Gear Review – The Tractive GPS Tracker

The Zapin Family are among my closest and oldest friends. I often spent many trips with them in one of their Subarus, hiking, backpacking, skiing, and watching their boys grow up. And with them on these trips, they typically had a labrador. Josh checked out the Tractive GPS tracker with their furry friend Mack and wrote his thoughts on using it.



In an era where technology seamlessly (and maybe pervasively) integrates into our lives, pet care has not been left behind. The Tractive GPS tracker exemplifies this integration, offering pet owners peace of mind and an innovative way to monitor and engage with their pets’ daily activities. This review navigates through setup, everyday use, features, and overall performance, all through the lens of an 80lb Labrador Retriever named Mack, who not only tested the device’s limits but also its potential to enhance the pet-owner bond.+

Setup and Design

First impressions matter, and the Tractive GPS sets a positive tone right from the start. The setup process is notably straightforward, which starts with a desktop but then finishes primarily through a mobile app that guides you through each step with intuitive ease. For those who, like me, have a penchant for desktop interfaces, the mobile-centric approach might seem limiting, yet it does not detract from the overall setup simplicity.

Selecting the right Tractive GPS plan is key to tailoring the experience to your needs. The Basic plan, starting at $6/month, covers most essentials like GPS and live tracking, and wellness monitoring, making it suitable for typical users. However, the Premium options, also starting at $6/month, add worldwide coverage and a full year’s location history, among other perks, which justify the additional cost for those with more demanding tracking needs.

A crucial part of this process involves a firmware update, a step that Tractive has managed to make as uncomplicated as the rest of the setup.

The device itself boasts a design that is both small and unobtrusive, fitting Mack’s collar without causing any discomfort or hindrance to his movements. It’s a design that speaks volumes of Tractive’s consideration for varying dog sizes and their daily activities.

Setting Goals and Staying Active

One of the Tractive GPS’s core features encourages setting daily activity goals for your pet, a functionality that resonates with the modern pet owner’s desire to ensure their furry friend’s health and vitality. For Mack, a goal of 140 minutes of activity was not just a number, but a daily mission, ensuring he received ample exercise through runs and hikes, reinforcing the importance of regular physical activity for pets.

The Leaderboard: A Strava for Dogs

The leaderboard feature stands out as a particularly engaging aspect of the Tractive experience, likened to a Strava for dogs. It introduces a competitive yet fun element to daily walks and activities, allowing pet owners to compare their pets’ activity levels with others.

While global rankings offer a humbling perspective, local competitions inspire a sense of community among pet owners. The introduction of a mileage-based ranking could further enhance this feature, catering to pets like Mack, whose daily runs and hikes could see them climbing the ranks.

Health Monitoring and Achievements

Beyond activity tracking, the Tractive GPS offers a health monitoring feature that grades your pet based on sleep and daily activity. To calculate the activity levels, the tracker contains an inbuilt accelerometer, which measures proper acceleration. This means that if the tracker is in a moving vehicle, for example, but the tracker itself is still, then it will not detect any movement and therefore will not record any active minutes during the journey. As soon Mack walks around again, the tracker should start recording activity and active minutes as normal.

Mack’s lifestyle, which includes 4-5 mile runs/hikes, showcased how this feature could serve as a motivational tool for pet owners to maintain or improve their pet’s health regimen.

The addition of badges for streaks and achievements adds a gamified layer to the experience, making health and activity tracking both fun and rewarding.

The Essence of Tracking

At its core, the Tractive GPS tracker excels in its primary function: tracking. The ability to create virtual “fences” offers a proactive way to monitor your pet’s whereabouts, sending notifications if they wander beyond designated boundaries.

For those without physical fences or whose dogs have a tendency to escape, the virtual fences feature of Tractive GPS can be a real asset, providing alerts if your pet strays from a designated safe area. While this functionality wasn’t a necessity for us, given that Mack is contained by a physical fence and doesn’t wander, it offers substantial peace of mind for others in less secure or more open environments. It’s an added layer of security, ensuring that even if physical barriers fail, the virtual fence will keep tabs on your roaming companion.

Which brings me to a limitation regarding the minimum size of these fences. For us, we didn’t want Mack to wander into a particular part of our yard. Unfortunately, the zones don’t really work if they are small due to GPS interference and potential false virtual fence outbreak. So, it was less useful for us.

Live Tracking, on the other hand, is where the Tractive truly shines. This feature allows for real-time monitoring of your pet’s location and activities, proving indispensable for pets prone to wandering. The peace of mind it provides, knowing you can locate your pet at any moment, is invaluable, although its effectiveness is contingent on cellular network coverage, which may be lacking in more remote areas.

Battery Life, Charging and Additional Features

Impressively, the Tractive GPS boasts a battery life that can last up to 10 days, aided by the Power Saving Zone feature, which optimizes battery usage based on Wi-Fi connectivity. While the Tractive GPS’s extended battery life is certainly a highlight, the requirement of a specialized sheath for charging introduces a slight disappointment, presenting an extra piece to manage and a possible point of failure.

While this aspect is a small hiccup in an otherwise seamless experience, the convenience of a direct USB-C connection would be a welcome improvement for a more streamlined charging routine.
Additionally, the device includes light and sound features aimed at enhancing pet safety and visibility. While the light feature may not be as effective as desired, the sound feature proves useful in attracting your pet’s attention or aiding in their location in low visibility conditions.


A device that fits most dogs currently costs $49, with ones for larger 50+ lb animals available at $56.  A more rugged, heavier, bite-proof one is selling for $80 on sale.

In addition to the device cost, the basic subscription price starts at $13 monthly, with discounts for longer-term purchasing.

And if you want to use a coupon code, Tractive provides a 30% off coupon code – PMAGS30



In conclusion, the Tractive GPS tracker emerges as a robust, feature-rich device that caters to the modern pet owner’s needs. From its straightforward setup to its comprehensive tracking and health monitoring capabilities, it represents a significant investment in your pet’s safety and well-being. While certain features like the minimum size for virtual fences and the effectiveness of the light feature could see improvements, the overall value and functionality of the Tractive GPS make it worthwhile

About Josh

Josh Zapin, hailing from the tech-savvy trails of Boulder, Colorado, is a digital project shepherd guiding flocks of teams through the world wide web’s wildest frontiers. When he’s not aligning code with cloud nine, he swaps the digital leash for a literal one, hiking with his family and his dog, ensuring that, much like his projects, no dog goes off-scope under his watch. You can learn more about Josh at

Disclosure – Tractive GPS supplied the device and subscription for Josh’s review.

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