This post is written by guest author, Britt Kascjak, from Shed Happens.
All Pet Voices may receive commissions from products included in this article.
In North America, a family pet is lost every 2 seconds! As a pet parent, we would all like to believe that we will never be in that stressful situation, however, accidents happen. Even to the best pet parents.
Let’s look at why you should make pet identification a top priority and how to choose the best types of identification for your dog.
July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, a time when we focus on sharing preventative steps that pet parents can take to prevent their pet from getting lost as well as increasing their chances of bringing their pet home safely if something were to happen.
The different forms of identification readily available can be divided into two categories – removable (or temporary) forms of identification and permanent forms of identification. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you need to look at the pros and cons of each option and select the best form(s) of identification for your dog and lifestyle.
To help you make your decision, we are going to take an in-depth look at the most popular forms of pet identification currently on the market.
Removable Forms of Pet Identification
Hanging ID Tags
The most common form of identification on a dog, standard hanging collar tags, are the first thing that most people will look for if they come across a loose dog. There are many different colors, sizes, and styles of these tags, allowing you to customize your dog’s tag to match their unique style and personality. Some tags will include all your emergency contact information on a single side while others have your dog’s name on one side and your contact information on the back.
ID tags are often combined on a dog’s collar with other important identification including your dog’s license tag and rabies tag. This can lead to some sound while your dog is moving about, and the tags are bouncing off one another. However, if you are bothered by the sound, there are tags available with rubber bumpers around the sides, silencing them.
These are low-cost and readily available at most pet stores, making them an easy solution. Most veterinarians and pet care professionals will recommend that you use an identification tag in combination with other forms of ID.
Note: While these are a great option for situations where your dog may get loose and be found by a stranger, they are not going to prove ownership of your dog in a situation involving dog theft. In these cases, the thief can simply remove the collar, removing the tags with it.
Temporary Hanging Tags
If you are on vacation with your dog and will be staying for a length of time in one spot, you may wish to use a temporary hanging tag for the duration of your stay. These tags are an even lower cost than a standard hang tag and your contact information is handwritten on the tag.
This is a popular approach among the RV and camping community while staying in parks and campgrounds. When staying outdoors, you don’t always have reliable cell phone service to ensure that someone can contact you if they were to locate your dog. By using a temporary hanging tag, you can add your campsite number to your dog’s existing identification to make it easier to reach you and bring your dog back where it belongs.
Slide-On or Rivet-On Flat Tags
For some dogs, the standard hanging tag simply isn’t a working solution. This is common among those who tend to get their tags caught throughout the day, pulling the tag free from the small ring that attaches it to the collar. Additionally, the sound of ID tags jingling together can be incredibly annoying. To avoid these problems while still maintaining an easy-to-read form of identification, you can swap out hanging tags for slide-on style tags or rivet-on tags.
Slide-on tags are flat or slightly rounded tags with brackets or loops on each side to hold the tag flat against your dog’s collar. Similarly, rivet-on tags sit flat against the collar, however, they are held in place on the collar with a rivet on each side.
Unlike the hanging tags, these options only allow for engraving on one side of the tag (as the other side is held firmly against the collar out of view). While they are less likely to get caught and pulled free from the collar, they can still be removed easily during a dog-napping situation and therefore should not be relied on as the only form of identification.
Smart Tags and QR Codes
Another form of hanging identification, smart tags leverage modern technology to provide information about your dog. Many smart tags display a QR code that can be easily scanned with your cell phone, pulling up information from the company’s database including not only your dog’s name and emergency contact information, but also important medical information if they require a trip to the vet for immediate care. Some smart tags will include a small USB or micro-USB built into the tag that can be plugged into your laptop or tablet to reveal the information that has been stored on it.
These tags are subject to the same concerns as standard hanging tags in that they can be pulled free from the collar or removed with the collar. However, they do offer some additional benefits. Unlike hang tags or slide-on/rivet-on tags, your dog’s information can easily be updated without having to purchase a new tag using the company system. They also allow you to include significantly more information to allow for better care of your dog when they are located.
Less common than the standard tag system, identification barrels are an older form of pet identification that can still be seen occasionally today. These small metal or plastic cylinders can be opened by unscrewing one side of the barrel, revealing a small slip of paper with all your dog’s important information. This form of ID allows you to include all the additional medical information without relying on the person who finds your dog having a smartphone or other device readily on hand.
