Recently, a friend “shared” a “missing” dog poster on Facebook – the family of a Mastiff was looking for their lost dog. Basically, the missing flyer consisted of the dog’s picture, the owner’s name, the dog’s breed, a phone number, and the word “Reward.” Today, I’d like to talk about some tips which will hopefully help you to keep your dog safe so that you won’t be the one making and posting flyers around the neighborhood, searching desperately for your best friend. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about what you should do if your dog does become lost to help ensure a speedy and safe recovery.
The two keys to preventing your pet from becoming lost are identification and management.
Your dog’s collar already likely has at least two tags – one for proof of rabies vaccination and one tag representing his local license. Aside from these two tags, you should consider purchasing an additional identification tag. You can get a tag printed at most pet stores or purchase tags online. This week, I think I’ll be ordering the new tags available from Pet Hub, which are free (you must pay $3 s+h per tag) for the month of March. What I love about these tags is that they go beyond the work of a normal pet tag – these tags are scannable by most smart phones! Critical information is not printed on the tag but is stored online – you can update your pet’s information electronically and can control exactly what information is displayed to the person who may find your dog. For those who do not have smart phones, a website is provided as well where your dog’s would-be rescuer can look up the information online.
There are no continuing fees for maintaining your dog’s information at Pet Hub. Whereas with microchips, you must contact the microchip company to update your information, with the Pet Hub tag you can do it from your sofa while you scratch your dog’s belly!
NOTE: If you are planning on traveling with your pet, do consider having travel tags made. My business partner spends three or four months each year in Florida, so his dogs have New York state tags for when they are home and tags with his Florida information while he is vacationing.
There are additional identification options above and beyond the pet tag – primarily, microchipping or tattooing.
Microchipping involves having a small (think grain of rice) sized identification chip inserted subdermally at your veterinarian’s office. You will have to register your contact information and address with the microchipping company. There are potential side effects to microchipping, but the risks are relatively low. This study discusses the relative frequency for some of these risks in microchipped animals. In a report from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the following data was listed regarding microchipping’s effect on lost animal returns:
A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) For microchipped animals that weren’t returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database so don’t forget to register and keep your information updated.
The AVMA also has some nice FAQ’s on microchipping for those interested in learning more. Many dogs are already microchipped before being released from their breeder or rescue – check with your breeder or rescuer to find out if this is the case with your dog and how you may update your pet’s information.
Tattooing is another option for doggy identification. Dogs are frequently tattooed on the belly, inner thigh, or ear. Your veterinarian may offer identification tattooing services or should be able to refer you to a professional who does. As far as I’m aware, there is no national tattoo registry yet in the States, though there is in the UK. If you choose to get your dog tattooed, it’s not a bad idea to get a picture of yourself, with the dog, where the tattoo is prominently displayed and keep this with your dog’s records. You may also ask your veterinarian for a certificate verifying the tattoo and your ownership of the dog.
The best way to prevent your pet from being lost is to not offer them the opportunity. This includes:
- keeping your dog leashed in public
- making sure that your fencing is secure and adequately contains your dog
- supervising your dog when they are in the yard
- teaching your dog to wait to be released from the car so that they do not bolt out at a rest area or new location
- using appropriate equipment – if your dog is prone to slipping his collar, you may want to consider the use of a martingale collar. If you are using a front-clip harness to teach loose leash walking and your dog has ever Houdini’d his way out of his harness, consider double leashing him – one leash clipped to a harness and one to his collar. You can use a “coupler,” a leash attachment created so that two dogs may walk on one leash, for this task.
- NEVER leave your dog tied up outside a store while you “just run in for a second.”
- Do not leave your dog unsupervised in the car.