Canine Identification

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

Canine Identification

Each year nearly 4 million lost dogs are brought to animal shelters throughout the United States, less than 17% will be reunited with there owners. Here are some identification measures all dog owners should consider to improve the odds of getting your dog back.

Each year in the United States some 4 million lost dogs enter animal shelters. Yet, a study by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy found that less than 17 % of those dogs would be reunited with their owners. All dog owners fear losing a pet or hunting dog. Dogs can become lost due to a variety of reasons including being in a strange place, running away or theft. Older dogs can become disoriented due to physical factors such as loss of hearing or diminished sight. Experts suggest all dog owners identify their dogs with a combination of collar ID’s, tattooing and/or microchips. A combination of these identification methods can greatly increase the chances of getting a lost dog back.

Identification Collars
Identification collars are the least expensive and most common forms of canine identification. Collar tags are available through most pet suppliers, gun dog equipment retailers and catalogs. The metal tags are usually engraved with the owner’s name and phone number; you should not include the dog’s name as this could encourage theft. Tags should be attached to the collar with a small stainless steal "split-ring" or a sturdy "S-hook". Always keep current rabies, inoculation, and local dog registration/licenses tags attached in the same way, as these tags can also be used to help identify your dog. Metal plate type tags can be attached directly to the collar with rivets. Some collar companies and gun dog suppliers offer "Lost Dog Recovery" programs with the purchase of a collar. The service usually supplies the dog owner with a registration number, which along with a toll free phone number, is engraved on a plate riveted to the collar. If the dog becomes lost, the person finding the dog calls the 800 number and gives the service the registration number. The service then notifies the owner and acts as a go-between to reunite the dog with its owner. The main disadvantage with collar ID’s is that the tags may become lost or detach due to wear. In the case of a theft, the collar may also be easily removed. Collar ID’s are a good way to recover a dog quickly, as they are easily recognizable and should always be part of the dog’s collar. However, they should be used as a secondary form of ID in conjunction with a permanent measure, such as a tattoo or microchip implantation.

Tattooing is probably the oldest form of permanent canine identification. For many years, people have been tattooing their dogs for identification purposes. Military and police dogs have been tattooed as a way to identify and keep records on the animal since they began using dogs. Canine tattoos (especially military and police) were usually placed inside one of the dog’s ears. However, due to thefts and some unscrupulous people actually removing the dog’s tattooed ear, experts now recommend that owners either tattoo along the inside thigh or along the gum-line, inside the dog’s mouth. The major problem with tattoos is that someone can tattoo over the original numbers and change those numbers. As an example, a number 3 can easily be changed to an 8, a number 1 to a 4 and so on. Tattoos can also be difficult for the average layperson to locate and some shelters are staffed entirely by volunteers, who may not have the knowledge or training to look inside the mouth or inner thigh for a tattoo. The other problem with tattooing your dog is actually finding someone who is providing this service and cost may also be a determining factor.

Microchip Implantation
Microchip implantation is another process of permanently identifying your dog. Currently two manufacturers market pet microchips in the United States, HomeAgain and Avid Pettrac. The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, contains an alphanumeric code that can be read with a scanner. Implantation of the microchip is a painless procedure that requires no surgery or anesthesia. The chip is simply injected under the dog’s skin between the shoulder blades. After the implantation, tissue forms around the chip and prevents it from migrating. The chip will remain in its position for the rest of the dog’s life and the entire procedure takes only a few minutes. The veterinarian will register the chip’s number with the manufacturer’s database. This registration is required, but owners can also register these numbers with the AKC (see below). Most animal shelters have universal scanners, which will detect and read the registration numbers of either manufacturer’s chip. Once the dog is scanned, the shelter will call the chip’s manufacturer and report the number. The owner is then notified as to the location of the dog. Cost for implantation of a microchip can range from $30 to $100 including registration, check with your veterinarian for a price quote. Because this is a relatively new technology and not every shelter is equipped with the technology, it is still recommended that dog owner’s use a combination of ID’s including a tagged collar.

For a small fee, the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) program will register your dog’s microchip number. Dogs identified with tattoos may also be enrolled in the CAR program, as tattoos comply with AKC’s rules. The AKC’s CAR program was founded in 1995 to help reunite lost pets with their owners. The program is dedicated to providing lifetime recovery services for microchipped and tattooed pets. The program maintains a worldwide enrollment database and provides a 24-hour-a-day recovery service. For more information call 1-800-252-7894 or visit their website at and click on the "CAR" icon.

The Future...
The future of canine identification may include one of the 20th century’s greatest scientific discoveries, DNA. The AKC’s new Voluntary DNA Certification Program promises to be the most reliable method of identification and parentage verification. The dog’s name is entered into the AKC’s database and a laboratory processes the blood test results. In return, the owner receives an AKC-embossed "Certificate of DNA Analysis", identifying the genotype of the dog, along with a certification number. Also, the DNA profile will be used for parentage verification, when the sire and dam have been profiled. The dog’s DNA certification number will also appear on official AKC documents, including registration certificates and three-generation pedigrees. However, the AKC still recommends that owners and breeders also tattoo or microchip dogs as an added safeguard for positive identification.

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