options: Basic ($12 per month, $84 per year, or $120 every two years) and Premium ($96 per year, $144 every two years, or $300 every five years). Both plans include GPS tracking (in intervals between two and 60 minutes), unlimited Live tracking (in intervals between two and three seconds), and activity and sleep monitoring. The Premium plan also includes family and public sharing, worldwide coverage (in 175 countries), one year of location history, GPS data exports, and premium customer service. Fi charges $99 per year for its subscription plan.
For this review, the company sent me the canine tracker and set me up with a Premium account. I tested it with the help of my dog Bradley, a 61-pound pit bull.
The dog tracker is slim and lightweight, measuring about 1.10 by 2.81 by 0.75 inches (HWD) and weighing 1.2 ounces. It comes in navy blue, tan, or white, tan. Tractive's dog tracker is a bit thicker than the Fi Series 2 (1.4 by 2.6 by 0.5 inches, 1.4 ounces), but is still small enough that it doesn't seem to bother Bradley at all.
The tracker attaches to your dog's collar (up to 1.1 inches wide) with a bright blue flexible rubber clip, so you shouldn't worry about it falling off. The Fi comes with a one-inch-wide collar that attaches to the tracker with metal clips. It's interchangeable, but only with Fi-compatible accessory bands that start at around $29. The Fi seems a bit more durable because of its metal clips, armored aluminum faceplate, and superior IP68 rating.
The Fi also has an advantage when it comes to battery life; it can last up to three months on a charge (if your dog stays at home all the time). That said, my Tractive unit exceeded the company's seven-day battery life estimate in testing, even though my dog is highly active. The tracker's rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery drained at a rate of about 7% per day, whereas the Fi's battery drained slightly slower at a rate of around 5% per day. After one full week of use, the Tractive still had more than 40% battery life left.
In terms of reliability, both products accurately track your pet's location, but the Tractive model sent escape alerts a bit quicker (I discuss this in more detail a bit later).
Both products track your pet's activity and sleep, and feature leaderboards so you can see how your pet stacks up against others. Fi tracks more health metrics than Tractive, however, including your pet's steps, distance traveled, and sleep interruptions. Its app is also more social, with a Discover tab that's basically Instagram for dogs, a feature you won't find on Tractive.
GPS pet trackers can be a bit confusing to configure, but Tractive's app does a good job of walking you through the process. Start by charging the tracker via the USB cable that comes in the box. When charging, the indicator light shines red, and when it reaches a full charge, the light turns green. Tractive says to charge the device for at least two hours before using it for the first time. In the quick start guide, Tractive also cautions that a fast charger can damage the battery.
Note that the tracker turns on while it is charging, and stays on until you turn it off. To turn it on or off, press and hold the small silver power button on the side.
To check your tracker's status, quickly press the power button. The light blinks twice in either green (OK) or red (not connected) depending on the connection status. The first blink indicates its network status, and the second reveals its GPS status. If it blinks green twice, that means the network and GPS are both working.
While waiting for it to charge, download the Tractive GPS app (available for Android and iOS) and create an account. You can sign in with your email, or with an Apple, Google, or Facebook account. In addition to the app, you can sign in on Tractive's website to track your pet from your computer.
The app asks for permission to use Bluetooth, access your location, and send you notifications when your pet leaves or enters the Virtual Fence and when the tracker's battery is low. To activate your tracker and pair it with the app, simply enter the eight-character ID on the back of the device.
To complete the process, select a subscription plan, create a profile for your pet, and install any software updates. You must have an active subscription to use your Tractive device. If you purchased a plan when buying the tracker, you should have a prepaid activation code in your email.
When setting up an account for your pet, the app asks for its name, type (dog, cat, or other), breed, birthdate (I had to make an educated guess because Bradley was a stray), gender, weight, and height. You can optionally add a photo. For the height, the app instructs you to measure from the floor to the highest spot on your pet's shoulder blades. The app requires your pet's height, weight, and birthdate for activity monitoring.
If you have multiple pets, you can view their locations simultaneously in the Tractive GPS app, but you need a separate tracker and subscription plan for each one. The Tractive GPS app is well designed and easy to use, with the following tabs on the bottom: Map, History, Activity, Profile, and Account.
The Map tab serves as the home screen. Here, you can track your animal's location, enable Live and Find modes, check the tracker's battery life and GPS signal, and change the map settings.
When the device is on, tracking is always enabled. The map shows your pet's location and the time of the last update. By default, Tractive updates the location between every two and 60 minutes, depending on your pet's movement. If your pet isn't moving around much, the tracker won't update as frequently to save battery life.
If your dog wanders away, Live mode lets you track their every move. Just tap the blue Live button and Tractive updates your pet's GPS location every few seconds. Their real-time position is illustrated as a blue line on the map. Just keep in mind that Live mode drains the battery much quicker than the default tracking mode. To save battery, Live tracking automatically turns off after five minutes, but you can adjust this duration in the Profile tab.
