What Information to Put on a Dog’s Tag (increase the odds of a safe return)

Last Updated: November 16, 2020

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Losing your canine companion is one of the most stressful things you can go through as a dog owner. Many people experience a wave of sheer panic the moment they realize that their dog is not accounted for.

While most owners do a lot to keep their furry friends safe, accidents do happen. Unfortunately, these issues are far more common than most people think.

About a third of all dogs get lost at some point in their lifetime. Of those dogs, only about 26 percent are ever returned to their owners according to the ASPCA. So what are you supposed to do when your dog gets lost?

The best thing you can do is to prepare your pup beforehand for the worst-case scenario.

dog id tag with the right information on it

Personalized dog ID tags can dramatically increase your chances of reuniting with your lost pup. If your dog has tags hanging from their collar, people will know that he or she is not a stray. With that being said, a standard name tag just won't do. 

You need to provide specific information so that anyone who finds your dog has the means to contact you and help you reunite.

To increase the odds of a safe return, here is some information you should put on your dog's tags and considerations you need to think about.

Your Dog's Name

Including your dog's name on the tag can help out a lot during the recapture process. Chances are, your pup is scared and confused about their new surroundings. Depending on their temperament, they may not feel too comfortable with a stranger handling them.

However, if that stranger calls them by name, it could make them comfortable enough to follow.

Phone Numbers

You should always include a phone number that you can be reached at. Oftentimes, this is the first thing people will try when they find a lost dog. Your best option is to include your cell number. This increases the likelihood that you'll be able to answer the call immediately.

phone number icon

It's also recommended that you include a backup number. At least one of those number should have an answering machine or voicemail. That way, if you can't be reached, the good Samaritan who found your dog can leave behind information about how to contact them or where they dropped your dog off.

Some owners choose to include the number of a trusted third party as well. You can leave the number of your vet, dog walker, or a close family friend. They will be able to contact you directly if they receive a call or pick up your pooch during your absence.

Related: Best Invisible and Wireless Dog Fences to Keep Your Dog Contained in the Yard

Geographic Area

It's a good idea to leave the city and state of where you live on the dog tag. Knowing the general area of where the dog is from can make all the difference.

The person who found your canine companion can contact a local shelter or animal control in your area, increasing the odds of a reunion. This is especially useful if you lose your dog while traveling.

You don't need to leave your full address. In fact, many owners believe this is a bad idea. It could attract some unwanted attention to your property. Not only that, but most ID tags have limited space for information. Putting your full address would only take up valuable space that you could use for other contact methods.

In most instances, a simple city and state are just as good as your full address.

Vaccination Information

When you get your dog vaccinated for rabies, veterinarians will provide you with a unique tag. Typically, the tag is colored and shaped for high visibility.

The tag lets other people know that your pup is updated on their shots. Many municipalities actually require that dogs wear this tag at all times.

Even if that's not the case where you live, it's a good idea to use the tag. These tags offer many benefits. First of all, not everyone is going to be comfortable approaching a strange dog. Many people will look for these tags to ensure that it's safe to handle the dog.

If there's no tag, people may not even try to help out in fear of catching a disease.

Avoid Fines

In the event that your dog is captured by animal control, that tag can save your dog's life and help you avoid fines. In some areas, dogs that aren't vaccinated are automatically sent to a shelter. 

If your dog was aggressive and attempted to bite someone, they may even be put down. Needless to say, your dog should be wearing this tag at all times.

pet vaccination tags

Another great benefit of the vaccination tag is its uniqueness. Not only do tags have identification numbers, but the design of the tag often differs from location to location.

Counties often adopt designs that are used at every single vet office and vaccination clinic. This makes it easy to identify where the dog is from.

Your Name

Not every dog owner likes the idea of putting their name on their dog's tag. However, it could help identify your pup. Many areas require dogs to be registered.

Animal control centers often have access to a large database that lists every dog owner in the area. A simple permit search with your name would provide your address and phone number.

Microchip Information

Microchipping is like the digital version of an identification tag. Tiny chips are implanted under your dog's skin. They contain a unique identification number, which can be accessed with a scanning device.

The great thing about chips is that they provide solid proof that you own your dog. Because chips are implanted under the skin, there's also no risk of damage or loss.

So, do you really need to use ID tags if your dog has a microchip? Many owners make the grave mistake of thinking that the microchip is all their dog needs. Truth is, microchipping doesn't always work right away.

Chips can migrate from their initial implant site. This can make the scanner believe that they don't have a chip at all.

Even if the scan does work, they don't provide instant information. There are many microchip companies that store owner information in their databases. Scans produce a long string of numbers.

The scanner must then figure out what company has that chip information before they even get your phone number.

You can avoid all of these problems by including a tag with microchip information. Some owners choose to include the identification number of their chip and the respective chip company that has their information. This eliminates the scanning process entirely.

Alternatively, you can simply have a tag that says, "I'm Chipped!" This lets the scanner know that there is a chip somewhere in your dog, making them continue their search until they find it.

Medical Alerts

A medical alert tag can save your dog's life in the event that you are separated for extended periods of time. A tag will let people know that your dog needs urgent care.

If they require daily medication to stay healthy, the person who found your dog may take them to a vet to get help. If your dog has a handicap, such as blindness or deafness, this could also change the way people treat your dog as they try to find you.

Medical Alert Dog Cat Pet ID Tag

You can get separate medical alert tags to attach to your dog's collar. They're bright red for easy visibility. On the back of the tag, you can detail their exact needs or provide some general information to create a sense of urgency.

Another benefit to having a medical alert tag is that it decreases your chances of theft. While it's not something we owners like to think about, dog theft does occur. Dogs with medical issues are less likely to be stolen.


It's always a good idea to offer a reward if you have the means to do so. No one is obligated to help you reunite with your dog. People who go the extra mile to contact you or take your dog to a vet are doing so out of the goodness of their hearts, so why not reward them to show your thanks?

There are heated arguments among dog owners about the idea of offering a reward. Many believe that advertising an award would only attract scheming thieves who want some quick cash. While there certainly are bad people out there, the odds of this happening are quite slim.

Most people understand that dogs are family. There's a significantly higher chance of your lost dog encountering a good person who wants to help rather than unscrupulous individuals looking to steal a living creature.

Truth is, the incentive of a reward can increase the chances of someone returning your dog significantly. While there is a small amount of risk in offering a reward, what's more important? Your dog or the money?

To Sum Up

Providing the right information on your dog's identification tags can be the difference between an emotional reunion and never seeing your dog again. It's important to think ahead and prepare for the worst.

While a basic tag is better than no tag at all, you can increase your chances of a safe return by providing as much information as possible.


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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.