What is the Best Type of ID for My Dog While Travelling?
Travelling with our dogs is an exciting experience, but it also comes with responsibility – ensuring they are safe at every turn. Whether you’re heading out on a road trip together, camping with your canine companion by your side, jet-setting on a flight, or hiking your local trails, one of the most critical aspects to consider is proper identification.
While traditional ID tags have been a reliable choice and are often seen as the standard ID solution, there are many innovative options for today’s dog parents to choose from.
In this article, we’ll explore the significance of dog identification during travel and delve into many of the options available beyond just traditional hang tags. From microchips and QR codes to GPS tracking devices, discover the many ways to keep your pup safe and accounted for on your next adventure.
Why is Dog ID Important When Travelling?
Before we get into the specifics of different ID options for your pup, let’s start at the beginning. Why is dog ID necessary while travelling, and how can something so simple keep your dog safe?
Every dog parent should be aware of the risk of their pup going missing. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 10 million pets go missing every year in the United States. While it is always a frightening experience when a pet goes missing, imagine it happening somewhere far from home that you and your dog aren’t familiar with. You don’t know where they will go or where to start looking.
It can happen in the blink of an eye despite taking all precautions. Kennel locks fail, leashes break, and dogs can take off quickly when spooked.
Even if your dog is picked up and taken to the local shelter eventually, that is only a piece of the puzzle in bringing them home safely. Without proper identification, the shelter workers have no way of knowing who this dog belongs to, whether they are a stray or someone’s beloved pet, or how to contact you to let you know that they have been found safe.
Ensuring your dog has proper ID at all times can make all the difference in whether they are brought home safely.
What Can I Use Instead of Traditional Dog ID Tags?
For a long time, the traditional hang tag has been accepted as the go-to solution for ensuring that your dog always has proper identification. These small metal discs are attached to your dog’s collar but aren’t foolproof. They can easily be lost when caught, bending the ring that holds them in place. Additionally, if your dog loses their collar for any reason while missing, the identification would be lost with it.
On a less serious note, many dog parents dislike that hang tags make so much noise when they jingle against one another or against the metal buckles on their dog’s collar.
With all this to consider, you may be wondering – are there other solutions available? Are these alternatives reliable? The good news is that there are many dog identification options beyond just the traditional tag. Here are a few for you to consider:
Flat or Slide Tags
If your concern is the noise that hang tags make, you may want to consider a flat or slide tag. Similar to hang tags, these are identification tags engraved with your contact information and attached to your dog’s collar. However, rather than hanging from the D ring on the collar, they attach flat against the surface of the collar. These can be attached in several ways, including with loops that the collar is fed through or riveted directly onto the collar. Of course, if your dog loses their collar, these tags will still be lost with it.
Embroidered or Engraved Collars
Another solution that has been gaining popularity involves skipping the idea of an additional tag entirely and including your contact information directly on the collar itself. These personalized collars can be embroidered with your pet's name and a contact number along the length of the collar, or the information can be engraved into the metal buckle. While this alleviates any concern about the contact information being removed from the collar, it still depends on the collar not being lost.
QR Code Tags and Collars
This form of identification leverages QR code technology, or “Quick Response” technology. This means that a small square barcode on the tag or collar can be scanned using a smartphone. When someone finds your dog and scans the code, it will take them to a database and provide them with all the information you have stored there.
Several companies currently offer this service, each with its own approach to the database portion. Some include just your dog’s name, your name, and your contact information. However, other databases will go as far as including your veterinarian’s information, key medical details (like required medications or illnesses to consider), any allergies your dog may have, and other data that can help keep your dog safe while also bringing them home. Often when someone scans one of these codes, the owner will receive a notification that someone has scanned the tag and a rough location of where that occurred.
One company that has a unique product leveraging QR code technology is Undercollar. They have created a comfortable stretch ID band that can be worn with or without a collar. The band includes a QR code on one side leading to a comprehensive database and a spot to write your dog’s name and phone number on the other.
Of course, most dog parents have heard about the use of microchips for identification purposes. This involves a veterinarian injecting a microchip under the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades. This microchip can be scanned using a handheld scanner, providing access to a central registry with the owner’s name and contact information.