Find mode can help you locate your pet in places with a weak GPS signal. When your phone is within Bluetooth range of the tracker, a pet icon appears above the Live button; tap it and a blue bullseye appears around your pet's profile photo. As you get closer to your pet, more of the rings turn blue.
The Tracker features a small LED light and can ring an audible alarm, both of which you can enable alongside Live and Find modes to help you locate your pet.
To extend battery life, Tractive lets you connect the tracker with up to five Wi-Fi networks in safe spaces where your pet spends a lot of time, like at home or a pet day care. When your pet is in one of these Power Saving Zones, you see a small Wi-Fi icon next to their profile photo on the map. The Fi Smart Dog Collar offers a similar feature, but lets you connect to up to six networks at a time.
In Power Saving Zones, the Live tracking feature isn't available and the device no longer reports your pet's GPS location. Instead, it checks every few minutes to make sure your pet is still within range of that trusted Wi-Fi network. When your pet leaves that zone, the tracker automatically switches to tracking via GPS and gives you the option to activate Live tracking, if necessary.
Tractive also lets you create Virtual Fences and alerts you when your pet wanders away from these areas. To set one up, go to Profile > Tracker > Virtual Fences > Add Virtual Fence. You can create up to five Virtual Fences, and label them as either a Safe Zone or No-Go Zone. When your pet leaves or enters the perimeter of a Virtual Fence, you and anyone with whom you have shared the tracker receive a notification.
Tractive Virtual Fences can be circular, rectangular, or a custom shape. Circular ones can have a minimum radius of 150 feet and rectangular ones can be as small as 350-by-350 feet. The company doesn't specify a minimum size for custom-shaped fences, but the app lets you know if it's too small to provide accurate notifications. The Fi Series 2, by comparison, lets you set up circular Safe Zones with a radius as small as 60 feet, and polygon-shaped ones with a minimum area of 11,309 square feet.
In testing, Tractive reliably sent a notification to my phone when Bradley exited and entered a Safe Zone. The tracker typically took about one minute to deliver an alert in those cases; that's at least a full minute faster than the Fi Series 2, which usually took anywhere from two to three minutes to send an escape alert in testing. The Whistle Go Explore was the slowest in our tests, taking around four-and-a-half minutes to send a notification, which as many pet owners know, is plenty of time for a determined doggo to ditch you.
The first time you visit the Activity tab, the app prompts you to set a daily goal for your pet. For Bradley, it recommended between 110 and 210 minutes of exercise per day, so I went with 140 minutes.
Atop the Activity section is a ring that shows your pet's progress toward its goal, in addition to a graph of its activity throughout the day. Below that, the app shows your pet's active minutes, calories burned, calm time, and sleep time that day, alongside a 90-day average for each metric.
To check your pet's leaderboard position, visit Profile > Leaderboard. Here, you can see how they rank among their breed, among friends, globally, and locally. To find friends on the platform, Tractive gives you the option to connect your Facebook account or tap a button to generate an invitation link you can share via text.
Tractive's Premium family sharing feature lets you give trusted individuals the ability to track your pet's location and activity. You can invite as many people as you like, including friends and pet sitters, as well as share access for 24 hours, one week, or indefinitely. After receiving an invite, the family member must create a Tractive GPS account if they don't already have one. Family members won't see your subscription, account, or payment details, and can't make any changes to your Virtual Fences (you can also revoke access at any time). To invite family members, visit Profile > Family > Invite New.
The Premium public sharing feature generates a link that lets anyone, even those without a Tractive GPS account, see your pet's current location on a map. This feature can be useful if your pet goes missing and you urgently need help finding them. To use public sharing, visit Profile > Tracker, scroll down and tap Options next to Location, and finally tap Share Tracking Link.
The location history feature lets you check your pet's travel distance and where they have been during a certain time frame. Premium members can view their pet's location history over the last year. With a Basic subscription, location history data is limited to the last 24 hours. To access this data, visit the History tab, choose a starting and ending time frame, and optionally enable the Trace and Heatmap features.
The Trace option shows your pet's route with a blue line. Gaps in your pet's location history (when the tracker was not reporting) are shown as dashed lines. The Heatmap is a colorful illustration that represents the amount of time your pet stayed in a certain place.
To share an image of your pet's location history for a certain time frame, visit History, then tap the Share icon in the top right corner of the app. If you're a Premium member, you can export your pet's location history as a .gpx or .kml file via Tractive's website (visit History, then press the Export button).
At $49.99 (plus subscription fees), the Tractive GPS Dog LTE Tracker is one of the most affordable and best-performing pet trackers we've tested. It clips onto your pet's existing collar, accurately tracks their whereabouts at all times, quickly notifies you if they escape your Virtual Fence, and keeps tabs on their activity, sleep, and calories burned. We also like how the leaderboards motivate you to spend more time with your pooch and take them for another walk. The Fi Smart Dog Collar Series 2 is more durable and has longer battery life, but the Tractive costs $100 less and excels where it matters most with faster escape alerts, earning it our Editors' Choice award for GPS pet trackers.