Can Nose Prints Be Used to Identify a Dog?

Close-up of dog's nose.
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Although your pooch doesn't have fingerprints, he does have unique identifying features on his nose that can be used to positively identify him. Much like fingerprinting children, nose-printing your dog could end up helping to prove he's yours if he runs away, winds up in a shelter or is abducted.

Why It's Possible

Just like the pattern of every person's fingerprints are unique, each dog's rhinarium has features that are unique to each dog. The rhinarium is the section at the tip of a dog's nose; it's a special type of skin that secretes moisture. The surface of the rhinarium is part of what gives dogs a superior sense of smell. The surface of a dog's rhinarium attracts odor molecules and dissolves them so the dog can smell them easier, according to D. Caroline Coile and Maragaret H. Bonham's book "Why Do Dogs Like Balls?" If you were to look at your dog's rhinarium, you'd see a distinguishing design of dimples, dots and ridges that, along with the shape of his nostril openings, makes a mark that is distinctive enough to conclusively identify one dog among many.

How to Nose Print

If you want to take a print of your dog's nose, for identification purposes or just to have, you'll need a pad of paper, a roll of paper towels and some food coloring. Blot your dog's nose with a paper towel first, to dry it out a bit. Then dip a clean paper towel into some food coloring and dab it onto your dog's nose. Gently press the pad of paper to your dog's nose, curving it around or rolling it in a smooth motion from one side to the other to ensure that you get an impression of the entire nose. Remember to gently wash the food coloring from your dog's nose with a soft, damp washcloth when you're done.

Kennel Clubs Recognize Nose Printing

Even though it's quick and easy to scan a dog for a microchip nowadays, nose-printing is still widely practiced; dog owners, breeders and trainers keep them on file for identification purposes. Kennel clubs worldwide recognize nose prints as an accurate means of identifying dogs. ID Systems Integrators has a system in place that registers the nose prints of dogs. Known as "Dognose ID," it is an identification information pool that stores dogs' nose prints along with their pictures. The company sends dogs' owners pet ID cards that include a photo, nose print and contact information, along with a collar tag that has further identification information, including ID Systems Integrators' phone number. If your dog is missing, call the company and it will fax a photo, nose print and description of your dog to veterinarians and animal shelters in your area.

Other Identification Methods

Nose-printing may be an accurate way to identify a dog but, in this high-tech era, a number of other identification methods have become more popular. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation lists microchipping, GPS tracking and radio frequency identification as the latest advancements for identifying and recovering missing dogs.