Imagine that you’ve lost your dog.

You call local shelters and tell all your friends. A couple of weeks later you’re referred to a Facebook page where you see pictures of your dog and discover he was found and then rehomed. You contact the rescuer asking for your dog back, and you’re told it’s too late.

I watched this play out a few months ago. A dog was picked up off the street; dirty and matted with no collar. The rescuer bathed the dog, groomed it and took it to the vet, where the dog was checked for a microchip. After several days of posting about the dog, the finder rehomed the dog.  The dog’s original owner was understandably upset, and the adopter seemed unwilling to return the dog.

Sadly, this could have been prevented had the owner had the dog microchipped.

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.

The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year, and that one in three pets will become lost at some point during their life. Even if you’re a careful owner, with a fenced yard and an ever-present leash, your dog could become lost. Dogs jump over or dig out of yards, fence collar batteries die, workmen leave gates open and children neglect to close the front door properly.  A moment’s inattention can result in a lifetime of loss.

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. Dogs and puppies of any age can be chipped. 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 because of 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 Companion Animal Recovery.

Locally, microchipping runs around $60. When you average this expense out over the lifetime of your dog, it’s really not a lot to pay. When you consider the heartbreak of losing your best friend, the price is not a lot to pay.

Microchipping is an invaluable tool in recovering your dog should he become lost. You provide your dog with food, toys, bedding and companionship. Make sure you don’t neglect this vital tool of dog ownership.

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: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues.