With all the reasons that dogs run away, investing in a pet tracking device makes a ton of sense. It’s how you can take a more active role in keeping them safe – and ensure your peace of mind as a pet parent. So browsing through Google, you might’ve come across Apple’s latest item finder, the AirTag. Which might make you wonder: can you use the Apple AirTag for dogs? How effective is it in finding and tracking your dog if they run away?

Here’s our take: the Apple AirTag is a Bluetooth tracker built for tracking items. Not pets. Despite its perks, it’s not the best choice for tracking dogs. When it comes to keeping your buddy safe, you’re best off with a dedicated dog GPS tracker that provides unlimited range and real-time tracking.

Still wondering whether AirTag for dog tracking is an option for you? Keep reading.

Can you find your dog with just a microchip or ID tag?

Many dog parents think that a microchip or ID tag are enough to help them find their lost dog. (Like, for example, Amazon Ring’s Pet Tag.) While both of these are valuable in their own way – they don’t actively help you find a missing pet. Rather, these only help you identify them if they get lost. On the other hand, a GPS tracker where you can track your dog live helps you take a more active role in actually finding them safe and sound.

With a microchip or ID tag, for example, you’d need to:

  • Wait until someone finds your dog, who then…
  • takes them to a vet, who then has to…
  • scan your dog’s microchip and then…
  • contact you regarding your lost pet.

Which, if you ask us, is way more time, energy, and worry than if you invest in a GPS tracker where you can track your dog in real-time. And in a world where dognapping is on the rise, simply a microchip is no guarantee you’ll actually get your dog returned to you.

Why a GPS tracker = greater peace of mind for dog parents

With a dedicated dog tracker, you can see your dog’s location updated on an app on your phone in real-time. Not to mention, most work globally (thanks to the G in GPS) wherever there is cell coverage. So not only do GPS dog trackers help you find a lost dog immediately – but they can actually prevent lost dogs in the first place. A win-win for pet parents looking for peace of mind.

Tractive is a popular manufacturer of GPS trackers for dogs and cats. Connecting with mobile networks across 175 countries and operating on a unlimited range, it’s built to encourage your dog’s independence and curiosity – and also your peace of mind as a dog parent. So you can track your dog wherever they roam – and wherever you are in the world.

packaging of the Tractive GPS DOG tracker

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

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Note: AirTag is not a GPS dog tracker. So what are they even – and can they work as a GPS for dogs?

What is an Apple AirTag?

Released in 2021, the Apple AirTag is a tiny item-tracking device designed to help you locate easy-to-lose personal items like keys, bags or wallets. Importantly, AirTags are Bluetooth trackers – they don’t have any GPS functionalities meant for finding pets. Rather, they connect to the Bluetooth functions on your Apple device to update your lost item’s location. (And not GPS.)

An AirTag contains a replaceable battery, built-in speaker, and Bluetooth, as well as Apple’s U1 chip. It’s compatible with iOS devices and allows you to keep track of items in the Find My app. (Which already means it’s not an option for Android or Samsung users.)

  • The AirTag has a diameter of 1.26 inches (around 3 centimeters) and a height of 0.3 inches (8 millimeters.)
  • It weighs less than a pound (11 grams.)
  • A single AirTag is available on Apple’s website for $29, or you can purchase them in a 4-pack for $99.

Apple AirTag is the ideal solution for finding your lost keys, for example, in a busy downtown coffee shop. Or finding your jacket when you’re leaving a house party full of people with iPhones. Aka, it limits you to a network of fellow Apple device users, in case you lose an item.

airtag and accessories on a wooden table

How do AirTags work for dogs?

Again, AirTags aren’t GPS trackers. Which means you can’t use them to track your dog in real-time. But you wouldn’t be the first dog parent to wonder if attaching one to your dog’s collar might keep them safe if they go missing.

So here’s how AirTags work in general, and how you could potentially use them to track your missing dog.

How AirTags work

  • As your dog wanders around, their AirTag sends out a Bluetooth signal.
  • This signal gets picked up by compatible Apple devices within range.
  • Those devices then send their location data along with the AirTag’s identifying data to Apple servers.
  • You can then log into the Find My app to view your dog’s AirTag’s approximate location.
A dog running in an open field

Using AirTag for dogs

To use AirTag to track dogs, you could start by connecting the AirTag to your Apple device and attach it to your dog’s collar or harness. Just be careful – AirTags don’t come with their own attachable collar. You’ll have to invest in your own attachment or flush to secure it better.

When you need to locate your dog, open the Find My app to view your dog’s location. If necessary, you can “Ping” the AirTag – it will make a sound that helps you find it.

If your dog runs too far away, they won’t be in your range anymore. In that case, you can activate “Lost Mode” to get notified if your dog is near another Apple user. Other people can tap the AirTag to see your contact information and get in touch with you.

Benefits of using AirTags for dog tracking

If you’re already an Apple user and a dog parent, you might love the idea of using AirTag to keep tabs on your furry friend. After all, it’s a convenient, affordable, and easy way to have a second pair of eyes on your dog at all times.

Here are a few of the benefits of using AirTags to track your dog:

  • Price – AirTags are cheap at $29 apiece, and they don’t require a monthly subscription.
  • Battery Life – The replaceable battery of an AirTag lasts about a year, so you never need to worry about charging it.
  • Size – AirTags are small and lightweight, so they won’t bother your dog.

Besides that, AirTags can be engraved, and they’re water- and dust-resistant. (All of which are benefits you could get with a dedicated GPS tracker as well.)

woman sitting on yellow chair with a dog and iphone

At the same time – Apple doesn’t even market AirTags specifically for pets. Ever wondered why?

Why doesn’t Apple market AirTag for dogs?

Apple does not recommend using AirTag for tracking dogs. In fact, the tech giant has repeatedly stated that AirTag is meant for tracking items, not pets or people. So for now, tracking your dog with an AirTag is considered off-label use.

There are a few theories as to why Apple does not support AirTag’s use for tracking dogs. Most likely, Apple does not want to be held responsible or liable to people who have trouble finding their dog with AirTags. And it makes sense: they didn’t create the product for the purpose of tracking dogs, so they don’t want people to rely on it for that end.

Officially, Apple’s VP of worldwide iPhone product marketing, Kaiann Drance states that if people strap on an AirTag to a pet’s collar, “…they just have to make sure that their moving pet gets into range of a device in the Find My network.”1 So that it can pick up the AirTag’s Bluetooth signal and notify you accordingly.

Which, if you think about it, doesn’t make much sense. If your dog has run away – how are you supposed to make sure they enter Bluetooth range? Puppies, untrained dogs, dogs with separation anxiety or a high prey drive can often bolt at the slightest sight, sound, or smell. (Or if they’ve smelled a dog in heat nearby.) And when they’re especially motivated, dogs can cover miles within minutes.

A dog running away into a forested area

So if you decide to track your dog with AirTag, keep in mind that it might not work as expected.

Apple AirTag Range: How far can an AirTag track a dog?

Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t released any information on the official tracking range of AirTags.  AirTags use Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband technology, which have an effective range of about 10-25 meters1. Apple devices within that range of your AirTag should be able to pick up and report its location.

However, keep in mind that the actual tracking range of AirTag depends on how many Apple devices are nearby.

  • If you lose your dog in a crowded area full of other iPhone users, range probably won’t be an issue.
  • However, if your dog escapes in a more rural area – you’re more likely to have trouble tracking your dog with an AirTag.
  • In some areas, an AirTag might be completely unreachable.

The bottom line: AirTags operate on Bluetooth – which means they have limited range. Unlike popular GPS trackers for dogs which use GPS and mobile data to help you locate your dog over any distance.

“Much like the AirTag, your Tractive GPS tracker can use a short range radio to help determine your pet’s location. But unlike the AirTag, Tractive also uses mobile connectivity and GPS.

So even if your tracker is nowhere near another mobile device, it’ll still be able to send data to the Tractive servers. So you can quickly and easily see your pet’s location in the app.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

Here’s a quick distinction between GPS and Bluetooth trackers – and why the difference matters when it comes to keeping your dog safe:

GPS vs Bluetooth tracker range comparison infographic

Downsides of using AirTags for dog tracking

There are several important downsides of AirTags for dogs to consider.

  • AirTags don’t work everywhere – in a city, they might work great, but won’t be helpful in areas with no Apple users.
  • Swallow hazard – AirTags can easily be damaged and even swallowed by your furry friend.
  • AirTags aren’t dog trackers – they were made for tracking objects, not your curious canine.

Let’s take a look at each of these downsides in detail.

AirTags don’t work everywhere

Using AirTag for dogs, despite the advantages, has one major downside we can’t ignore. AirTags rely on a network of other Apple devices nearby in order to work.2 So if there aren’t any iOS devices within its range, your AirTag’s position won’t be reported.

In other words, if your dog could escape somewhere where there are no Apple devices around, AirTag should not be relied on for finding your furry friend.

💡The Tractive GPS, on the other hand, works across an unlimited range – so you can track your dog no matter where they’ve wandered off to. Besides, it’s perfectly compatible with iOS and Android devices alike.

Discover Tractive GPS

Swallow hazard: The danger of using AirTags for dog tracking

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal highlights another potential danger of using AirTags on dogs: the risk of being chewed or swallowed.

At only 1.26 inches in diameter, AirTags can easily be swallowed by medium or large dogs. In some cases, a dog may be able to throw up or pass an intact AirTag. But other times, surgery may be required. If the AirTag comes apart, it’s even more serious. The battery inside could cause damage to the dog’s mouth or stomach and could even lead to poisoning.

For this reason, if a dog swallows an Apple AirTag – it needs to come out as quickly as possible2.  Because of this hazard, vets have warned dog parents against using AirTags for dog tracking.

If you do use an Apple AirTag on your dog, secure it to the collar flush so that your dog can’t chew it. Avoid hanging the AirTag from the collar where it could be chewed off by your canine buddy or another dog.

