You want your dog to be able to show his ID, so that everyone who meets him knows who he is and who he belongs to, especially as there might be an occasion when you’re around to speak up for him. He needs a collar and a couple of ID tags, although they can be removed if your dog is stolen, or lost if your dog is lost. You might consider using a more permanent form of identification, such as a tattoo or a microchip, and registering him in a national database.
Flat leather or nylon collars with buckles are good everyday collars for most dogs. However, rolled (round) leather collars with buckles work better for dogs with long hair or thick ruffs, according to Stronberg; because they don’t mat the hair beneath the collar the way flat collars tent to. Buckle collars are either single or double play, and come in a variety of lengths, not to mention a veritable rainbow of colors. There are even collars decorated with rhinestones or bows, for those more formal canine occasions.
Adjustable nylon collar with plastic clasps are fine for small or well-behaved dogs, but they aren’t always strong enough for large dogs or dogs that pull hard on the leash. And if you have a puppy, check his collar each week to make sure that it has not become too tight – you will be surprised at how fast he grows. Tight collars are uncomfortable and dangerous. Some collars are specially designed to be worn during training. If your dog attends training by his instructor, advises Amy Ammen, director of Amiable Dog Training, host of “Amiable Dog Training with Amy Ammen” on MATA television in Milwaukee, and author of training in no time and dual ring dog. Many instructors use chain training collars, also known as choke chains. Others use rounded nylon choke collars or even flat buckle collars. “To avoid accidents, remove the choke collar when you aren’t training,” Stronberg advises.
At least two tags should be attached to your dog’s everyday collar. One should be his numbered rabies vaccination tag. The other should show your name, address and phone number. If he is tattooed for permanent identification, he should also wear a tag or special collar imprinted with the 800 number of the database on which he is enrolled.
Unlike a collar tag, which can be lost or stolen, a tattoo remains with your dog for life. If you opt for a tattoo, wait until your dog is fully grown before having the procedure done, so the numbers won’t become distorted. Vets, veterinary technicians, humane society personnel, kennel operators, breeders and groomers may do the tattooing procedure in your area. Ask your vet for a recommendation.
Your dog will have his tattoo one the inner thigh. It can be a computer generated number for the dog registry of your choice or you can use your social security number. The procedure isn’t painful, and most dogs accept their tattoo graciously, although the buzz of the clipper and the vibration of the tattoo needle disturb some. “The whole process takes only about a minute and a half when done by a skillful tattooer,” says Mitch Rapoport, executive director, of the National Dog Registry.
For a small one-time fee, you then register your dog with one of the national databases, such as the National Dog Registry, American Kennel Club (AKC) Companion Animal Recover, Info PET, identi-pet, and Tattoo a pet. Ninety-five percent of lost dogs that are tattooed and registered have been recovered. “The key word is ‘registered’,” says Rapoport. “A tattoo or a microchip number is no different from a license plate. Unless it’s in a database somewhere, it has no value.”
A microchip with a number code is another method of permanent identification. The chip is the size of an uncooked grain of rice, and it is encased in a capsule that causes no adverse effects. Your vet will inject in under the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades, explains Keith Wall, D.V.M., technical service veterinarian with Schering – Plough Animal Health, manufacturer of the Home Again microchip. No anesthetic or tranquilizer is required, and your dog will react to it the same way he reacts to getting a vaccination. Puppies as young as six weeks can receive microchips, and then be enrolled in a national database for life.
When a lost pet is found and taken to a shelter or humane society, a scanner is passed over his shoulders to chick for a microchip, and his is also checked for a tattoo. If a number comes up, the shelter informs one of the national databases and they then locate the owner.
Although scanners could previously read only microchips of the same make, a universal scanner can now recognize all formats, explains Bryan Simpson, manager of AKC Companion Animal Recovery. Your vet may carry the AKC’s home again chip, the info pet chip or the AVID chip. The newest scanners can handle them all, and the national databases cooperate to reunite lost dogs with their owners as quickly as possible. “Just remember though, we can find you only if we have your correct address and phone number. If you move, update your information with the database immediately,” says Simpson.