It's a tempting thought when you see Fido run off again into the long grass for the hundredth time: should I track my dog with an AirTag, Apple's small tracking device? It's become just one of the controversial uses for AirTags, with Apple not keen on promoting AirTag dog tracking, despite many, many dog owners doing so.
When Apple released the AirTag back in 2021, it was designed to be a simple little accessory to help you track your easy-to-lose items, such as keys, wallets, purses and bags, umbrellas, remotes, and more.
If you have an AirTag on these items and lose it, you can then use the Find My app to help locate the item with a useful compass that vibrates when you're close to it.
However, Apple has said numerous times that AirTag was meant for only tracking items, not people or even pets. For people, Apple encourages you to use one of the best Apple Watch models alongside the Family Setup feature.
Apple has anti-stalking measures in place to prevent an AirTag from being used to track people, but the same can't be said for pets. Apple's Kaiann Drance, VP of worldwide iPhone product marketing, once said, "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." It was an admission that it knows people use the devices in that way, but not an endorsement.
But just because Apple discourages using an AirTag to track your dog or cat, it isn't impossible. Just get one of those great AirTag accessories and hang it on your pet's collar. After all, it seems like a logical use case for an AirTag.
But why would Apple not encourage it?
Daryl and his wife Lauren adopted a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel called Jolly in 2022, and they have their fair share of experiences with AirTags and dog walks to see where Jolly is when he's sniffing in the bushes with his favorite ball.
Apple AirTag dog tracking and liability for your pet
It may be fair to assume that Apple discourages using AirTags on pets because they do not want to be held liable if anything unfortunate happens. By saying that an AirTag should not be used for this scenario specifically, Apple is no longer liable for anything that may happen while you use an AirTag to track pets. It can't stop you, but by actively NOT promoting it as a feature, the responsibility returns to the dog owner.
For example, if you put an AirTag on your dog and they accidentally escape from your garden, anything can happen from that point on. As sad as it is, many pets may get seriously hurt by a passing car, or simply lost for good.
In a case like this, someone may get mad that they couldn't find their dog with the AirTag before it got hit and may try to blame and sue Apple by claiming that the AirTag did not work in line with a promoted feature.
Or perhaps your dog or cat somehow got the AirTag loop attachment off them and made an escape. There would be no way to track them with an AirTag since it actually isn't on them, and it's suddenly too late. These are variables Apple can't control, and the company does not want to be implicated in a pet-related tragedy. That's not a good look.
You could still use an AirTag as a dog tracker, to Apple's dismay
Again, Apple has distinctly said that they don't encourage it, but if you do, just hope that your pet gets into range of an Apple device in the Find My network so that its location can be tracked down. Being in range of a Find My network device is far more likely than you may initially assume.
There is almost a billion devices in the Find My network. It's much easier to find someone with an iPhone, iPad, or even a Mac (no additional downloads required) than it is to find someone else with a Tile or other competing item tracking product. Let alone a dog that can't actively communicate that it's lost.
Plus, when someone does find your dog or cat, they can (hopefully) see the AirTag on the collar (along with a regular pet tag, of course), and tap it with their own iPhone or even an NFC-enabled Android device to contact you if it's put into Lost Mode. And even if your pet is skittish around other people, just wandering past another Apple device can let you see where they were at, making it a little easier to track them down. It's definitely been a nice extra layer to the other necessities, like a standard microchip and dog or cat tags, in case they accidentally get out.
I use an AirTag with my dog Jolly, and even though he never leaves our side, there's always the fear of that one scenario happening. What if gets too excited in a park for example, and we can't find him at all? So for one AirTag under $99, it's worth every cent.
Still, just know that if you put an AirTag on your pet, you're pretty much doing so at your own risk. And I would strongly recommend looking into a high-quality AirTag loop or keyring accessory that will hold up to the constant movement of your pooch.
Are you AirTagging your pets?
Again, Apple doesn't encourage using an AirTag for tracking your pet just to cover its own butt, really, just in case anything happens. After all, plenty of folks out there these days just don't want to take accountability when something happens and like to pin the blame on the company that made the product involved. In this case, it would be Apple. It's really just Apple being proactively defensive against PR disasters — honestly, any other smart business would do the same as well.
Of course, just because Apple said you shouldn't do it doesn't mean that people won't try. You can find tons of third-party AirTag accessories designed specifically to be used with your current dog or cat collar. Just know that if something happens to old Rex, Apple won't be the one responsible.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.
Q: Why doesn't Apple want you to track your dog with an Air Tag?Reply
A: Perhaps to persuade the more gullible MacAlytes to attach a cellular-GPS Apple watch to their dogs' collars, thereby increasing Apple's already obscene profits. Tim Cook smiles.
Also, have you considered if your pet eats the AirTag? That's also a possible scenario that I don't want to imagine!Reply
I currently use my AirTag with my dog which inside her harness that has pocketsReply