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Lost Dog (S.T.A.R.)

By Barbara Smith CPDT-KA, Owner- The Thinking K9, LLC

As responsible dog owners we do our best to keep our dog safe and secure. Unfortunately, even with the best laid plans and preventative measures, unforeseen things happen. Sometimes the front door accidentally gets left open, the fence comes ajar, or worse- a disaster happens that turns our world upside down. Unforeseen events such as tornadoes, flooding, and car accidents happen in the blink of an eye. These things can result in our dogs getting loose, no matter the precautions we have taken. It is important to have a contingency plan. Dog ID’s or tracking devices can help insure that your dog finds his way back home.

If your dog gets lost, make a report with your local police department (non-emergency). Call every animal welfare organization within 100 miles. Canvas your neighborhood with fliers that include pictures and your contact information. Call veterinarians, including your own. Post in any online communities that can help, such as craigslist, Facebook, Center for Lost Pets, Lost Dogs of America, etc.

More pets are reunited if they have clear identification. There are many forms of ID available for you to choose from. Within this handout we will give a brief overview of some of the more popular ones. Keep in mind that you are not limited to just one!

Dog tags are the most common form of identification and the first thing checked when your dog is found. Every dog should wear ID tags. You can get custom tags made at various local places as well as online. While dog tags are easily obtainable and serve a valuable purpose, it’s important to know that your dog can lose them easier than other forms of ID. Tags can fall off or your dog could slip his collar, leaving them with no traceable identification. Additionally, while we don’t like to think about theft, there’s nothing stopping someone from taking your dog and disposing of their tags. Dog tags are often best used in conjunction with other forms of ID.

A microchip is a permanent, rice-sized computer chip that is inserted under the dog’s skin with a needle. It is relatively pain free. A microchip emits an RF signal that can be picked up by a scanner. Your information, as well as secondary contact information (such as your dog’s breeder), is read from this chip with this scanner. Microchips are one of the very best forms of identification available. All animal welfare organizations and veterinary offices have scanners in case a lost dog is brought into their facility. Microchips are very reliable. However, it is best to have your dog’s chip scanned occasionally, to be sure it is still emitting a signal and the chip itself hasn’t migrated. Failure is extremely rare (less than 1%), but just to be safe, it’s easy to check for at your dog’s annual vet appointment.

GPS Collar
There are a wide variety of GPS collars on the market with features including tracking your pet on a map in real-time via your phone, or on a handheld unit that comes with the collar. Many of these systems can alert you immediately if your pet goes outside of his boundaries. For obvious reasons, however, your dog can’t be tracked if he slips his collar.

Tattooing is usually performed at the same time as another medical procedure, such as a spay/neuter, because the dog is already under anesthesia which insures that the dog doesn’t experience any pain during tattooing and it prevents them from moving during the procedure. The most easily identifiable tattoo is a number or letter combination, as opposed to a design. The most secure place for tattoos is on the inside of the leg or on the belly, because there’s very little fur to obstruct it from being seen. Tattooing the ear is not as secure due to ear docking that can remove the ID. There are several major downfalls to tattooing. Tattoos tend to fade over time, rendering them illegible. Additionally, there is little to no regulation or standard for people and companies to follow. It is very difficult, and sometimes impossible, for a tattoo to be matched up with an individual.