Microchips and Identification Tags - How to Pick the Right One

Losing your dog is one of the biggest fears for all loving dog owners. We all know this, and with that in mind, it's very surprising to me how many pet parents still forget or refuse to have their dogs microchipped, or use ID tags on dogs. Microchips and identification tags should be a must for all pet canines for the good of everybody.

Have your dog microchipped and put an identification dog ID tag on his dog collar to help ensure he will be returned to you if he gets lost. Lost dogs with microchips are more than twice as likely to be returned to their rightful owners as lost dogs that do not have microchips.

Top Dog Tips have previously written about dog safety and importance of dog ID tags for all pets. These dog ID tags increase that likelihood even more. The owner of a lost dog with a dog identification tag can be located by anyone who can read it, not just shelters and veterinarians that have the special microchip reading device. Both are best!

Just as there are pet parents who dislike using any kind of new dog technology with their pets, there are also those who go far and beyond to make sure their canines will never get lost. We've had an article on how to use dog GPS trackers for dog safety, and made a researched list of best GPS collars for dogs for those who are interested in extra security of their dogs. Now, back to microchips and identification tags for dogs.

Microchips and Identification Tags: How to Pick the Right One and Not Lose Your Dog

Microchips and Identification Tags How to Pick the Right One and Not Lose Your Dog

Getting information from microchips

Dozens of companies today sell microchips for dogs and identification tags for dogs. With microchips, these tracking devices are implanted under the skin on your pet’s shoulders with a special needle. The dog owner’s contact information is kept by the microchip company.

RELATED: 15 Reasons to Consider Pet Safety Gates for Your Dog

When a lost dog’s microchip is read, the readout will reveal the name of the microchip company along with the microchip company’s telephone number. The veterinarian or shelter must then contact the microchip company to get the lost dog’s owner contact information.

We've even recently seen a case where a microchip technology brings “dead” dog back to his family.

Dog microchips are making it easy

After the person who found the lost dog gets the dog microchip company contact information, they may have to deal with a tedious customer service telephone process. Depending on the microchip company, this process could add a lengthy step to the finder’s job.

These and similar issues should be taken into consideration when deciding which microchip is the right one for you and your dog.

  • Over a dozen microchip companies participate in the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. The finder can go to their website, type in the microchip code from one of these company’s microchips and get the dog owner’s contact information.

Found Animals, one of the microchip companies that participates in the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup system, has made contacting a lost dog’s owner as easy as possible. As soon as the finder enters the lost dog’s microchip number at the Found Animals site, the four-day automated contact process begins. The lost dog’s owner and any emergency contacts listed by the owner are sent messages by telephone, text and email for four days or until the owner calls the company back.

Dog microchip information maintenance

Dog microchip information maintenanceMicrochip companies may charge a registry or information maintenance fee. There are many microchip companies, though, that will maintain the owner’s contact information for free.

The cost of the microchip usually runs between $25 and $50. If the company charges a fee for registry or information maintenance, it is commonly a one-time charge of $20 which is paid when the dog’s microchip is implanted.

The dog owner is given instructions on how to keep their contact information updated. This is extremely important. If the owner of the lost dog does not keep their contact information current, the microchip is not going to help reunite a found lost dog with his owner.

Found Animals is one of the microchip companies that does not charge a fee for information registration.

Signal frequencies in microchips for dogs

Dog microchips come in three different frequencies. They can be 125kHz, 128kHz or 134.2kHz. If you plan to take your dog to another country, have a 134.2kHz microchip implanted.

Many countries require microchips with this frequency. If the dog will not be leaving the United States in the foreseeable future, a 125kHz or 128kHz microchip will work.

Most shelters and veterinarians have a universal scanner that will pick up the information from microchips with any of these three frequencies.

Dog ID tags

Dog ID tags for Lost DogsWhen it comes to dog ID tags, counties in the United States usually require dog licenses. The pet owner buys a county license for their dog and gets a numbered dog license tag. The dog tag must be kept on the dog’s collar or, if a lost dog is picked up by animal control, the owner will be fined.

This dog license tag is not really enough to insure your lost dog is returned to you. The person who finds the lost dog would have to call animal control to have the dog picked up. Some people would rather not call because the dog would be taken to the dog pound and possibly euthanized in a week to ten days if the owner is not located.

Dog ID tags have been making headlines recently as many companies are entering the scene, trying to provide dog owners with a way to make sure their lost dogs are returned as often as possible.

Microchip company dog tags

Microchip companies often supply a dog tag imprinted with the company contact information when the microchip is implanted. The idea behind the dog tag is to let whoever finds the lost dog know that he has a microchip. Do not put the dog’s microchip number on the dog tag, though.

The microchip company contact information is fine, although the microchip will still have to be read with a scanner. If the microchip number is listed on the dog tag, a savvy dog thief could use the number to register the dog in his own name in a U.S. registry. This can be done even when the owner’s information is on file with the company that sold the microchip.

Make it even easier

Using Microchips and Dog TagsGet the dog an ID tag that has his name on it and your telephone number. Your name and address are not necessary or really even a good idea.

The dog’s name and your telephone number should be the only information a dog finder needs in order to let you know they have found your lost dog.

Types of dog tags

Dog tags can be made from a lightweight metal, rubber or plastic. The best type of dog tag is really a matter of personal preference. Weigh all your options before deciding on which type will work best for you and your dog.

  • Metal dog tags tend to make a clanking sound. This could be annoying but some dog owners like the noise. It lets them know approximately where the dog is in the home or yard.
  • Rubber or plastic dog tags are great if the dog goes swimming frequently.
  • Reflective dog tags make it easier to see the dog in the dark.
  • Light-up dog tags are also available to make it even easier to see the dog in the dark.

Dangling dog tags are attached to the leash ring on the dog’s collar. They are easy but the dog tag could eventually be broken off the collar. A dog tag can also be affixed flat on the collar itself with rivets.

It will cost a little more but could be worth it in the long run, especially if your dog gets to run loose in the field or woods from time to time where a dangling dog tag could easily get caught on something.

Reannan has enjoyed the companionship of dogs her whole life. She bred, raised and showed cocker spaniels for a while but has owned a variety of different types of dogs, ranging from bulldogs to mutts. She worked in the private sector for 30 years. Now she devotes her time to writing and sharing knowledge about dog ownership and care.