Why is my tracker displaying an inaccurate position?

Sometimes, you may find that your tracker displays an inaccurate location of your pet. Why does this occur? Does it mean that the tracker is broken? (Usually not!) What can be done about it? In this article you will find all the answers to your questions concerning inaccurate GPS positions.

Note: GPS works best when the device is under a clear sky. The direct line of sight to the sky will allow the tracker to establish a connection with at least 4 GPS satellites, which is required to pinpoint its location accurately.


What is inaccurate GPS data?

Poor or inaccurate GPS data refers to any circumstance in which the GPS accuracy decreases and the location data sent from the tracker to the app does not represent the actual position of your dog or cat.

In this case you may see a position in the map that you pet has actually never traveled to. Alternatively, you may notice that the path reported varies slightly from the path your pet actually took. In some cases, you may not see the position of your pet at all. In all of these cases, the issue is usually temporary and will resolve itself automatically upon availability of the GPS signal.

The following is an example of how GPS data can vary from the actual path of the tracker, in this case due to GPS interference caused by tall forest:



My tracker is displaying an inaccurate location. Does this mean that it is broken?

In most cases, no. It is normal for any device that uses GPS technology to encounter some inaccuracies from time to time. Read more about GPS accuracy.

Under perfect conditions, current GPS devices of any kind have an accuracy of about 3 meters. However, depending on environmental factors, this accuracy can decrease. No GPS System can pinpoint a location with a zero meter offset to its original position.

Even when your device is in perfect working condition, there's always a chance that a GPS inaccuracy could occur. 


But why does does it occur?

There are multiple factors to be considered when poor GPS data is generated, all of which can be considered a type of GPS interference. 

GPS interference occurs when something in the environment of the tracker obstructs the GPS signal from the device. This occurs most often when the device is indoors, in a car, in a heavily forested area, or in an area with a high concentration of tall buildings. Weather and windows can also reflect GPS signals, preventing them from reaching your device.


Type of GPS Interference

GPS signals can be influenced by various environmental factors, as mentioned above. The following picture shows different sources of interference that can compromise GPS accuracy or even block the signal entirely:


I = Interference from particles in the ionosphere, 70 - 400 km above sea level. Due to the high concentration of ions and free elections in this area, GPS signals can be significantly altered.

II = Interference from water vapor in the troposphere. Especially on cloudy or rainy days, GPS accuracy can be reduced.

III = Interference due to reflections on buildings or hilly terrain. High-rise buildings or hills and mountains in the vicinity can block or alter GPS signals. Large water or glass surfaces can cause reflections that might throw off the tracker.

The interplay of these various types of interference can result in a discrepancy between the location shown in the GPS app and the real location of the tracker.


"Jumping" GPS Data

Especially when the tracker is turned on and indoors, you may find that the location of your dog or cat in the app is far off from his/her actual location (i.e on the couch, in your lap). For example, this track shows a LIVE Tracking session when the GPS tracker was turned on, indoors, and stationary:

While the device is indoors, the GPS accuracy will decrease and in addition, if no GPS signal can be located, the device will revert to cellular triangulation to locate itself. This method of location is less accurate than GPS, resulting in an inaccurate position report. However as soon GPS becomes available again, the accuracy will return to normal. Simply activate LIVE Tracking to be sent the most recent accurate position report.

Don't fear: your device is working hard to locate itself and will still be able to help you find your cat or dog if he or she goes missing. 


How to prevent inaccurate GPS data

Here are a few tips and tricks which will help you to avoid GPS inaccuracies:

  • If you are testing your device, go outside as the GPS position of your pet will likely not be accurate indoors.
  • Turn the device off while indoors or not in use.
  • Activate the LIVE Tracking mode to get more frequent location updates.
  • Make sure that the GPS tracker is correctly positioned on your pet's collar. It is best when located on the back so that it's not covered by body parts.
  • Restart or reset your GPS tracker from time to time


Further Reading

For further reading on GPS data, accuracy, and LIVE Tracking please visit the following links:


About the GPS Signal Requirement

Tractive GPS Accuracy

Check your GPS Status - Global Positioning System

LIVE Tracking vs. Default Tracking

All about LIVE Tracking

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