Can You Use an AirTag to Track Your Dog? The Dangers You Need to Know

January 8, 2024

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Tracking a lost dog is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. That’s why many turn to Apple’s AirTags as an affordable and convenient tracking solution. But can AirTags really help find your lost dog? Or are there major drawbacks and safety issues to consider first?

We investigated whether AirTags are a safe and reliable option for dog tracking versus dedicated GPS pet trackers. Read on for a complete guide before deciding if AirTags are right for your furry friend.

How AirTags Were Designed to Work

AirTags are small, lightweight Bluetooth tracking devices. They work by connecting to nearby Apple devices utilizing Apple’s massive Find My network.

When an AirTag is in range, it quickly communicates with the nearby iPhone, relaying the AirTag’s location back to the owner. This allows you to track belongings like keys or a backpack if lost nearby.

Airtag Ease Of Use

Key Points on How AirTags Function:

  • AirTags have no built-in GPS and cannot independently track location.
  • AirTags must be within Bluetooth range (up to 33 feet) to connect with a nearby iPhone.
  • The nearby iPhone’s location is transmitted back to the AirTag owner, not the AirTag’s own location.
  • AirTags rely entirely on being close to strangers’ iPhones to be trackable. No iPhones = no tracking.

Concerns When Using AirTags for Pets

Airtag Dog

While handy for finding a misplaced item in a crowded area, significant limitations emerge when using AirTags to track living, moving creatures like pets.

AirTags May Completely Lose Your Dog’s Trail

Our test revealed an AirTag dropped in a suburban park went several hours without being detected even once. Full days passed with only 1-2 location updates.

Your dog could easily wander beyond any iPhones, leaving you with little chance of tracking them down in a rural or wilderness setting. Even in urban areas, the tracking can be too slow and sporadic as your dog moves away from any iPhones.

AirTags Have No Direct GPS Tracking

Without their own GPS, AirTags cannot provide real-time tracking or updates. You’re relying on outdated location reports from strangers’ phones that your dog already left.

AirTags Have a Limited Bluetooth Connection Range

The 30-foot Bluetooth range means no tracking once your dog gets further away, which is easy to do whether they’re roaming or travelling in a car.

AirTags Transmit Random iPhone Locations, Not Your Dog’s Accurate Location

The location relayed back is from a random nearby iPhone, not the AirTag itself. So the location could be outdated or just plain wrong once your dog has wandered away.

AirTags Can Easily Be Swallowed By Dogs

In addition to the tracking concerns, AirTags pose a major choking hazard if swallowed by dogs. As this review of the best bark collars for French bulldogs discusses, Frenchies are prone to chewing and destroying collars, making AirTags risky.

Apple Officially Discourages Using AirTags for Pets

Apple openly acknowledges AirTags have major limitations for tracking living, moving targets like pets.

In an interview, an Apple VP confirmed AirTags are:

“…designed to track items not pets. If people do that, they just have to make sure that their moving pet gets into range of a device in the Find My network so its location can be tracked.”

He reiterated AirTags rely entirely on proximity to strangers’ phones, making them unreliable and risky for pets.

AirTags Provide No Benefits Over Dedicated Pet Trackers

When compared to purpose-built pet GPS trackers, AirTags offer no advantages in tracking capability or safety. They actually introduce concerns regular trackers avoid entirely.

AirTags Have No Direct GPS Tracking

Unlike AirTags, dedicated pet trackers use direct GPS satellite tracking for continuous live location updates. This provides accurate, real-time tracking instead of sporadic, outdated location reports.

Pet Trackers Use Cellular and Radio Signals

In addition to GPS, most quality pet trackers use cellular and/or radio frequencies. This allows tracking over much greater distances with no need for a Bluetooth iPhone connection nearby.

Designed to Be Pet-Safe

Reputable pet trackers are designed specifically with pet safety in mind. This includes:

  • Durable, chew-proof construction
  • Secure, comfy collars or harnesses
  • Waterproofing
  • Being sized too large to swallow
  • Backup battery power

This prevents the major risks of using improvised AirTags on pets.

Offer Advance Tracking Features

Top pet trackers provide advanced functionality like:

  • Activity and health monitoring
  • Temperature alerts if trapped
  • Custom geofences and alerts
  • Night tracking lights
  • Lost pet recovery support

AirTags provide none of these helpful features purpose-built for pets.

4 Reasons to Avoid AirTags for Pets

Avoid Airtags For Pets

Based on all the evidence, our recommendation is not to use AirTags as substitutes for real pet trackers. Here’s why:

1. AirTags Are Not Designed for Pet Tracking

AirTags are designed and optimized for locating lost items, not living animals. Using them outside their intended purpose introduces problems and risks.

2. AirTags Are Not Safe Enough for Pets

The small button battery poses a major choking and poisoning risk if swallowed. And the lack of durability makes them easy to damage and lose.

3. AirTags Are Unreliable for Finding Lost Pets

Sporadic, outdated location reports make AirTags ineffective for tracking pets once lost. You likely won’t receive any location updates when needed most.

4. Dedicated Pet Trackers Are Superior in Every Way

For only a bit more money, purpose-built pet trackers like the Whistle GO Explore are safer and vastly more reliable. This small investment is worthwhile to protect your beloved companions.

What Should You Use to Track Your Dog Instead?

While AirTags are risky and unreliable for pets, there are much better solutions available to give you peace of mind.

The best Apple alternative is adding your dog as a family member with Apple’s Find My app on an old iPhone. This provides direct GPS tracking and cellular data connection without the need for a nearby stranger’s iPhone.

Our top recommendation is investing in a dedicated GPS pet tracking collar designed specifically to be safe, secure, and provide direct, real-time tracking over long distances.

Look for the following features in a high-quality GPS pet tracker:

  • Direct GPS location tracking
  • Cellular data/radio connection
  • Rugged, waterproof construction
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable, secure fit
  • Activity monitoring
  • Custom safety alerts
  • Lost pet recovery assistance

Two of our top-rated options are the Whistle GO Explore and Fi Series Collar. But there are a few different reputable brands to consider that meet the criteria above.

The small one-time investment brings peace of mind knowing you can locate your pet anytime, anywhere should they go missing or get lost on an adventure.

The Bottom Line

While AirTags may seem like an affordable alternative, the risks and unreliability make them a poor solution for most pet owners’ needs.

Investing in a purpose-built pet tracking collar is the safer choice to get dependable tracking with advanced features. This delivers the security and peace of mind all pet lovers deserve.

Popular no-fee options include the Jiobit and TabsCat.

Have you considered using an AirTag with your dog? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.