This is a solution recommended by most experts, including veterinarians, dog trainers, animal rescuers, breeders, and more. Why? It’s a reliable form of identification that isn’t going to get caught on something or fall off if your dog is running loose.
A pet GPS tracker is a unit that sends out a signal via cell towers, Bluetooth connections, Wi-Fi connections, or satellite. These signals allow pet owners to track a dog’s location, activity, and other critical information that can prove valuable if they get lost.
When selecting a tracking device, you must consider where you intend to use it and which style of tracker is best suited for your lifestyle. For example, if you are spending all your time in an urban setting, you may be able to rely on Bluetooth connections and Wi-Fi to find your dog’s location. However, if you enjoy a lot of camping and hiking in the backcountry, where there are few people and rarely a strong cell connection, a satellite signal may be required for the tracker to work.
The best part about tracking devices is that you don’t have to wait for someone to find your pet and contact you. Instead, you can take a more proactive approach and track your pet faster. But they come at a much higher price than traditional identification options. Plus, many trackers will require a monthly fee to continue using their network.
What is a Digital Pet ID?
A digital pet ID is an online profile associated with many forms of tech-based identification, such as QR codes and pet tracking devices. These can vary in complexity depending on the company, from a simple name and phone number to a detailed profile with extensive information related to your pet.
Even if you haven’t purchased an identification option associated with an online database, your pet likely already has a digital pet ID. Some standard digital pet IDs and databases that people often overlook include municipal dog registration and a rabies ID.
Digital identification is seen as the more reliable option for pet parents as it leverages technology to provide more information whenever needed.
Can Pet Microchips Be Tracked?
No, if your dog is microchipped, they are a reliable form of identification when found, but they cannot be tracked in the way a GPS tracker can. While the microchip does emit a radio frequency that can be scanned, the handheld scanner used to access this information must be in close proximity to the chip to pick it up.
Our Solution: Dog ID Solutions We Use with Our Dogs
With so many options available, you may be overwhelmed. How do you decide which identification options to use? There is no “right” answer when making this decision. Instead, you need to consider your personal preferences, your lifestyle, the type of travel you are doing, and your dog’s personality. For example, if you love a personalized collar but your dog is a master escape artist that slips out of their collar anytime they run around and play, you may want to reconsider.
We have three dogs in the house and an active lifestyle that involves much travelling, so we are no strangers to the various forms of ID. Rather than putting all our eggs in one basket, we combine multiple identification options to improve the likelihood that our dogs will be brought home safely in an emergency.
Our dogs wear a collar with a standard ID hang tag whenever we are out of the house. This is mainly because the hang tag is the first thing most people look for if they find a lost dog. In addition to this, each of our dogs wears an undercollar ID band. This doubles the chance that they will have a visible form of ID that the average person will see, recognize, and use to contact us. Additionally, all our pets are microchipped as an added safety precaution.
If we are heading out into the backcountry for an adventure, which we often do, we add a Garmin Astro 900 GPS tracker to the mix. This provides us with an additional layer of security and a way to focus our search the moment an emergency strikes. We prefer a satellite-based tracker since we are often out in the backcountry, far from other travellers or cell towers.
Even with all these forms of identification being used together, we recognize that there are no guarantees. But, they do significantly increase the chances that if our dogs are found, they will be returned home safely.
Final Thoughts: Dog ID Options While Travelling
Choosing the best identification solution for your dog when travelling doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a moment to consider your dog’s personality and the options that will be most reliable if they were to get lost. Keep in mind that many tags can also be used with a harness if your dog doesn’t regularly wear a collar.
Even if you have an identification tag on your dog’s collar, most experts recommend microchipping your pet. This is a much more permanent and reliable solution that significantly increases the chances of you being reunited with your pet. Contact your veterinarian if you are interested in microchipping your dog or have any questions about the process. For those concerned about the costs associated with microchipping, there are often microchip clinics that offer the service at a discounted rate to encourage pet parents to take the steps and have their pets microchipped.
Always remember that while travelling, you are in an unfamiliar space. Depending on the situation, dogs that generally stay close and listen carefully to recall may be thrown off, spooked, or anxious. You can never be too careful when it comes to your dog’s safety!
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 2 dogs – Indiana and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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