LIFESTYLE

Microchips and Identification Tags: Don’t Lose Track of Your Dog

Lost dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Most dog owners have a very special relationship with their dogs. They are like children to many and almost all puppy lovers can agree on one thing – they couldn’t imagine a live without their furry best friends. Despite this, though, thousands of family pets go missing every year around the world and many of them are never returned to their families. It is a sad truth, heartbreaking, yet something that could happen to anyone.

A dog can easily get lost when you least expect it. Someone may accidentally leave the backyard gate open, the collar could break during a leash, the most reliable dog might spot something and run off during an off-leash walk or – god forbid – it could get stolen.

If such a thing happens – how will you get your dog back? You can’t do much to prevent these unexpected scenarios, but you can do several things in order to make sure your dog can be found and returned to you in case of an incident. It is in situations like these that microchips and identification tags become crucial.

This is the kind of situation where you want to be safe rather than sorry. You can of course make sure to never leave your dog unattended, never tie them outside of shops etc. etc. However, that is no guarantee and before you know it, an accident could occur. The important thing here is to help assure that when someone (hopefully) finds your dog, they will know who it belongs to and how to contact you.

There are a few different options when it comes to this, which is what we will look into here. Your dog can’t pick up a phone and call you if he or she gets lost, but someone else can. Provide your dog with the necessary tools to find their way back to you.

What is an identification tag?

An identification tag is a small badge, containing necessary information such as telephone number and home address, which you attach to your dog’s collar. It is there so that if your dog would happen to get lost, whoever finds him or her can easily figure out how to get in touch with you and return your dog to you. A dog without an identification tag is often hard (if not impossible) to identify, especially if you live in a bigger city.

Dogs also have the ability to cover large areas in short periods of time, so even if you live in a small town where everyone knows you and your dog, it is likely that your dog could have wandered to a nearby city by the time that it gets picked up. With that in mind, living isolated is no excuse not to provide your dog with an identification tag.

Compare it to writing your phone number on a child’s arm when going to the mall, just in case that child would somehow get away from you. How would you feel if your dog got lost, knowing there was no way for people to figure out whose dog it was? That is a situation you don’t want to find yourself in.

Identification tag

Identification tags are often made out of plastic or metal and can be purchased in pet stores as well as online. Many manufacturers and retailers allow you to choose the shape (heart-shapes, circular and dog bone shapes are common) and sometimes also color, so that you can get a tag that suits your- and your dog’s personality and style.

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to an I.D. tag. Make sure you’re getting the right one by reading our guide on dog identification tags.

The price for an identification tag can be anything from a couple of dollars and up. You decide for yourself what information you want on the tag, but it is advisable to include both phone number and home address, to make it as easy as possible for a stranger to help your dog home. Losing a dog is a very scary experience, so you will want it to be over as soon as possible. For the tag to serve its purpose it is important that you keep it on your dog whenever you go outside. You never know when a simple walk around the block could turn into a disaster.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a small magnetic chip that is inserted under the dog’s skin, usually somewhere in the neck area. It is no bigger than a grain of rice, so you can imagine how tiny it actually is. The chip contains a unique code that is registered to you, so that when scanned and typed into an online database, your contact information will appear. Scanners are most commonly found at veterinary offices, but it makes it possible for anyone finding a dog to bring it to their nearest vet to have it checked for microchips. This is almost always done for free.

How does microchipping work

There are some countries (such as in Scandinavia) where micro-chipping is mandatory, which has proven to reduce the number of unidentified and homeless dogs. In these cases all puppies are required to be chipped before a certain age, as an attempt to keep track of all dogs currently living within the country. This does not mean that everyone follows the law and microchips their dogs, but it is a step in the right direction towards making sure that no dogs get separated from loving families.

In North America microchips aren’t yet mandatory, but they are an option available for responsible dog owners looking to take any precaution possible when it comes to keeping their pooches safe. There are certain countries where microchips are as good as unheard of, making dog owners completely reliable on the identification tag. For those with the option to microchip, however, it is an opportunity that should be jumped at.

Unsure as to whether microchipping is worth it? Take a look at our article on the benefits and costs of GPS tracking your dog, with the options for internal and external chip tracking.

Microchip for dogs

Micro-chipping a dog tends to cost anywhere between $20 to $100 dollars, depending on where you choose to have it done, and it is a relatively simple and pain free procedure. It takes no more than a few seconds for a trained hand to insert the microscopically small microchip and many dogs don’t notice it at all. On some dogs you can actually feel the microchip sitting underneath the skin when touching the area, but in most cases the last you will ever see of it is before the veterinarian inserts it.

The microchip will then stay there for the rest of the dog’s life, making it a security measure that cannot come off. It is completely harmless to have your dog micro-chipped, it is also a painless procedure. The area where it is inserted can sometimes be a bit swollen after the procedure, but it should go down within the next few days and it therefore should not be a cause for concern.

While many dog owners tend to refrain from taking their dog to the vet unless absolutely necessary, this is a time when an exception should be made. It does not have to get expensive, but just to be on the safe side, make sure you ask your local vet first to see how much they charge. Some vets are more expensive than others, so if your veterinarian is a little out of your price range – keep on looking. Check with shelters and such to see if they can help you, or at least if they can refer you to a financially friendly option.

Choosing between an I.D tag and a microchip

The answer here is quite simple. If you are one of those puppy parents ready to do anything in order for your pup to get to spend the rest of their life with you – don’t choose. Get both. A microchip is a life-long guarantee that it will be possible to identify your dog if he or she gets lost. A collar with an identification tag can easily come off, break, you might forget to put it on one day or the tag itself might fall off without you noticing.

It is also easy for a thief to remove a collar and an identification tag, so that they can either keep it for themselves or sell it with the purpose of making money. Then what?

