A lost dog can happen to anyone. No matter how careful you are, it can only take a moment for your beloved buddy to get loose off the leash or slip out of an open door. While your pet should be microchipped, dog identification tags are the best way to ensure your pooch gets returned to you if found by someone nearby (who may not be able to get to a veterinarian or a shelter).
If all your information is stamped right there on the tag, the Good Samaritan that finds your dog can easily contact you. You will be reunited with your lost dog much faster if your contact information is easily accessible to anyone that may find your pet. In order for a microchip to be read, the person who finds your dog would need to bring him to a vet, shelter, rescue organization or police station that has a microchip reader.
The info on the tag should include your name, your cell phone number and your city and state. It's best to put your full address if there is sufficient space on the tag. If your dog is microchipped, it’s a good idea to have a second tag stating the name and phone number of the microchip company.
Additionally, in many states licensing your dog and declaring him rabies free is mandatory by law, and can incur a fine if your dog is unlicensed. Attaching dog identification tags to your pup's collar is the simplest way to display that pooch permit. Here’s the lowdown on the different types of ID tags available and their pros and cons.
Dog Identification Tags: A Dog Owner’s Buying Guide
Hanging aluminum ID tags are pretty popular; they’re easily engraved, come in a huge range of shapes and colors, are sold in most pet stores and they’re inexpensive if you ever need a replacement. They’re usually attached to the collar with a split ring.
You can choose from lots of different styles, from simple circular or rectangular shapes to bone, house and paw shapes. You can even get military style dog tags and ones studded with rhinestones for the glamour-pup in your life! These types of dog identification tags are an easy way to let your pup express his unique style.
Most brands’ tags will be big enough for three or four lines of text, so you can have your name, phone number and address engraved on the tag. However, aluminum tags may not be the best choice for very active or outdoorsy dogs as the metal can get tarnished and the text can rub off. These are best for indoor dogs or short term use, like on vacations.
Stainless Steel Tags
Stainless steel tags come in many shapes and sizes just like the aluminum ones, and they can be engraved with all your important information. Because they are made of stainless steel, there’s no problem if they are exposed to rain or doggy drool, and they tend to be more hard-wearing than aluminum tags.
Metal tags will usually ‘jingle’, a pro if you like hearing what your doggy is getting up to, and a definite con if that sound annoys you. But you can now buy little neoprene pouches called tag silencers, which are fantastic for stopping the jingle if you need a quiet home.
Service Dog Tags and Emotional Support Dog Tags
Registered service dogs are given special tags through the United States Dog Registry.
If you have a support dog you might feel it’s a good idea to get a spare tag identifying him as such just to make your life easier if the original ever gets lost. They are available on Amazon and can be engraved with your contact information on the back.
These tags are small barrel shaped metal tubes that hold a small rolled up piece of paper with all your information.
They are ideal for travelling as you can easily customize your information into various languages, add international phone codes, and put your hotel address on them. Perfect for globetrotting doggies.
Since there is no drop down, they are much less likely to fall off or have the engraving rubbed off. They also aren’t as noisy as hanging tags. Slide-ons won’t get caught on anything when your pooch is running or playing.
They are designed to fit single-thickness collars so the disadvantage is that they aren’t suited for adjustable collars. They also won’t be able to slide on to clip collars, only those with buckles. Slide-on tags can be engraved with all your information and are very reasonably priced.
Instead of a tag, you can opt to get a collar with your information directly embroidered onto it. This is a great way to ensure your information doesn’t get lost, and is easily visible if anyone finds your dog. However, the stitching technique limits the amount of information that can be put on these types of collars.
You can add your city and phone number. These collars are a good idea if combined with one of the standard tags above as a backup in case the tag comes off. Embroidered collars are also much more expensive than dog identification tags. If your phone changes or you move, they are more expensive to replace.
If you want a truly unique tag for your buddy, check out some small retailers who sell handmade dog tags. You can find beautiful handmade dog identification tags in materials like leather, polymer clay and wood. These retailers are usually happy to customize items to your liking, so you can have the tag that is as special and one of a kind as your canine companion is!
QR Scan Tags
These tags have a QR code on the back and if your dog gets lost, anyone who has a smartphone can scan the tag when they find your pooch. You can setup your QR scan tag by registering your information online (and remember to keep it updated). A very popular example of these is Dynotag.
Each registered doggy is given a unique ID and online profile that includes all his essential information. Most brands allow more than one contact to be listed. If your dog goes missing, the code can be scanned with any smartphone by the person who finds him, and you will be alerted immediately with texts and emails containing the GPS location taken from the smartphone of the person who found your pooch.
This allows you to quickly track down your buddy. Unlike full GPS trackers, these tags don’t need batteries to work and there’s no subscription fee. Possible downsides are that they are more expensive, it’s easy to forget to update the information if you change your phone number or move house, and they aren’t much good if your dog is found by someone without a smartphone.
For these reasons, they are best used in conjunction with a classic engraved tag.
These tags help track wandering pooches around the house, while out and about and in case they get lost. GPS technology uses satellites to pinpoint your dog’s location wherever he is. The information from these trackers are typically sent to an app on your smartphone.
One such product is the Tractive, which locates your dog almost anywhere outside within a 16ft range of accuracy. You can see where your dog is on a real time map on your cell, tablet or computer. Another good feature is the ‘virtual fence’ – you set boundaries (e.g. perimeter of your garden, the front gate) and you’ll receive an alert if your dog goes outside of it. Many similar products offer this feature as well.
You can also take advantage of route mapping, so if you have a dog sitter or walker, you can make sure they really are giving your pup his daily exercise. The Loc8tor has an initial cost, plus a monthly or annual subscription fee. You'll find that this is the case with most canine GPS trackers.