REGALWISE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERDS
How and why I tattoo and microchip all puppies I sell.
No one would argue that a
collar with an ID tag listing the owner's name
address and phone number would provide the fastest
way to reunite a lost dog with his owner.
Unfortunately, tags can come off (or be
taken off) of collars, and collars can come off
(or be taken off) of dogs, either in the process
of the dog escaping or by some one intent on
stealing the dog. So a more permanent method
is needed. Cheers to the Canadian Kennel Club for
requiring tattoos on all registered puppies and
dogs! The American Kennel Club seems to be
endorsing use of the microchip, but does not
require any form of permanent identification.
The tattoo done on the inner thigh or belly with the vibrating needle pen is good for older dogs, over six months or so. On younger puppies, special care must be taken to insure that the lettering is small and dark enough to withstand the distortion and fading caused when the skin stretches as the dog grows. Then there is a problem with hair growing over the tattoo and hiding it. Even if you know it's there, it may be impossible to read unless you clip the hair first. Very few, if any, shelter workers are going to roll over an adult German Shepherd and clip them to look for a tattoo! The pen is expensive, and you may need several people to hold the dog or puppy still during the process (not because it hurts, but because it tickles and they squirm, or the buzzing and vibration bothers them). It may also be possible for someone to alter a pen written tattoo later. A one could be changed to a seven or four, or a six to an eight etc.
The tattoo in the ear with a tattoo pliers has many advantages. You can do it yourself (although it's easier if you have a helper hold the dog/puppy). It's not hard to learn with just a little practice. It's cheap. The tattoo kit with extra numbers & letters can be purchased for less than $100 and will last almost forever. It's easy to see, you don't have to roll the dog over and search for it. It doesn't get covered by so much hair, although if the tattoo is not positioned in the center of the ear it may have some short hair over it. It can sometimes be noticed even by people who are not looking for a tattoo. Puppies can be done as well as adult dogs since there is less of a stretching and distortion problem. The tattoo is much harder to alter, some say it's impossible. I have never heard of any ear tattoo causing any problems whatsoever. They do not get infected. They do not weaken the ear. In fact, if anything, the ear with the tattoo in it will stand sooner than the other one. (Someone once suggested tattooing both ears on a dog whose ears are slow to stand!)
There are some disadvantages, too. The ear could be cut off if a thief wanted to avoid being caught with a tattooed dog. A puppy's ear can accommodate only five or six digits so your code should be well thought out and unique. It's not painless. A puppy will squawk for 5 or 10 seconds, and an aggressive one might try to bite you. The ink is either green or black and can be messy, even if you wipe off any excess. Sometimes a puppy will scratch his ear and some ink will rub off on his foot, or some ink will rub off on each other when they are playing. It wears off in a few days. For the first week or so the ink will run if it gets wet, and if you give a freshly tattooed puppy a bath, the ink might leave a tinted puppy. The puppies do sometimes look a little comical with one bright green or black ear and you have to explain to everyone what it is. It's fun around St.Patrick's Day, Halloween, or Christmas (when I've thought of making the other ear red). If you tattoo an adult dog this way, it would be wise to use a muzzle and tranquilize the dog first. Check with your vet for the best product and dosage. Tattoos in general must be registered with some nationwide organization to be of value in finding the owner of a found dog. The AKC registration form has a "lost and found" option that I require people to use. See the AKC Companion Animal Recovery system.
There is more to tattooing (and microchipping) than just permanently identifying a puppy. Someone who goes to the trouble of tattooing all of the puppies they produce will not "hide" a poor quality or defective puppy by selling it without papers instead of issuing a limited registration. They will not sell to brokers for pet shops or laboratories. They will screen prospective buyers and may refuse to sell to some people. They will help counsel new owners if they have behavior problems. If the new owner can not keep the dog, they take the dog back. They would rather find a new home for the dog themselves than see him passed around or end up in a dog pound or humane society where his life is at risk of being terminated if not adopted in time. The decision to somehow permanently identify the puppies you sell demonstrates a responsible attitude and shows a willingness to be held accountable for what you've produced. By placing your "mark" on the puppy you have said "I brought this puppy into the world and intend to be responsible for him until his death."
The process is not difficult, although it does cause a brief one to two second discomfort to the puppy. Once you have prepared everything, the whole procedure takes about 30 seconds per puppy. I would compare it to having your ears pierced, and a squeamish person may not be able to do it (and may not want to read this description that follows). The pups should be as old as possible (six to eight weeks) when you do this so their ears are larger and you have more room to correctly position the tattoo.
First decide what kind of code you will use. This decision might be influenced by how many sets of letters or numbers you have. For instance, if you have only one set of zero to nine numbers, you will have trouble when you need an 'eleven'. Check with the registry you plan to use for ideas and what is or isn't already in use by some one else.
Then make a list of what tattoo each puppy will receive. Find all the numbers and/or letters you will need and clamp them into the tattoo pliers, being careful to get them in the right order. Squeeze the pliers lightly on a piece of paper or cardboard to see that it will mark correctly. (It's impossible to correct it later if you make a mistake in the ear!) Then position the pliers over the ear with the numbers inside of the ear and the flat part of the pliers behind the ear. Try to avoid veins and ridges in the ear, but also keep in mind that the tattoo is harder to see and read if it's on the fringe of the ear. In small ears, you may not have much choice where to put it. If you have a squirming puppy you also may not have much choice.
It's good to have a strong helper who can hold the puppy's muzzle and head still. It may also help to catch the puppy when he's played out and tired and less likely to fight being held still, The first part of the tattoo (which usually identifies the breeder) should be further down inside the ear toward the base where it will be easier to read. The digits toward the tip of the ear where the ear is thinner sometimes end up fainter and harder to read. Give a brief, firm squeeze on the pliers and release. If the needles pierce too far through the ear, you may have to gently pull them out. Sometimes there may be a few drops of blood which can be blotted with a paper towel. Then apply the ink to the area. Ink in a roll-on bottle is very convenient, it also comes in a paste form. Rub it into the holes and wipe off the excess. Do not let the ear get wet for several days or the ink will run. If you wash the ear before it's healed, the ink may wash out of the holes and the tattoo will be hard to read. If you squeeze too hard and there is still some bleeding after you apply the ink, this may also wash the ink out of the holes.
The puppy will forget quickly and behave completely normal almost immediately, not realizing how different he looks to the rest of the world with a temporarily black or bright green ear.
Call 1-800-JEFFERS or
to order tattoo kit. Type TATTOO in the
Helpful Tips, Added 3/06/08
Wearing laytex exam gloves will keep your hands from getting tattoo ink stains.
Comment from: Francois Cartier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
This site created June 4,