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Unveiling the Mysteries Behind GPS Dog Collars: How They Work

how do gps dog collars work
Written by Mark Braeden

If you’re curious about the technology behind the most popular pet trackers, you’re in the right spot! Below, we’ll explore how GPS dog collars work, the components that make up these devices, and their benefits to pet owners. Just keep reading

How do GPS Dog Collars Work?

GPS dog collars have become increasingly popular over the last few years, as they enable us to track our pets’ whereabouts in real-time (which helps prevent our furry friends from getting lost). Have you ever wondered exactly how they do that, though?

GPS is an abbreviation for Global Positioning System. It is a satellite-based navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions. The GPS works by triangulating signals from a network of satellites orbiting the Earth.

GPS technology has become an essential part of our daily lives. It is used in various applications, including navigation, tracking, and surveying.

Technology has revolutionized the way we navigate and explore our world, and GPS technology specifically has become an essential part of our daily lives. If you’ve ever looked up directions on your phone, you’ve used it. If you’ve ever enabled location-sharing capabilities for your weather app, you’ve used it. Heck, even if you’ve ever just played Pokemon Go, you’ve used it!

With GPS, we can easily find our way around unfamiliar places, plan routes, track our movements, get accurate weather forecasts, and even find that elusive Charizard.

GPS technology has also been used in sports, particularly in endurance events such as marathons and triathlons. Athletes use these devices to track their performance and monitor their progress during training and competition.

SpotOn Dog Collar

The Role of Satellites in GPS Tracking

Satellites play a critical role in the Global Positioning System (GPS) by providing positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) information. GPS is a satellite-based navigation system that enables users to determine their precise location, velocity, and time anywhere on Earth.

Here’s a rundown of how satellites contribute to the functioning of GPS dog collars:

  1. Satellite Constellation: GPS consists of a network of satellites known as a satellite constellation. The constellation typically comprises a minimum of 24 satellites evenly distributed in six orbital planes around the Earth.
  2. Positioning and Triangulation: The satellites constantly broadcast signals that contain information about their precise location as well as the time the signals were transmitted. GPS receivers on the ground or in other devices receive these signals and use the information to calculate the distance between the receiver and the satellites. By obtaining signals from multiple satellites, the GPS receiver can determine its precise position through a process called triangulation.
  3. Trilateration: Trilateration is the process of determining the location by measuring distances to known reference points. In GPS, the receiver measures the distance to each visible satellite by calculating the time it takes for the signals to travel from the satellite to the receiver. Since the signals travel at the speed of light, the receiver can calculate the distance based on the time delay. By measuring the distances to at least four satellites, the receiver can perform trilateration and determine its position accurately.

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. People spend years learning the intricacies of how GPS works. But this should give you a good idea of its role in dog collars.

The Role of Satellites in GPS Tracking

GPS Accuracy and Limitations

When it comes to GPS accuracy, it’s important to know that it can vary depending on a few factors. In ideal conditions, GPS can provide location accuracy within a few meters, which is pretty impressive. It means that if you’re standing in a park, GPS can tell you roughly where you are with a good level of precision.

However, there are situations where the accuracy may not be as great. For example, if you’re in a dense urban area with tall buildings or surrounded by dense forests, GPS signals can get blocked or reflected, leading to reduced accuracy. In such cases, the accuracy can range from a few meters to tens of meters.

Another thing to keep in mind is that GPS accuracy can also be influenced by external factors. Things like atmospheric conditions, signal interference, or even the position of the satellites in the sky can affect accuracy.

For instance, during bad weather or in places with thick cloud cover, GPS signals may weaken, resulting in less accurate positioning. Similarly, if there are obstacles like mountains or tall structures that block the line of sight between the receiver and the satellites, accuracy can be compromised.

It’s also worth noting that GPS receivers themselves can have an impact on accuracy. The quality and sensitivity of the receiver, as well as its processing capabilities, can influence the accuracy of the position calculations.

High-quality GPS receivers with advanced features tend to provide better accuracy than low-cost or older models. So, if you’re looking for more precise positioning when your dog gets loose, investing in a good GPS collar can make a difference.

My Jack Russel Terrier Steve with Tractive collar

Components of a GPS Dog Collar

A GPS dog collar is typically made up of several components that work together to provide real-time location tracking of your pet.

GPS Receiver

The GPS receiver is the core component of the collar. It receives signals from GPS satellites to determine the dog’s precise location. The receiver calculates the latitude, longitude, and sometimes altitude coordinates, which are then used to track the dog’s movements.

Cellular or Radio Transmitter

To transmit the location data from the collar to the owner or a tracking platform, a GPS dog collar may incorporate a cellular or radio transmitter. The type of transmitter used depends on the specific collar model. A cellular transmitter utilizes mobile network connectivity to send the location information, while a radio transmitter communicates over a designated radio frequency.


The collar will also have an antenna to receive GPS signals and, in some cases, transmit data. The antenna’s purpose is to ensure reliable reception and transmission of signals between the collar and external devices or systems.

Battery and Charger

GPS dog collars typically have rechargeable batteries that can last anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, depending on the collar usage and battery capacity. Most collars will come with a charging dock that you can use to charge the collar when the battery is low. Some collars also have a battery life indicator that lets you know when the battery is getting low, so you can charge it before it dies.

