The Global Positioning System (GPS) was created by the United States Department of Defense in 1973 to monitor air traffic. The Unites States government maintains the satellites that make up the system, but any citizen with a GPS receiver can gain access. GPS tracking is used by many businesses, government agencies, and private citizens. GPS can locate a signal anywhere on the planet as long as the item being tracked is within the range of the satellite system. Pet owners now frequently opt to use GPS tracking for potential assistance with lost or stolen animals. GPS devices are worn by the animal, not implanted as a chip. Pet owners use implanted microchips for identification purposes.
The microchip ID is implanted under your dog's skin with a hypodermic needle. The chip itself is no larger than a pencil tip. The veterinarian injects the needle under the skin of the dog, usually on the dog's back, between the shoulder blades. When the needle is removed, the microchip remains under the skin. The injection is no more involved than any other "shot" a vet may give your dog. No anaesthesia is needed for the injection.
The microchip will contain a signal. When read by an appropriate scanner, your ownership information will show up. If your dog becomes lost, hopefully anyone who finds the animal will take it to a vet or shelter where the chip can be read. You would then be contacted to come and get your dog. A common misconception is that these ID chips contain active GPS technology in order to locate the lost dog, but they do not. Sub-dermal microchips only provide identification information if the dog is found. They do not generate GPS signals.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The obvious advantage to using sub-dermal microchip technology for identification of your dog is that a dog's collar and ID tag can be easily lost or removed. Another advantage is that if the dog's collar and ID tag are removed, the microchip can easily solve any potential disputes on the ownership of a lost or stolen dog. One disadvantage to relying on the system is that not all veterinarians or rescues will own the scanner necessary to retrieve the information. And the microchips do not offer any help in actually finding a lost or stolen animal.
If you are a pet owner who wants a guarantee of finding a lost or stolen dog, you may want to consider a GPS collar. There are numerous products on the market. Generally, the device is attached to your dog's collar, weighs only a few ounces, and is waterproof. GPS collars require batteries. The signal will generate from 100 yards to a half mile. Some products send messages via cell phones, some use portable technology that you would carry to locate your dog.
GPS and Microchips Together
The optimal solution for finding a valuable lost or stolen pet is to use both technologies: GPS tracking and microchip identification. In a regrettable theoretical scenario, when an animal goes missing, the GPS collar can help you find the animal's location. The sub-dermal microchip will verify that an animal is yours in any situation where there are questions about ownership.