Methods for identifying your dog

Posted January 7, 2012

With more than 10 million American pets missing every year, many are never found because they have no form of identification. If your dog disappears, outfitting him now with one or more of these identification methods could improve the odds of a safe return.

Collar tag

Include your name and multiple phone numbers, such as home, cell and office, to make it easier to be contacted.


  •  Easy to acquire
  •  Inexpensive


  • Collars may be snagged on things, pulled off and lost
  • Pet thieves can easily remove a collar


Before purchasing and having this rice-grain size chip implanted under your dog’s skin, make sure local animal shelters and animal welfare agencies have a compatible scanner to detect and read that microchip brand.


  • No batteries, maintenance or monitoring
  • Implanting chip doesn’t require anesthesia


  • Can trigger infection at implantation site
  • Doesn’t deter pet theft because chips aren’t visible


Placed under the ear, belly or inner thigh, your pet’s tattoo should be registered with your vet or the specialist who applied it.


  • Tattoos are visible, so anyone finding the animal knows it’s someone’s pet
  • Pet thieves are less likely to steal tattooed pets because many regions impose fines or jail time for theft of tattooed pets
  • Can prove ownership in the case of a dispute


  • Requires sedation
  • May fade or blur over time, requiring refreshing
  • Thieves wanting a valuable purebred dog may alter tattoo

Global Positioning System (GPS)

This technology locates pets by satellite, conveying information to owners via cell phones or the Internet.


  • Provides real-time location information
  • GPS chips can be attached to your dog’s collar


  • Many devices are heavy and bulky, making them unsuitable for smaller dogs
  • Batteries must be recharged regularly

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

These gadgets, which can also be attached to collars, utilize telemetry – remote transmission of your dog’s location – and radio frequency, which is picked up by a handheld receiver.


  • No monthly cellular fees, as required for GPS
  • Works in more remote areas where there is no cellular phone service


  • Lacks GPS range and accuracy

Other identification options:

  • GPS radio frequency hybrid collars can more precisely pinpoint the location of missing pet
  • Nose prints are kept on file by breeds and trainers as part of a dog’s permanent record
  • Enroll your dog in the AKC’s Companion Animal Recovery, the national largest database for recovering pets. For more information, visit

It is also important to note that dog owners who wish to enroll their dogs in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a centralized health database sponsored by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, must have a permanent method of indentification for their dogs. For more information on CHIC and the indentification requirements visit

Taking proactive identification steps has proved successful in locating missing pets: According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, only 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owners. Most were identified with tags, tattoos or microchips.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all