Sensors (Optional)

Some GPS dog collars may incorporate additional sensors to provide extra functionalities. For example, an accelerometer can detect changes in the dog’s movement, allowing for activity monitoring or behavior analysis. Temperature sensors may be included to monitor environmental conditions or alert the owner if the temperature exceeds certain thresholds.

Collar Strap

Of course, the GPS components are housed within a collar strap that is attached around your dog’s neck. The strap is typically adjustable to ensure a proper and comfortable fit for the dog.

The collar material and durability are essential factors to consider when purchasing a GPS dog collar. Ensure that the collar is made of material that is both comfortable for your pet and durable enough to withstand your pet’s physical activities.

Nylon and leather are two popular materials for GPS dog collars. Nylon is lightweight and durable, while leather is more comfortable for your pet but may not be as durable as nylon. Some GPS dog collars also have a waterproof design, which is great if your pet likes to swim or play in the rain.

Tracking my dog with Airtag collar attachment in the forest

Choosing the Right Collar for Your Dog & Setting it Up

When it comes to choosing a GPS dog collar, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you want to make sure that the collar you choose fits your pet correctly. A collar that is too tight can be uncomfortable for your pet and may even cause injury, while a collar that is too loose can easily slip off.

It’s also important to consider your pet’s size, breed, and behavior when choosing a collar. For example, if you have a small dog that likes to burrow, you may want to choose a collar that is designed to be worn around the chest rather than the neck.

Another factor to consider is the type of activities your pet enjoys. If your dog loves to swim, you may want to choose a waterproof GPS collar, so it doesn’t get damaged when your pet takes a dip.

Installing the GPS Tracker App

Once you have chosen the best GPS dog collar for your pet, the next step is to install the tracker app. Many GPS dog collars come with a designated app that you can download onto your smartphone. This app allows you to track and monitor your pet’s location in real time.

Before you download the app, make sure that it is compatible with your smartphone’s operating system. Once you have confirmed compatibility, simply search for the app in the app store and download it onto your phone.

Discussing Halo smart dog collar price

Syncing the Collar with Your Smartphone

After you have downloaded the app, the next step is to synchronize it with your pet’s GPS collar. This is usually a straightforward process, but it’s important to follow the instructions provided by the collar manufacturer to ensure a successful connection.

Before you begin the synchronization process, make sure that your smartphone’s Bluetooth is turned on. Once you have done this, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to connect your phone to the collar.

Customizing Tracking Preferences

Now that you’ve done all of that, you can start customizing your tracking preferences. Most GPS dog collars come with a range of tracking preferences that you can customize depending on your needs.

For example, you can set up geofences and safe zones where your pet can roam freely without triggering an alert. This is particularly useful if you have a large yard or if you take your pet to a park where they can run around off-leash.

You can also receive alerts when your pet leaves the designated safe zone. This is a great way to ensure that your pet doesn’t wander too far from home and gets lost.

Overall, setting up a GPS dog collar is a simple process that can give you peace of mind knowing that you can always keep track of your pet’s location. By choosing the right collar, installing the GPS tracker app, syncing the collar with your smartphone, and customizing your tracking preferences, you can ensure that your pet stays safe and secure at all times.

Benefits of Using a GPS Dog Collar

We’ve discussed this before, I know, but let’s quickly go over the benefits of a GPS dog collar again before we say goodbye for today.

Real-Time Location Tracking

The primary benefit of GPS dog collars is real-time location tracking. You can monitor your pet’s whereabouts and receive alerts when your pet goes beyond the designated safe zone.

Geofencing and Safe Zones

You can set up geofences and safe zones, such as your home or yard, to alert you when your pet leaves or enters the designated area. This is particularly useful if your pet gets lost, and you need to locate them quickly.

SpotOn Keepout zones
With a good GPS collar like SpotOn, you can easily set your dog’s “go” and “no go” boundaries!

Activity Monitoring and Health Insights

Some GPS dog collars also track your pet’s activity level and provide health insights. You can monitor your pet’s daily activity levels, including their exercise routines and sleeping patterns. This is especially useful if your pet has a medical condition that requires close monitoring.

Peace of Mind for Pet Owners

GPS dog collars provide pet owners with peace of mind, knowing that they can track their pets’ locations and keep them safe. With real-time tracking, it’s easy to quickly locate your lost or stolen pet.


With GPS dog collars, pet owners gain peace of mind knowing that they can quickly locate their dogs if they wander off. The collars provide accurate positioning information and often offer features such as geofencing, where owners can set virtual boundaries and receive alerts if their dogs leave those areas. This technology has revolutionized the way we keep track of our pets and has significantly increased their safety.

However, it’s important to remember that GPS dog collars do have limitations. Factors such as signal obstruction in dense areas or poor weather conditions can affect accuracy. Battery life is another consideration, as regular charging or battery replacement may be necessary. Despite these limitations, GPS dog collars are a valuable tool for us devoted pet owners!


  • Mark Braeden

    Mark is a Boston University graduate and former electrical engineer. In 2017, he decided to combine his tech knowledge with his love for dogs. He spent a year familiarizing himself with the latest GPS tracking collars, invisible fences, and other hot pet gadgets before he wrote his first product review. After selling Technobark, Mark remained a writer and consultant but spends more time on his other passion now: raising and training his growing family of dogs.

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