Personalized Dog Collars: Smart Pet Identification

The personalized dog collar: it’s essential equipment for any canine from the hardest working field dog to the most lap-loving pup. The single most important reason for him to wear it is his safe return home if he is lost. But chew on this: only about a third of all dog owners take this vital step to safeguard their animals against loss or theft. Personalized dog collars and dog ID tags significantly improve the return-to-owner rate for dogs gone missing.

The personalized dog collar together with other smart strategies can help bring your cherished pet safely home to you.

I. The Personalized Dog Collar: His Fastest Way Home

Nearly every dog will escape his confines at some point during his life, many dogs more than once; even dogs who live indoors most the time are vulnerable. Whether you choose a cheerful washable nylon dog collar or a handsome leather one, personalizing it with eye-catching embroidery or engraving is the simplest and most effective strategy to identify your beloved pet—if he takes off, the person who finds him will look to his collar first to find you.

A personalized adjustable collar is appropriate for just about any dog. But some dogs can slip their collars—accidentally or intentionally:

  • Make sure the collar fits: it should be snug, but not tight, allowing you to slide two side-by-side fingers under it. And a proper fit makes his collar less likely to catch dangerously on something.
  • Keep his collar on him always, and consider attaching his leash to a harness when you walk him.
  • Stay vigilant: monitor your dog’s collar for wear and tear and fit, and adjust or replace it as needed. Keep a backup on hand, and remember to get him a new collar if your contact information changes.

Quick tip: Choose carefully what appears on your dog’s collar and tags: anonymity may be the safest ID strategy.

II. Dog ID Tags: The Best Backup Plan

There is no such thing as too much dog identification: a redundant system is an excellent ID strategy. Think of your dog's tags as an encore performance; take what you embroidered or engraved on his collar and repeat it on his ID tags—his name or yours, a current phone number or numbers, the city where you live, and any other contact information you think is relevant. And ID tags give you a measure of flexibility his collar does not: adding multiple phone numbers on more than a single tag and affixing each of them to his collar improves his chances of finding you.


  • His rabies tag should be attached to his collar: it is required by law in some states, and it may be reassuring to the person who finds him. It can also be used to identify him in a pinch; his tag number is linked to your name and contact information in the local registry. Make sure you update his rabies tags with each new vaccination.
  • If your dog is microchipped, he should wear a tag identifying the microchipping company’s name and phone number.
  • A “needs daily meds” message engraved on his ID tag lends his situation a sense of urgency that may reunite him with you more quickly.

Check your dog’s ID tags for wear and tear every couple of months, replacing them when they become illegible. Any dog has a better chance of being returned safely home if he is wearing a collar with ID tags when he is found.

III. Microchipping: High-Tech Dog ID

Think of the implanted microchip as the backup plan to the backup plan. When all else fails—if your dog loses his tags or collar—the chip is his last best hope to return safely home to you.

How it works:

  • About the size of a grain of rice, the minuscule chip is injected under the skin between the dog’s shoulder blades.
  • A scanner passed over the microchip reads its unique code, linking the dog to corresponding contact information in a database.

The procedure is as simple as a routine vaccination; it requires no anesthesia and is virtually painless for the dog. The microchip is permanent, lasting the dog’s lifetime. But the chip is only as good as the information you provided when it was implanted—it’s important to notify the company if your phone number or address changes. You should also do this for a microchipped dog you adopted from a shelter or rescue.

Incompatibility between microchips and microchip readers sometimes occurs because of non-standardized technology in the United States. The personalized collar is still the surest way to bring a dog home—the neighbor down the street is probably the first person who will find him and call the number on his collar.

There’s No Place Like Home: ID Your Beloved Dog

The return-to-owner rate for lost dogs hovers between only about 10 and 30 percent in most communities. Placing a personalized collar with ID tags on your dog just makes sense—a reflective personalized collar safeguards him the same way carrying ID in your own wallet does you.

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