Micro-chipping your fur baby is not something that can come off or that a thief can have undone, which gives you the reassurance that there will always be something that ties your dog to you. Most vets perform routine microchip checks when treating dogs, so even if someone will have taken in your dog in good faith, it is likely that it will eventually be discovered that the dog actually belongs to you. When hope might be lost for the identification tag to help bring Fido home, there is still hope for the microchip to do the job.

Dog collar tag

With this said, the identification tag is not to be overlooked. The best thing you can possibly do for your dog is to have it micro-chipped, as it is permanent, but to also make sure it has a collar with a reliable I.D tag attached to it. That way, if your puppy makes a run for it, chances are you will get him back fast. It takes time bringing a dog to the vet for a microchip check, while a tag allows finders and good Samaritans to contact you right away with the information provided.

Also, not everybody knows about microchips, so there is always a risk that the finder won’t think of bringing the dog in for a check. If so, having an I.D tag will help them find you.

Have your dog micro-chipped as soon as possible, if it hasn’t been chipped already. Many shelters provide their dogs with chips before adopting them out, and some offer micro-chipping for dog owners at an affordable price. If this isn’t available to you, contact your local vet to see what their procedure looks like and how much they charge. If that microchip can save your dog it is probably worth a few dollars, don’t you think? It is a considerably small price to pay for the safety and well-being of your forever loyal fur friend.

You will thank yourself if your dog would ever get lost and so will your dog. Add a customized identification tag for a couple of dollars more and you can rest assured that you have done everything you can to prepare yourself for an unfortunate incident. Some say that you can never do enough, but you should at least do your absolute best.

Other things you can do to prevent loss

Yes, there is always more things you can to do help your dog find its way back to you in case it would ever get lost. Don’t be one of those dog owners that never get their dog back because they didn’t bother to go that extra mile. It is so easy to postpone these types of things as people tend to think that bad things only happens to others, and not to them. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case. Instead, such a philosophy won’t do you any good and it definitely won’t benefit your dog, should he or she get separated from you.

  • Write your phone number on the dog’s collar (on the inside if you don’t want for it to show) and on your dog’s harness if you use one. This should not replace any of the above mentioned security measures, but it makes a good addition. If the tag should come off, you can rely on the writing on the collar. Should the collar come off as well, there is still the microchip. It is always good with a backup, and it is even better with two.
  • Replace collars and leashes every once in a while. As much as you love that leash you have had since you first brought your puppy home, leashes wear out and a worn-out leash can easily break. For that reason it is a good idea to go over your dog’s leash and collar on a regular basis to check for tears and signs of old age, and to replace them as needed.
    The last thing you want is for your leash to snap in half when your dog spots a rabbit or a cat they they would want to chase. Sometimes it can take less than a second for a dog to go from walking nicely next to you, to disappearing around the nearest corner.
  • Keep a high-quality photo of your dog in your wallet. It will help you to act fast if you lose your dog, as you can talk to people on the streets and ask them to keep an eye out for your pup. By showing them a picture you give them an idea of what to look for, yes, but you also help them relate to you and your situation. It is much easier to sympathize with someone you know – if so just from having seen them – than to sympathize with someone completely unknown. “I lost a dog” is nowhere near as powerful as an “I lost THIS dog.”
    It could also be a good idea to keep a few photos at home or even a pre-printed (or pre-designed) Lost Dog poster. Time is everything after losing a dog, and the sooner you can get the word out – the better.

If you are reading this, then you are probably looking into the best ways of keeping your dog safe. You care and that is important. Dogs are almost entirely dependent on their humans to make these kinds of decisions for them, as they themselves often have the innocence of a child. They won’t consider pros and cons before running after that cat, before walking out through a door left open or before going with that stranger who feed them their favorite treats.

Even with all these preparations in place, there are steps you can take to finding your lost dog before someone else does. Here’s a great article on the steps you can take to finding your lost dog.

It is up to you, as their person and best friend, to do everything you can in order to prevent them disappearing or getting lost. Should it happen anyway, it is incredibly important for you to have taken the proper precautions in order to bring your pup back. Don’t let your dog become another anonymous number in the statistics mapping out the dogs that disappear every year without ever coming back.

Happy dog at home

There is only so much we can do, and sometimes things happen that are out of our control. Micro-chipping, I.D tags and such won’t stop things from going wrong, but at least then we will know that we did everything we could to protect them. There are times when our very best is the most we can do, so make sure you do at least that.

Schedule a time with your vet for micro-chipping and go down to your local pet store to order a brand new identification tag. Perhaps pick up a new leash and collar too, once you are at it. It is safe to assume that most pet owners would rather pay the extra money rather than to risk losing their best friend. Now the question is – would you?

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Seth Weaseley

    Every owner should put a tag or microchip on their dog! It’s safer that way and it might save your dog one day!

    • John Walton

      I could not agree more, Seth!

  • Melinda Green

    Besides microchipping your dog, it’s very very important to update the information as well! Contact the manufacturer/company to get it done the moment something has happened and make sure that the information is updated! Better safe than sorry!

    • John Walton

      This is true, Melinda. Some pet parents are too complacent that they don’t update the information. It is really important to encode the correct and updated information because this speeds up the search and identification process.

  • Jem Stark

    Don’t forget that a dog tag is also important, so remember to attach one in your dog’s collar. I recently read that AAHA has a Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. I just entered my pet’s microchip number and a list of
    companies will be provided to see where it has been registered. Althoughnot every company is listed, just the more popular ones. For dog owners here, what are your experiences with microchips?

    • John Walton

      Indeed, dog tags with updated information encourages easier identification. Microchip online registration may not cover the entire database, but it will significantly help the faster tracking of your dog should it stray away.

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