Moving is a hectic time. Whether you’re driving to your new home or flying, traveling is a time when dogs are frequently lost. Dogs may jump out of a car, escape from a crate, dig out of a new yard or dash out a new door, and have no idea where to go. Microchips are always a good idea, but I consider them mandatory before a move. Why are they so important? Because they work!

A couple of months ago, I received a call from the Lee County Humane Society. Animal Control had picked up a gorgeous chocolate lab and brought him in to the shelter. He wasn’t wearing a collar, but a scan found a chip that listed me as the emergency contact. Unable to contact the primary owner, they called me, and I was able to go “spring” him and reunite him with his frantic dad. This beautiful, show quality Labrador Retriever was stolen from his yard and his heavy duty collar with tag had been removed. We’ll never know how he ended up picked up as a stray, but he could have ended up rehomed or even euthanized had it not been for his microchip.

It is critical that all dogs have identification. Collar tags are a great first step. A simple collar tag, with the dog’s name and your contact number, is the first thing a person finding your dog will look for. Because tags can fall off or rub against things and become unreadable, providing your dog with a collar with the contact info either embroidered or printed on it, or with a flat engraved plate secured to it, adds a measure of security. While collars are an obvious means of ID, they are not a permanent method of identification. To really protect your best friend, you should have him microchipped.

A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice. It’s injected under the skin using a needle like a typical shot, so no surgery or anesthetic is required. The microchip itself does not have a battery, but is activated by a scanner.

The chip transmits the identification number to the scanner, which displays the number on the screen. If the number has been properly registered with the microchip company, dog and owner can be reunited.

According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association of more than 7,700 stray animals, dogs without microchips were reunited with their owners only 21.9 percent of the time. By contrast, microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2 percent of the time. In the cases where the microchipped dogs were not returned to their owners, in most cases it was due to incorrect or missing information in the microchip database.

It’s clear that a properly registered microchip is a valuable aid in getting your dog back. Because a microchip is a means of permanent ID, it also provides clear proof of ownership should your dog be stolen.

A microchip must be registered to be useful. The microchip itself only contains a number. This number must be called in to the chip registry, which can only give the information provided by the dog owner. Thus, it is critical that if you have your dog microchipped, you register the chip and keep your information updated.

Chips are registered through their various manufacturers, and the fees to do so vary. I recommend that in addition to this registration, you also register the chip with the AKC’s CAR, Companion Animal Recovery, Program. For a one-time enrollment fee of less than $20, the CAR program will register a chip from any manufacturer, and provides an extra layer of security.

You love your dog, and want to provide the best for him. Part of this “best” is making sure he comes home to you should he be lost or stolen.

All dogs should be microchipped, but it’s especially critical with dogs on the move. Please consider the permanent security of having your dog microchipped.


Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: for possible inclusion in future columns. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.