Traveling with Your Shepherd

YOUR GERMAN SHEPHERD LOVES TO BE where you are. If you’re driving to the park, she’ll do anything to get in the car and tag along. If you’re planning a weekend in the mountains,she’ll think that’s a great idea, too. Whether traveling by car,train, boat,or plane, if she’s allowed to ride with you and your travel plans will accommodate her, you’ll make your shepherd veryhappy if you take her along.

The Importance of Identification If you are planning to travel with your shepherd, it is critical that she is identifiable. If your shepherd accidentally gets loose, lost, or is stolen,there’s very little chance that you’ll see her again if she doesn’t have some form of identification on her. Obviously, she can’t carry around an identification card; however, there are several options available that can contain just about as much information. Some are temporary forms of ID, such as tags and collar plates. Other forms of ID are permanent, such as tattoos and microchips. All these forms have their pros and cons, and what works for you may be different than what might work for another owner. Identification Tags Your dog can be identified by her rabies tag or by her city license tag, if she has one. Your shepherd can also be identified by her personal tag,which should list a telephone number at which you can easily be
reached—most likely a cell phone number.

The danger in ID tags is that they do fall off. If the tag catches on something, the little ring that connects it to the collar is going to break before the collar does. A brass collar plate engraved with your dog’s name and your cell phone number stands a better chance staying intact with the collar; however, neither a tag nor a collar plate will be helpful if your shepherd’s collar comes off.


A permanent form of identification is a tattoo. The shepherd’s AKC registration or ILP number is tattooed on the dog’s inner thigh. Tattoo numbers can be registered with the AKC, as well as one of several national registries that maintain tattoo numbers and contact information for a small fee.

The biggest drawback to the tattoo is that the average person won’t know how to use this information to return your dog to you. In fact, the average person may not even see the tattoo. In preparation for applying the tattoo, the shepherd’s inner thigh is shaved. When the hair grows back, the tattoo may not be readily visible. Additionally, if a young puppy is tattooed, as he grows the tattoo could become stretched and distorted—making it nearly impossible to read the numbers.


A microchip is a permanent form of identification that is about the
size of a small grain of rice. It is imbedded between the dog’s shoulder
blades. The microchip contains a number that can be read using a
special chip scanner. When the microchip company receives a call from
the shelter or veterinarian scanning the dog, they will be able to put the
rescuer in contact with you and vice versa.

Drawbacks to the microchip are that it’s not obvious that a dog is microchipped, and a good Samaritan wouldn’t know the dog is identified just by looking at him. Only shelters and veterinarians with scanners can identify the chip, but not every shelter and veterinarian has a scanner.Furthermore, the chip may migrate farther down the shoulder, so if the dog is scanned in the wrong spot, it may appear as if he doesn’t have a chip.

If a chip may not be scanned, a tattoo might be overlooked, and a tag
might be lost, what is the solution? Typically, a combination of IDs, such
as a tag and a tattoo or a collar plate and a microchip or even all forms
of ID (tag, tattoo, and microchip), will cover the bases for even the most traveled shepherd.


I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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