15% of pet owners had lost a dog or cat within the previous five years, according to a study by the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). While no pet parent wants to think about their pup getting lost, the study — which was noted to be the first published national study of its kind regarding lost pets — reveals that identification can play a helpful role in getting a lost pet back home. That said, a simple ID tag can go a long way in providing peace of mind all the while ensuring that your furry friend has a greater chance of getting found. From the value of a dog tag to exploring high-tech options (and knowing when to renew the tag itself) ensuring Fido’s safety can be made easy.

Why ID tags make a difference

49% of dog guardians found their pup by searching the neighborhood, while 15% of the dogs were recovered thanks to wearing an ID tag or having a microchip, according to the ASPCA study. ID tags for dogs can be compared to those such as metal capacity tags, which are used to provide vital safety information to both passengers and operators of machinery, transportation, and other equipment. While metal capacity tags are commonly used for forklifts, boats, and elevators in order to convey valuable information regarding the capacity of the machinery, ID tags for dogs work to communicate essential contact information that can help others find the owner should the dog become lost.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), an ID tag is typically limited to two to four lines of text, meaning that the information displayed should be chosen carefully. The AKC recommends considering information such as your dog’s name, your phone number(s) with area code, your address, medical and/or behavioral issues, or an alternative phone number (such as your veterinarian or pet sitter). In addition to providing important information to others in the event that your dog becomes lost, an ID tag is a simple yet powerful visual indicator that your dog does in fact belong to a loving home, and effectively informs others that your pup isn’t a stray. 

A variety of choices — exploring the options

An ID tag may be simple in nature, though it’s a fantastic first-line precaution should your dog ever get lost. The AKC points out that the person who finds your furry friend may not even be aware of other forms of ID such as microchips or tattoos, thus making a visible ID tag a more universal sign that your pup belongs to a loving home. Using an ID tag in conjunction with other measures, however, can further your chances of reuniting with your pup — and heighten your chances of locating him. For example, having more than one ID or location measure in place can serve as a ‘back-up’ approach should your dog’s collar break or fall off. 

In addition to microchips, the AKC notes that high-tech ID tags are another option worth keeping in mind, with USB dog tags or tags with QR codes available for a few bucks more than a regular tag. That said, advances in technology over recent years further work to underline the options for pet parents looking to keep track of their dogs. The FitBark GPS 2nd Gen pet location and health tracker, for example, offers a variety of helpful features that allow pet owners to track their dog’s location in real time from a smartphone, as well as the ability to get alerted when a pup leaves a Wi-Fi Safe Place. 

Knowing when to update

Updating your dog’s tags is imperative in ensuring that the information is correct (for instance, if you get a new phone number), though it’s important to realize that depending on where you live, the requirements for ID tags may vary. For example, all dogs in New York City must have a valid license, which must be attached to their collars when out in public (dog owners may be fined for violating the requirements). “Dog owners can purchase a license that is valid for one year or up to five years,” NYC.gov states, going on to note that the cost varies depending on length and whether the dog is spayed or neutered. In many locations, your dog’s tag must be renewed once a year — to find out the requirements for your area, asking your vet or a fellow local pet parent can help in understanding your options. 

ID tags can prove to be a major advantage in the case that your pup runs off or goes missing by displaying valuable information to others. However, because collars can fall off or the tags can become outdated, understanding your options when it comes to renewal as well as the value that trackers can have will further the chances that you’re reunited with Fido in such an event.