AirTags Are the Perfect Dog-Tracking Device — With the Right Accessory

AirTags Are the Perfect Dog-Tracking Device — With the Right Accessory
Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo

Nina is a 9-year-old doggie from South Carolina who we adopted last March. She is also a runner. One evening, a week into her time with us, she wandered off for two days, freaking us out quite a bit.

She darted away again about a month ago. Thankfully a passerby picked her up and took her for a ride, eventually returning her when we posted about her on Facebook. She’s a wonderful little dog, but apparently, she’s a ramblin’ girl.

When AirTags came out a few weeks ago, I thought I had a solution. An always-on tracking device that can pinpoint Nina with relative accuracy sounded like a godsend — something, even with all its flaws, that would let me follow Nina during her next trip. I decided it was time to track my tiny, furry fugitive.

How to Attach An AirTag To Your Dog

Dog owners have dreamt of something like the AirTag for years. Dog GPS solutions have always been wonky and too large for most dogs, and the need for constant recharging is often a dealbreaker. Nina’s neck is too small to comfortably wear most of the GPS solutions. But AirTags don’t come with any accessories, and Apple’s AirTag key rings and loops aren’t exactly made for pets. So I needed to figure something else out.

My first stop was Etsy, where I found this little AirTag holder for $US12 ($15). It’s basically a plastic loop with a removable ring. It came in a few days and I put it on poor Nina, much to her consternation.

The tag worked, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted. After all, it was pulling her collar down too much and the tag was still too big for her smol body.

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

My neck! What have you done?

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

Photo: John Biggs/Gizmodo, In-House Art

We are not on speaking terms.

3D-Printing an AirTag Dog Tag

I checked Etsy for another solution. The next item that came up was this clever attachable tag that stayed flush to the collar. Then I noticed that the tag I had purchased was probably 3D printed, so I went on Thingiverse to find a potential solution.

The first one I found was this “low profile” model that clipped around the collar. I printed it in draft mode, which means it was thin enough to break if I need to get the AirTag out of it. It’s lucky that I did this because once the AirTag is in was in there, it was almost impossible to get out.

This tag was much more comfortable but had a fatal flaw: The prongs were too wide for Nina’s small collar. I opened TinkerCAD, the only 3D-modelling program I don’t suck at, and got to work.

Photo: Thingiverse Photo: Thingiverse

If you’re a professional 3D modeler, I apologise for what I’m about to show you. It’s a true embarrassment. That said, I added little nubbins to the prongs to make them slightly more compact.

Image: John Biggs/Gizmodo Image: John Biggs/Gizmodo

I forgot to add some plastic to close up the large gaps that would cause the tag to slide around on her collar, but by the time I realised I’d be in trouble with this solution, I was already printing the object.

Now I have two solutions for finding Nina in the wild. I will probably stick with the Etsy-bought tag for now as it seems like the most secure, but with a bit of tinkering, I’m sure I could get this 3D printed model to work properly. It is, in short, an embarrassment of high-tech riches.

If you really want to try my 3D-printed AirTag dog tag, you can download it from my Thingiverse. You can also download and print a tag similar to the one I bought, but I found the one from Etsy to be of far higher quality than anything I could get out of my older Makerbot.

In the end, I doubt Nina will ever force us to test the AirTag tag, as she’s quite comfortable these days laying on the couch, her bed, our bed, and our daughter’s bed. But when her toes start to itch and her legs get to wanderin’, we’ll be ready.