Dog tags come in two basic varieties – decorative and informative. Often they are both, but we advise caution about combining the two. The reason, in our opinion, is the primary purpose of the tag should be to provide information in case your dog is found lost. If the chosen tag is TOO decorative and impedes the display of the pertinent information, maybe consider getting two. Get the fun decorative one with the sparkles or bling, or the one that is embossed with your preferred branch of the military or your alma mater, but then make sure you have one more dedicated, by its simplicity, to sharing your important contact information.
We only bring this up since not all printing is the same and more often than not the highly stylized tags have limitations such as heat printing or very shallow engraving. Whichever you choose, make sure to regularly check your dogs tags. It’s likely your dog has multiple – from rabies licensing, to county registration or off-leash designation, and finally the one with their information. One or more of these can sometimes break and fall off and you won’t necessarily notice.
Also check your dog’s ID tags to make sure the information is still legible. You may be surprised to see that while your dog does indeed still have their ID tag, it is almost impossible to read. We encountered this exact situation while out running with our own pup one time. Two adolescent German Shepherds were running loose on the rec trail. They were friendly and came over easy enough, and both had collars and tags, but between their long fur and overly excited state, just getting a close look at their tags was difficult enough. Once we did get a close look, both were already well worn and dirty and we simply could not make out the shared information. Before we dared take off their collars to try and get a closer (and still) look at the ID tags, we brought them all the way home (only about a mile) and had to safely secure them in our back yard. The last thing we wanted to happen was to remove their collars, have them wiggle loose, and now be running around without any identification or even indication that they were from a home and not a street stray. Once we did all this, cleaned the tags and angled them in the light just-so, we finally could see a name and phone number and called the owner. It all worked out well and the pups were happily returned home. However, it turned out we found them no more than 100 ft. from their back fence where they originally escaped. Had we been able to see that information right then and there on the trail the whole ordeal would have been over in less than 5 minutes, versus the almost hour it took for all this to occur.
Some things to consider when picking a dog ID tag:
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Materials – Metal, plastic, and silicone are the most popular types of ID tags. Some will last longer than others. Metal is strong but not impervious to getting worn down. Plastic is likely to get brittle and crack. Silicone is fairly new on the market but shows lots of promise for overall durability.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Size and Weight – This is simple enough; get what is most appropriate considering the size and weight of your dog. A big heavy ID tag on a tiny dog is just silly, and a tiny little tag on a large dog is a waste of an opportunity to make sure the ID tag is as legible as possible with the necessary information.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Color and/or Reflectiveness – A nice feature are tags which are also reflectors, just be sure not to choose one which sacrifices the overall readability. That is the primary importance. If you want a dark colored ID tag, make sure the engraved letters are contrasted in white, and of course if you prefer a bright or light colored ID tag, the letters are best if dark. (Black letters on a blue or purple tag will be hard to see, as will white letters on a pink or yellow tag, etc.)[/list_item]
What to print on your dog’s ID tag:
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]The most necessary information: A phone number. Preferably your cell phone as it is assumed that if your dog is lost you’ll be out looking for them when hopefully someone finds them and tries to call you. If the tag is small, or you want the number to be printed as big as possible, this is really the only thing you’ll need. It’s okay if they don’t know your name or address, or the dog’s name.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Street address. It is most likely that if your dog gets loose it will be in your neighborhood. ‘123 Main Street’ is really all that a good neighbor will need to know to return the dog to your home. If you live in a densely populated area with multiple towns and cities sharing the same streets, adding the city may be helpful, and even the state if you really want to make sure all bases are covered or maybe you live on the border, etc. The one thing you can most definitely skip is the zip code. That is only used for postal services. No one is going to mail your dog back to you.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Your name and dog name. These are certainly nice to include and may facilitate contact but only so the person who found your dog can ask for you by name and tell you they found ‘Tank’, etc. Going back to #1, if all they have is a phone number it still won’t prevent the nice person from calling and awkwardly saying ‘Hello, I found your dog’. The two of you can then sort out the details for recovery, names, etc.[/list_item]
Again, this is listed in order of priority as you consider the total available space and how large you want the letters to be. Almost all dog ID tags will allow you to print as much as you want, but the more letters you add the smaller the font gets. As we have larger dogs with large tags we do the following:
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Front line 1: Dog’s name[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Phone Number 1 (a cell phone)[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Front line 2: Phone Number 2 (alternate cell phone number)[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Back line 1: Our names[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Back line 2: Street Address[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]Back line 3: City and State[/list_item]
Other helpful alternatives you may wish to consider are:
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]‘Dog is chipped’. This will let the rescuer know a local vet’s office should be able to pull up additional and necessary registration and contact information.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]‘License #’. If your local county requires a dog license, and is flexible about it not being their issued tag but just the matching registration number, this can help reduce the amount of tags on the collar.[/list_item]
[list_item icon=”fa-caret-right” color=”696868″]‘Do Not Feed’. This may sound cruel but if your dog is highly allergic or sensitive to certain foods, a well-meaning rescuer may want to immediately give them food. Obviously, they will ignore this if they end up keeping your dog more than 24 hours, etc. This is only to stop an immediate and unnecessary, and potentially harmful, feeding[/list_item]
Finally, if our dog frequently stays with friends or family while you’re out of town, we highly recommend getting 2nd or 3rd sets of ID tags with their relevant contact information. You should still list one of your phone numbers, but their numbers and address will be a lot more useful, especially if you’re out of contact, halfway across the country, etc.