The Undercollar is a soft, stretchy cotton band that fits comfortably around your dog’s neck providing reliable identification both with or without a collar. These simple bands have no D rings or connectors to use with your leash and should not be used as a substitute for their collar. Instead, the thin band can be worn comfortably around the house or underneath your dog’s regular collar without causing irritation.
Unlike most of the other options on this list, the Undercollar includes 2 forms of identification in one. A QR code and phone number is visible on a tag stitched onto the side of the collar while a customizable tag allows you to write your dog’s name and your phone number much like a standard ID tag.
Embroidered and Engraved Collars
Nylon, cloth, and leather collars can be personalized to include your dog’s name and emergency number, eliminating the need for an additional identification tag. The most common form of personalized collar includes your dog’s information embroidered along the length of the collar. It is recommended that this is done in a bold, contrasting color to make the collar easier to read.
Another common approach is to have a collar made with a metal quick-release buckle. The dog’s name and emergency contact information can then be engraved directly onto the buckle. The biggest concern with this option is simply that it’s not overly common which means that people will not necessarily know to check the buckle when looking for identification.
Both personalized collar options eliminate the need for an identification tag to be attached to the collar, making it an all-in-one solution. This is ideal for those that may be concerned that their dog will somehow remove and lose the identification tag in some way. However, like the tags listed above, this can easily be removed in the event of a dog-napping by simply discarding the dog’s collar.
Permanent Forms of Pet Identification
Gaining significant popularity in recent years, the microchip is the most common form of permanent identification. The chip is placed under the skin during a virtually painless procedure that is similar to a vaccination. These microchips, which are approximately the size of a grain of rice, are usually placed in the back of the neck or slightly further down, closer to the upper shoulder region by a veterinarian. They can migrate (or move to another location of the pet’s body) over time.
Each microchip manufacturer then keeps a registry associating the chip’s unique code number with your contact information. After the chip has been implanted, this contact information can be updated or amended simply by contacting the company. However, the fact that there is no visible reminder as one would have with a hang tag means that many people forget to update this information later in their pet’s life.
If your dog is lost and picked up by someone that doesn’t recognize him, the chip can then be read using a specially designed scanner at a veterinary office or animal shelter.
These microchips are safe for your pet, containing no batteries and only sending a signal of any form when they are being read by a scanning device. They are widely used across the United States and Canada, meaning that the person who locates your dog is likely going to know to check for one. For this reason, they have a high success rate in bringing dogs home safely and are highly recommended.
While tattoos are less common these days than microchips for those interested in a permanent form of identification, they have been used for this purpose for many years. Similar to the microchip, they work by assigning an identification number to the dog which is then tattooed on a part of the animal such as the inner thigh or belly. This is done under anesthesia to avoid pain or discomfort during the procedure for your pet.
Breeders can register purebred dogs with the American Kennel Club using the tattoo number, while all other dog owners can register their tattooed pets with companies such as I.D. Pet or the National Dog Registry.
The main reason that most people have moved away from the use of tattoos in favor of the microchip is the fact that the legibility of the tattoo can decrease over time. This would mean that even if the person who located your dog knows where to look for a tattoo (and your dog permits them to look), they may not be able to read it well enough to make an identification.
Pet tattoos also require a lengthier and more complex procedure than microchips.
Combine for Better Results
When it comes to choosing a form of identification for your dog, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. In fact, combining multiple options will only increase your chances of having your pet returned to you safely.
For example, many pet parents who have microchipped the dogs and cats will still add an identification tag of some form to their collars. If you know that your pet is considered a ‘flight risk’ (meaning that they will take off if given the opportunity), you may even want to include an undercollar as a third option. That way, if your pet does manage to slip their main collar or somehow lose their identification tag, there is a backup in place.
Whatever you decide in terms of identification, don’t forget to manage it moving forward. This means checking tags and collars for wear and tear regularly and replacing them if needed. You want to make sure that the contact information is still legible as well as double-checking that the collar is still in good shape.
Any time that you change your phone number or move, updating your pet’s emergency contact information on their tags, collars, and various contact registries should be a top priority. If you aren’t sure whether your information is currently up to date, don’t hesitate to contact and verify what contact numbers and/or health information they have on file.
What form(s) of identification do you use with your dog? We would love to hear about which options you chose and why you decided to go in that direction in the comments below!
About the Author: Britt is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs Daviana and Indiana and their 2 cats Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.