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A post shared by The Wall Street Journal (@wsj)

💡Tractive devices, on the other hand, come with safety clips to help you attach it to your dog’s collar. So it’s secured against your dog’s neck – and less likely to fall off. (Plus your dog won’t even notice it.)

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AirTags are not GPS dog trackers

Lastly, AirTags and GPS dog trackers are not created equally. Since AirTag was built for tracking items, not living beings, it’s missing a lot of pet-friendly features that GPS dog trackers have built-in. So it won’t be able to stand up to your dog’s rough-housing, since it wasn’t designed for this purpose.

dog running through water outdoors

On the other hand, Tractive’s DOG XL Adventure edition comes with extra-tough, bite-proof fiberglass-enforced casing for bigger dogs who like their rough and tumble play.

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

Shop Dog Trackers

Should I AirTag or microchip my dog?

When it comes to AirTagging vs microchipping your dog, it’s important to keep in mind that an AirTag is not a substitute for a dog microchip.

  • AirTags can fall off, get lost or be swallowed, whereas microchips are implanted under the skin.
  • So a microchip is an important permanent solution to keeping your dog safe.

Vets recommend microchipping your dog, whereas they generally don’t recommend AirTags for dogs. And when it comes to tracking your dog and keeping them safe, experts agree that it’s better to use a GPS dog tracker than an Apple AirTag.

Why you should consider a GPS tracker over AirTag for dogs 

Dedicated GPS dog trackers were made for tracking pets, so they come loaded with tons of pet-friendly features. Not only that, but they use GPS, mobile, and other technologies to help ensure you can find your dog nearly anywhere, anytime. And over any distance.

man and woman and dog wearing GPS tracker outside posing

Here are some of the pawsome, peace-of-mind features that you can enjoy with the Tractive GPS Dog Tracker (not available on AirTag):

  • LIVE Mode: Find your furry friend with real-time location updates.
  • Unlimited Range: Track your dog or cat from anywhere in the world, no matter how far away you are.
  • Virtual Fence: Set a Safe Zone – like your garden – and get an alert if your pet leaves the area. Use No Go Zone to mark areas that aren’t safe for your dog (and get alerted if they go there too).
  • Location History: See where your buddy has been in the last 365 days (on a Premium subscription.) Tractive’s Location History has even saved the lives of dogs around the world – like Imogen, a high-energy Borzoi who crashed into the ice in a frozen lake nearby. From her tracker’s Location History, her mum was able to rescue her from freezing and drowning in no time.
  • Find Mode: Pinpoint your buddy’s location in close range. Great for locating your cat or dog inside the house – especially if they’re hiding more often than usual.
  • Activity & Sleep tracking + Health Alerts: See how active they are, monitor sleep patterns, spot health issues early, and set goals to help keep your four-legged friend in shape.
  • Power Saving Zones: Save on battery life in places where your buddy spends lots of time.

Moreover, GPS trackers are compatible with both Android and iOS devices, making them suitable for nearly every pet parent.

The right dog tracker could even save your dog’s life

Dog parents around the world are investing in Tractive’s life-saving technology to keep their buddies safe. Like the story of Happy, an off-leash Golden Retriever who ran off into the woods on his first hike.

Despite panicking, his mum Francesca immediately tracked him down with the help of Tractive’s LIVE Mode.

Two women hiking kneeling down next to golden retriever dog in a lake in the mountains

“Happy is a good dog and at the end of the day, he always comes back. Well, except the time I brought him for our first time to the Siusi Alps. These mountains are known for the intricate paths and the beautiful flora. I was there with Mac, Happy and my family when Happy got lost. Whether this happened because he went after a deer, or not, this is still not clear to me. What was clear is that he was gone.

Then I remembered that Happy had the GPS tracker clipped on. I immediately switched on the LIVE Tracking mode and started breathing more easily the closer I got to his position. I could follow his path, live, directly on my phone and the position was so accurate that… finally there Happy was, sipping water from the source on a mountain’s edge.”

– Francesca & Happy, Italy

Read the full story of Happy, Francesca, and how Tractive’s life-saving technology is keeping dogs and cats safe around the world.

Discover GPS Trackers For Dogs

So, can I use Apple AirTag on my dog?

Yes, you can. But is it the best choice? Probably not. Because when you think about it, the right tracker can make all the difference between finding your dog safe and sound – or possibly never seeing them again.

An Apple AirTag may help you locate your dog in some situations. But their downsides far outweigh any upsides:

  • Your AirTag will firstly only work in areas you’ll run into other Apple device users. Which limits both you and your dog’s range of movement.
  • Your dog might easily swallow their AirTag and require an expensive and thoroughly avoidable visit to the vet. (For surgery, that too.)
  • Since AirTags were made for tracking items, not pets, they’re less reliable than GPS dog trackers. Plus, you’ll miss out on a ton of pet-friendly features built for your peace of mind as a pet parent.

GPS dog trackers were designed for tracking and keeping your furry friend safe. So if you want to be able to find your dog anytime and get peace of mind – invest in a proper GPS tracker for dogs like Tractive GPS.

Here’s a review of the Apple AirTag for dog and cat tracking – and how it compares to GPS trackers like Tractive: