Dogs are becoming more of a family member, so it's important to always ensure their safety. Sadly, many dogs will become lost pets in their lifetime.

The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats go missing or are stolen in the U.S. every year. In light of such statistics, it is important to understand your options as a pet owner to ensure your furry friends are safe.

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The Early Days of Locating Pets

There was a time when all you could get for your pet's collar was an ID tag. The best you could hope for was that someone would find your dog and call the phone number on the pet collar to return your furry friend.

In the 1980's, micro-chipping for dogs and cats became the next big thing for pets. It is still a great idea to have your pet micro-chipped if they escape without a collar and go missing.

There are some steps you should understand as owners to ensure the process is successful. For example, someone will need to find your pet, take them to a vet or shelter, have the chip scanned, and then call you.

This places all the power in the hands of other people to find your pet. It should be noted, microchip scanners are not universal, and sometimes they are not able to detect a chip, which is unfortunate.

The Apple Device Known as The AirTag

The AirTag is a circular tracking device that attaches to items. Apple's VP of Marketing stated that it was "...designed to track items, not pets." The AirTag is small enough to fit in a wallet, purses, keys, articles of clothing, and is perfect to track items and not track dogs or pets.

Young man holding Apple AirTag in hand

How does the AirTag work?

The Apple AirTag must be put in “Lost Mode” through the Find My app on an iPhone or iPad. Once the AirTag is put in this mode, it can become discoverable when in the ~100 ft Bluetooth range of other iPhones.

It should be noted that an AirTag requires an iPhone 11 or greater and iOS 14.5 or later to use its “Precision Finding” feature. This feature allows you to get inches away from the lost AirTag but may not work well on a moving pet.

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Remote and Rural Areas

In remote areas with poor cell coverage, there is a chance that no one within the cell range will pass your pet, which means you will not get any updates.

Once the AirTag is out of Bluetooth range, the position of your lost item will not be displayed. It will need to connect to another iPhone, hopefully along your dog’s path. The AirTag may be a better fit for users in urban areas, as there is more cell service and phones in those areas.

While the AirTag is in Lost Mode, users can display their contact info to anyone who connects with the AirTag. This can be helpful if your dog or cat is picked up by a stranger. They now have your phone number to get in contact with you.

Other Features

The AirTag does have a built in speaker. This allows the Apple AirTag to emit a loud beep depending on how you use this feature in the Find My network. Although it may come in handy if you misplace your wallet in your car, it may possibly scare your pet.

This can make a heightened situation worse if your dog or cat is scared by the noise of the AirTag. The sound it emits is usually only helpful when tracking keys and not tracking pets.

You can also customize your AirTag with engraving free of charge through the Apple website. You can add an emoji or even text to the back of the AirTag. This can helps distinguish which AirTag is for what item or even what dog.

Apple AirTags, AirTag Leather Key Ring, engraved

Adding an AirTag to a Dog's Collar

​​As Apple AirTags are intended for tracking items rather than animals, you will need to find a way to properly secure the AirTag to your dog. They have been known to come off certain attachments and even digested by dogs because they are about the same size as a small coin.

There are many companies who make rings for the AirTag and it can be attached like other dog tags.  While the Apple AirTag is small, you should consider the additional weight you may be adding when it is attached to your dog’s neckband.

AirTag Measurements:

Diameter: 1.26 inches (31.9mm)

Height: 0.31 inches (8.0mm)

Weight: 0.39 ounces (11grams)

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AirTag Battery Life

One of the benefits of a device like the AirTag is battery life. Because it is based solely on a Bluetooth connection, the AirTag can maintain battery life for about a year. The battery can also be changed out. The battery inside the AirTag is a CR2032 coin cell battery.

AirTag Privacy

AirTags are locked to one Apple ID to prevent unwanted tracking, so you are the only one who will be able to locate your AirTag. This means, if you share a pet with someone, only one of you will have access to the AirTag location via the Apple ID login.

Are AirTags Waterproof?

AirTags are water resistant with a rating of ip67. The AirTag can be submerged to about 3 feet underwater for less than 30 minutes. So your dogs can splash around without disrupting how the AirTags work.

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GPS Pet Tracker vs Apple AirTags

The Apple AirTag has one main feature and that is to keep track of the AirTag when near an iOs device. This may work for some pet parents but for other owners who have different needs besides location tracking, pet owners should look to a GPS/LTE locating device.

There is a big difference between a GPS tracker and Apple AirTags when it comes to how they are connected and how they function. GPS pet trackers can be used for finding pets through GPS satellites and some need a cell connection as well. The biggest difference is that GPS pet trackers work independently to help track pets like a cat or dog.

It is important to note that AirTags do not use this technology. The AirTag uses Bluetooth to connect to nearby iOs devices like an iPhone to help you with locating things. They cannot update their coordinates of your misplaced keys unless they connect to an Apple User using one of their iOS devices.

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The Fi GPS Smart Collar

The Fi Smart Collar offers much more than a way to keep track of your dog. The location tracking device that Fi offers is not dependent on a cell phone being in range and works completely independently.

The Fi uses both GPS and LTE to track your dog. For example, once the device knows where it is, it sends that info to the owners via the Fi app. GPS stands for Global Positioning System and this is how the Fi can pinpoint it’s location. This location is then sent through the LTE cellular network to user's phones.

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Health Monitoring

As well as offering pet tracking, the Fi GPS tracker can also be used for activity monitoring. It can collect the daily step count your dog gets - even in the house. It will also keep tabs of the step totals so you can look back at previous months to compare.

The Fi GPS pet tracker will also record walks with your dog and will store the walks and the mileage in the app. This can be a helpful way to track and see how much exercise your dog is getting.

Fi also offers sleep monitoring, which shows how much your dog sleeps, as well as how often your dog naps. If you have an active dog, it is important to make sure they are also getting suitable rest as well as exercise.

Since the device can track activity and sleep, it then takes those measurements and offers a strain score. Fi’s Strain Score is a relative measure of a dog’s activity over its rest and sleep. Pet parents can establish a baseline for their dog to spot any health problems early on.

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Escape Notifications

The Fi tracker allows you to set up geofences around your home, office or anywhere in the US. It should be noted, the Fi will not stop your dog from leaving the area with a vibration, shock or noise.

When your pet leaves the designated geofence, you will be notified via text or from the Fi app via a push notification. These escape notifications can help alert you when you are away or even when you are home.

Adding Owners and Care Takers

You can also add different pet parents to the Fi app. This allows the tracker to connect via Bluetooth to other owner’s phones so it can specify who the dog is with. This makes it much easier to know who your dog is leaving with. You can also add dog walkers so they can track your dog when you are away from the house.

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Conclusion

Every pet owner has different needs. The Apple AirTag may work great for you if you are only looking for location tracking occasionally and are comfortable with relying on an iPhone being near your pet to send the location. The AirTag is also cheaper than all GPS/LTE collars which can be a plus for certain owners.

If you are looking for a pet that may be in a less populated area, a GPS/LTE collar like the Fi may be a better fit. The features offered go beyond location detection, giving you more peace of mind as a pet owner. Knowing more about your pet's day to day is a great way to ensure you are the best pet parent you can be and GPS collars can help with this.