Humans have been leaving their mark on animals for thousands of years. While cattle and livestock have been branded since the times of ancient Egyptians, working dogs have typically been identified by collars. Unfortunately, collars can come off, but there are several identification methods available to us today that serve the purpose of being permanent as well being safe and humane. The purpose of having a permanent identification method for working dogs is important in a legal sense, and especially important for registration purposes.
The two most popular identification methods today are the use of small tattoos, and the implantation of a microchip from which information can be digitally read. While the microchip is certainly the high-tech option, it loses the benefit of making the dog immediately identifiable, and requires possession of a special microchip reader. In the United States, microchips and tattoos are encouraged, but no permanent form of identification is enforced. However, several other countries, including Canada, have made the use of identification tattoos mandatory for canine registration.
Identification tattoos should be given when the puppies are at about six weeks of age. It is important that the tattoo is administered properly, and placed appropriately. The skin will stretch and distort the numbers as the dog ages, making them unreadable if done improperly. Of course, the numbers to be tattooed should be the litter registration number, and the registration number of the individual puppy. Cleanliness is the first priority in order to avoid infection. Properly sterilized tools should be used, and the area should be cleaned with rubbing alcohol before-hand. The puppy should be on its back, and held down by an assistant to keep the legs from moving. Tattoos are typically placed on the inside of the upper-thigh where there is less fur to obstruct the tattoo. Make the numbers small and dark to help the withstand the effects of stretching and distortion over time. Tattoos can also be placed on the inside of the ear, although this is becoming less common.
The process is not entirely painless, but having a guaranteed proof of ownership in the event that someone attempts to steal your German Shepherd puppies or Belgian Malinois puppies is well worth the mild discomfort of having them tattooed. If, at any point, you are unsure about the tattooing process, you should not hesitate to contact your veterinarian for further advice.