If you own a dog then it is highly likely that your biggest fear is that one day your beloved canine companion might end up going missing. Maybe this is even something that you have experienced in the past. If so, then you will know just how devastating it can be – not to mention the crushing feelings of guilt that it is somehow your fault. It is because of this that keeping your dog safe should be one of your number one priorities.
Dog identification tags can help you with this task by providing anyone who might find your lost dog with a quick and easy way to get in touch with you and arrange to return your dog. They might not stop your pet getting lost, but if it happens then they can certainly increase the chances of you and your dog being reunited in a timely fashion! Let’s take a look at doggy ID with this guide that will explain all of the important points about ID tags for dogs.
What are dog identification tags?
Dog identification tags are fixed to your dogs collar in order to clearly identify the owner. They are usually metal and are engraved with the owner’s contact information so that lost pets can be easily returned. Many areas actually require you by law to have these tags affixed to your dog’s collar even if it is also micro-chipped.
Legal requirements around the world
The legal requirements pertaining to whether or not your Dog has to wear an identification tag will vary depending on where you live. Even within the same country the laws can vary between states or territories. If you are thinking of getting a dog then it is well worth checking with the local authorities or even your local vet what the legal requirement is in terms of identifying your dog by way of tags on his or her collar. As a general guideline, here are some of the requirements for different countries:
- United Kingdom – In the United Kingdom, dog owners are legally required to add the appropriate doggy ID onto their pet’s collar so that the animal can be easily identified if it is found away from the owner. The information required is a house name/number along with the postal code.
- United States – In the United States, dogs must legally be licensed. This is indicated with an engraved identification tag on the dog’s collar showing the owner’s contact details.
- Canada – In Canada, dog owners are required to secure a license and then add a tag to the pet’s collar with the license holder’s details engraved on it.
- Australia – In Australia, there is a legal requirement for dog owners to take their animal to the local council for registration when they are more than 3 months old. At this time the owner is issued with a council registration tag which must be worn on the collar. Owners may also choose to get an ID tag which can be worn alongside it and/or a microchip tag but these are optional whereas the council registration tag is not.
Choosing the right dog identification tags
There are a huge number of dog identification tags on the market and it can be very difficult to decide which one is the best to get for your dog. They are available in all manner of styles, shapes and materials that the choice can actually be fairly overwhelming. So, how exactly do you choose the right sort of tag to wear on your dog’s collar?
One of the first things that you need to look at is the material. Dogs are active animals and they enjoy rolling around and getting in among shrubs and trees while outside. This means that you need a hard wearing material that can stand up to a great deal of punishment over the years. Ideally you only ever want to have to replace your dog’s ID tag if the information on it becomes invalid, for example if you move house.
Metal is probably your best option. The most popular choices are nickel, brass and steel. They are all equally as good and fit for purpose so it really comes down to your own preference. I prefer nickel or steel because the silver color goes with the silver rivets on my dog’s collar, but you may prefer the golden color that brass offers. It is worth considering whether you or your dog has an allergy to a particular metal as well since it will always be touching the dog and you are also going to need to handle it at times.
You will also need to think about the style of the ID tag. The most common options are a flat disc or other shape with engraving on it, or alternatively you can choose a small tube that screws open to allow a slip of paper to be inserted containing your details. I would always advise the metal disc option since the tube or barrel style tags present an opportunity for the bottom half to become undone and then the paper can be lost.
This can happen of the dog is rolling around and manages to accidentally unscrew the two sections. In addition, it may not be instantly clear that this is an ID tag if the person who finds your dog is not used to that particular style.
However, you can avoid this by getting your dog tag from a reputable source. Not sure where? We have a great list of places to find the best dog tags for your pooch.
I mentioned that the metal disc style of tag is also available in a wide range of shapes. Circular discs are the most common, but you will also see plenty of hearts, bones, diamonds and other shapes. This is purely a style choice on the owner’s part! The only real consideration is making sure that the shape you chose has no sharp points which could hurt your dog if he or she leans on it awkwardly.
There are some designs that you may find just don’t suit your dog. For example, few people would choose a heart shaped tag for a dog, but may find it perfectly suitable for a bitch. Although depending on the breed you may find it is not a good choice for a bitch either. I can’t really picture a full grown Rottweiler with a sweet little love heart tag!
On the topic of breeds, you are also going to need to consider the size of the ID tag in relation to the size of your dog. It should go without saying that a miniature dachshund is going to wear a far smaller tag than a Great Dane or a St Bernard so do think about the size carefully. It can be tough if you are buying a tag for a puppy as you know it is going to grow. Most owners get a small puppy sized tag and then purchase a new one as the dog reaches maturity. They are usually relatively inexpensive to purchase so this is not a massive expense.
In some areas, you may be issued with a tag when registering your dog. However, you may not necessarily have to use that particular tag. It is worth asking if you are permitted to have custom dog ID tags engraved with the relevant information on them instead.
If you’re feeling particular crafty, you could actually make your own ID tags for your dog. Please take a look at our article on making your dog ID tags at home.
What information to include on custom dog ID tags
There is some debate about what information should and should not be included on your dog’s identification tag. The minimum information that should be included is as follows:
- A contact telephone number (preferably home and mobile numbers)
- Your Zip Code / Postal Code
- Your House Name/Number
That is all of the relevant information that is required for someone to return your dog to you if they find it wandering around having escaped or run off. Any additional information that you choose to add is completely optional. Some people choose to include the dog’s name on the tag, but opinion is divided on this. Many people believe that if the name is included, it can make it easier for someone looking to steal your dog knowing how to address the animal so that it responds.
However, other believe that providing the name will help a Good Samaritan trying to return your dog to comfort him or her. There is no requirement to include the dog’s name, so this one comes down to your own personal choice. I feel that even if a person knows my dog’s name, he probably would not respond to a stranger as he does with his family, so I include their names!
Many dog owners will also include a note to indicate that the dog is micro-chipped. This both tells the finder that they can take the animal to be scanned for complete information about the owner and warns a thief that the dog has identification that they cannot remove!
One thing that it is advisable not to include when ordering custom dog id tags is the owner’s surname. This is a security recommendation since a surname combined with the address from the tag could allow someone to commit identity fraud! If your dog has particular medical needs then it could also be helpful to include this or to add a medical alert tag.
Do I need ID tags if my dog is micro-chipped?
There is a growing popularity for having dogs implanted with micro-chip identification in the scruff of their necks. This is even becoming a legal requirement in some areas. However, it is important that dog owners understand that micro-chipping is not an alternative to wearing dog identification tags. It is best to think of a micro-chip as a backup in case the tag falls off or the dog slips out of the collar all together.
Micro-chip identification can only be read by police or veterinary practices who have the required equipment to scan the implant and get the information it contains. This means that if your dog is found and handed in then you are more likely to have some kind of finder’s fee or kennel charge for your dog’s accommodation while lost.
However, with a visible id tag, the finder may be able to simply return your dog direct to you instead which cuts out this in between time and potential expense. It is still wise to get a micro-chip as well since this is a non-removable form of id and only the registered owner is able to change the details making it a good fail-safe for if your dog is stolen, or if it loses the collar and tags.
Why are ID tags so important for my dog?
If we are being completely honest here, it is well documented that the legal requirement for dogs to be wearing identification is something that is not regularly enforced. In rural areas, nobody really minds one way or another. Even in rural areas more often than not it only becomes an issue of your dog bites someone or is otherwise causing a nuisance.
It is highly unlikely that you will be stopped in the street while walking your dog on a leash and asked to show the tags. In a recent study, only 33 percent of dog owners said that their pet actually has an ID tag. However, it is still illegal in most places to neglect to get an ID tag for your dog and the penalty can be a fairly hefty fine and the risk of having the animal confiscated. Is it really worth the risk when you could be getting custom dog ID tags for just a few bucks?
Some dog owners neglect to purchase an ID tag simply because they think they are too responsible to ever lose their dog! However, even if you have a perfectly trained dog who always walks on his leash, you could still end up losing your dog. Even the most well trained animals could get spooked and slip their collar, or someone could steal him from you.
He could escape from your yard after a visitor leaves the gate lying open. There are any number of scenarios where your dog could be lost. Having them micro-chipped or hanging an ID tag from their collar is not a guarantee that you will get your dog back, but it is without a doubt going to increase your chances. As an example, if your dog is genuinely lost rather than stolen and a kind person finds him and takes him home, seeing an ID tag gives them the chance to get in touch with you directly and arrange to get your beloved pet home to you.
Even if the tag came off somehow, if the dog has a micro-chip then the finder can take it to a shelter, a vet or a police station to have it scanned and then they will get in touch with you. You can learn about the procedure involved in our article about microchipping your dog. It never hurts to have a backup means of finding your dog.
However, if your dog is neither micro-chipped nor sporting an ID tag of some sort then neither the finder nor the authorities have much clue about how to reunite your dog with you. The best you can hope for is that he goes to local shelter and you see him advertised. Again, it just is not worth risking this when it is so easy to add identification to your dog’s collar.
In conclusion, as a dog owner it is your duty to make an effort to keep your pet safe and you can increase the chances of recovering your animal if it ever goes missing by ensuring that you carry out the appropriate registration process and by having the dog micro-chipped as well as wearing an ID tag of its collar.