According to the American Humane Association, every year over 10 million dogs and cats in the United States are lost or stolen and one in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. I can tell you that over the last 20+ years, I’ve personally rescued dozens of dogs and cats from the streets, many of whom had clearly belonged to someone at one point or another. Unfortunately, only ONE, yes, ONE dog of those dozens of animals had a microchip and I was able to reunite him with his parents.
As we noted in our article, “Why and how you should chip and register your fur-babies,” an AVMA review of statistics from 53 shelters around the country concluded that microchips significantly increased the likelihood that a lost animal would be returned to his family. While only 22% of lost dogs entering a shelter were returned to their families, that percentage went up to 52% for lost dogs who were microchipped.
Your Pup should ALWAYS wear ID
Because life is unpredictable, don’t ever assume that just because your pup spends most of his time inside the hours and/or in your fenced yard, he won’t ever get lost. There are innumerable stories about dogs who:
- slip out the front door when a visitor inadvertently leaves it open;
- take off when thunder or fireworks go off ;
- get lost when your pet sitter isn’t paying attention; or
- scramble under the backyard fence to explore and that’s the last you see of him.
So, the first thing to do is make sure your pup always wears a collar with identification sewn into it or with tags attached. Check out our prior roundup of collars and harnesses (and leashes) for the proper type of equipment and then read on below for some suggestions regarding good, sturdy identification collars and tags.
Identification Collars and Tags
You can opt for either a collar with your pup’s information embroidered right into the collar or for tags which hang on the collar. The embroidered collars generally cannot accommodate as much information as you can include on a tag but here are some options for both:
GoTags’ embroidered dog collars are made from durable nylon and accommodate up to 25 characters, generally your dog’s name and your phone number. The information is stitched into the collar which is available in 4 widths and adjustable lengths in a variety of colors.
Another embroidered, nylon ID collar option is the Blueberry Pet Collar which one reviewer even uses on her goats!
Identification tags come in a variety of styles, including sliders and those which hang on the leash ring on the dog collar. One note of caution: If you use the hanging style of tag, avoid attaching a leash to the O-ring you use to attach the tags to the collar. I’ve made this mistake myself and lost tags when my pup pulled on the leash unexpectedly and opened the O-ring. If you use a harness to walk you pups, be sure to put the ID tags on the collar and make you’re your canine baby is always wearing that collar.
We recommended this slider style tag for cats as well. The tag received consistently high reviews with comments that the tags are deeply engraved so the information doesn’t fade, the tags fit very snugly on the collar and don’t fall off and the curve in the tag ensures that it fits well on the neck. These tags include 5 lines of text and one reviewer suggested the following for the information to include on the tag:
Line 1: PET NAME
Line 2 : I AM LOST: REWARD!
Line 3: Phone Number
Line 4: Email address
Line 5 : I AM MICROCHIPPED!
If you want to use a hanging tag, get one which won’t rust and which has a very sturdy opening through which to put the O-ring to attach it to the collar. I have had great experience with Red Dingo tags and my dogs are very rough and tumble. The tags are stainless steel and enamel with engraved pet information. They come in 3 sizes and 11 colors and work for all size pups.
There are dog tags available which consist of a QR code which, when scanned with a smart phone, connects to a webpage with your pup’s information, including your contact data. Note that whoever finds your lost dog has to have the QR scanning app on the phone and know to scan the tag and then let you know where your pup is. In other words, this will not enable you to find your lost dog yourself – it will enable whoever finds him to then find you to hopefully reunite you with your wandering canine. This is, in essence, how a microchip works but QR scanners are much more common than microchip scanners which you would normally have to go to a veterinarian’s office to find. Here are some options:
Pet Dwelling Smart Pet ID Tag: This hanging tag is made of metal and enamel with the QR Code on the reverse side. You must activate the tag and link it to your pup’s free Pet Dwelling profile. Anyone who finds your wandering pooch can scan the QR, tap NFC or enter the link found on the tag on any web browser. Once this is done, your pup’s last scanned GPS location is emailed to you so that you can be reunited with your fur baby.
Battery Powered Electronic Dog Trackers
This type of pet identification/tracking system gets mixed reviews from pet parents. Many complain that battery powered systems have limited range and short battery life. However, if you don’t want to invest in a GPS based system, this type of tracking system may work for you. Here are some options:
The LOC8TOR is suitable for both cats and dogs and includes a credit card size handset to pick up the signals from the tag attached to your dog’s collar.
The Ardi by Tracker One pet tracker includes the base unit and two tags and operates the same way the LOC8TOR does.
The LYNC AKC Tracker consists of a collar with a removable GPS tracker which can be attached to any dog collar. The product is recommended for dogs over 15 pounds and does require a service plan for connectivity. The service plans start at $6.95 and go up from there, depending on the features you want to include.
The Whistle Pet Tracker consists of a waterproof collar with an attached GPS tracking devise and is recommended for dogs who weigh at least 15 pounds. There are, however, reviews by happy owners who say they’ve successfully used the collar on smaller dogs. Like the LYNC AKC, you must buy a monthly cellular service plan which starts at $6.95/month and goes up from there, depending on the features you want to include.
Stand-Alone Tracking Systems
Although pricey, based on the almost exclusively positive reviews, this Garmin GPS Dog Collar is worth every penny. A small GPS transmitter attaches to your dog’s collar and that sends signals to the hand-held unit you would use to track your missing pup. There is no monthly service fee so the product package includes everything you need.
The Marco Polo system is another alternative with good reviews, although not as good as the Garmin, and it costs almost as the Garmin. This system can be used to track up to three animals when you purchase the additional tracking tags.
Effective identification is critical to significantly increasing the chances that you will be reunited with your fur baby in the unfortunate event that you become separated. Be sure to also check out our list of top identification and tracking tools for your favorite feline.
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