Written by By Stephanie Gibeault, MSc, CPDT for AKC.ORG
It happens every day. Dogs escape from the yard, slip their leash, or in some way go missing. There are steps you can take to find your lost dog, but part of being a responsible dog owner is ensuring your dog can be identified and returned to you if you ever get separated. In fact, it’s important the person who finds your lost dog can get in touch with you as easily as possible. The harder it is for people to identify you and your dog, the less likely your dog will make it home. A dog ID tag is essential, but it’s not enough on its own. Read on for more information about the various ways of identifying your dog, how they work, and what they cost.
They might be low tech, but a collar and ID tag are your first line of defense against losing your dog. They are the universal symbol that your dog has a home and family. The person who finds your dog might not even be aware of the other forms of ID like microchips for dogs or tattoos. Therefore, your dog should always be wearing a collar with ID whenever it’s safe to do so.
Space on an ID tag is usually limited to 2-4 lines of text, so choose your information carefully. For example, if your dog has a serious health condition, that might be more important to include than your dog’s name. Some key items to consider including are:
Your dog’s name.
Your phone number(s) with area code.
Medical and/or behavioral issues.
Alternative phone number such as your veterinarian or pet sitter.
ID tags are relatively inexpensive. Including engraving, you can get a dog tag for under $10. Of course, there are fancier versions available. Another option is a personalized collar that has your phone number or other information embroidered into the fabric.
High Tech ID Tags The benefit of a dog tag is that it can be read without needing special equipment. But technology hasn’t ignored the dog market. For a few bucks more than a regular ID tag, you can purchase a USB dog tag. There are also tags with QR codes. When somebody reads the code with their phone, they are taken to a website with a profile containing your dog’s information. Such a service will likely require a monthly subscription fee. Finally, there are GPS smart collars that allow you to track your dog’s location with an app on your phone. They cost under $150 but do require an additional fee for the monthly service plan. However, other people can’t read/use the collar and the battery life is a factor. Microchips Collars can fall off and tags can break, leaving your dog without ID. That’s why your dog should have permanent backup identification as well. A microchip is a fantastic option that costs around $50 including the one-time registration fee. Although they sound like something from a science fiction movie, microchips are safe and reliable. They are quite small, about the size of a grain of rice, and are implanted between your dog’s shoulder blades. The procedure is much like a vaccine injection – quick and almost painless. Once the chip is in place, your dog has a lifelong and internationally recognized method of identification. However, the microchip doesn’t contain any information about you or your dog. It simply has a unique ID number that you have to link to your information. That means you need to register the number with a pet registration service (see more below) and provide them with all your contact details. You can’t track your dog using the microchip. It isn’t a GPS device. But whenever your pet is scanned with a handheld microchip scanner, such as at the vet or animal shelter, the ID number will come up. Then the person scanning your dog can look up the number in the associated pet registration service. The scanner doesn’t hurt your dog. It simply reads the microchip and your dog won’t even notice. Tattoos Another way to permanently ID your dog is a tattoo, usually applied under the ear or on the belly or inner thigh. The tattoo is a code of numbers and letters that is then registered with a pet registration service. It generally costs under $100 for the application of the tattoo plus the registration fee. Unlike a microchip, the tattoo can be read without special equipment. It’s there for anybody to see. At least if they know to look for one. However, a vet or specialist must apply the tattoo, and your dog may need to be sedated. In addition, the tattoo can fade over time or become overgrown with fur. It may also be more difficult to ensure the tattoo code is unique to your dog. This isn’t an internationally traceable form of ID like a microchip. Finally, thieves can easily alter the tattoo. With the ease and safety of microchips, they are often considered a preferable option over tattooing. Pet Registries Both tattoos and microchips rely on registering your pet with a pet registration service like AKC Reunite. The registry maintains a database of your information, so if you move or change phone numbers it’s essential that you update your info with the registry. (Your pet doesn’t need a new microchip or tattoo.) When your pet’s ID number is entered into the database, your contact information will pop up and your pet can be returned to you.
AKC Reunite links all your dog’s ID information like tattoo code or microchip number under your dog’s AKC registration number. They also provide you with a custom collar tag that is printed with your dog’s registration number and their toll-free pet recovery service phone number. When anybody calls the number to report finding your dog, the service will call, email, and text you immediately. There are no annual fees for the service, and for only $17.50 it provides lifetime protection.
Purchase Dog Tags and IDs
Microchip with Tag
This single ISO+ pet microchip comes in a ready-to-use, pre-sterilized syringe and includes a collar tag. These devices should be used only as directed and only for their intended use. The microchip should be administered by or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian and in accordance with any state and local statutes and regulations applicable to microchips and their implantation.
Smart Dog Collars & GPS Collars
Standard Collar Tag