A Pet Parent’s Worst Nightmare is Losing Their Dog: Learn How To Stop Your Dog From Being Stolen
The Covid-19 pandemic has much to answer for, not least the rise in the price of puppies, and consequently, the terrifying rise in dog theft. This is tragically becoming a very serious, and much more commonplace issue, so you may need to make certain changes if you want to protect your precious dog against theft. Do everything within your power to keep your dog safe.
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- DOG THEFT STATISTICS
- 17 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO STOP YOUR DOG BEING STOLEN
- KEEP GATES LOCKED AND IMPROVE FENCING
- WHEN WALKING, BE WARY OF OVERLY INTERESTED PEOPLE
- PRACTICE YOUR RECALL REGULARLY
- DON’T TIE YOUR DOG UP OUTSIDE STORES WHILE YOU ARE SHOPPING
- DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR WHILE YOU ARE SHOPPING
- DON’T FOLLOW THE SAME WALKING ROUTINE, HABITS OR PLACES
- CHANGE THE LEAD
- BE CAREFUL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
- DOG SITTERS AND WALKERS
- REPORT STRANGE ACTIVITY
- PET SECURITY TECH
- BE PREPARED
- WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS STOLEN
DOG THEFT STATISTICS
It seems that every day I read a new report about increasing cases of dog theft. There have been some very high profile dognapping cases in recent times too. Despite this, the law still treats the theft of a dog as nothing more than loss of property, rather than the ‘kidnapping’ of a loved one. This makes it all the easier for a thief to target dogs, since the potential punishment, if caught, is not a great deterrent. [Edit: In May 2021, the UK Government announced that animals will now be recognised as sentient beings. This is fantastic news, not just for the animals, but for us pet parents too!]
The statistics vary from one organisation to another, and from one region to another, but some have reported a terrifying 250% increase in the dog theft during 2020. This largely seems to be due to the dramatic increase in the price of puppies, caused by a greater demand for puppies during lockdown. The cost of some breeds has risen by 89%.
The high price of puppies makes puppy theft easy money for a criminal.
WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL DOGS?
Pedigree dogs are often stolen for resale as pets, as they are of high commercial value. However, other dogs are stolen for more tragic ends, such as breeding, or even worse, as bait training for dog fighting. One pet parent received ransom demands for the return of her dogs.
WHAT DOG BREEDS ARE BEING STOLEN?
The most stolen dog breeds in the UK in recent years are:
Other highly sought after dogs such as spaniel mixes, and doodles, are also targeted by dog thieves, as they are very popular and fashionable family pets.
Make sure that your dog is microchipped and that your contact details are up-to-date. In the UK, the law states that all dogs must be microchipped by 8 weeks old, so any puppy over that age should already be microchipped.
17 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO STOP YOUR DOG BEING STOLEN
So, how can I protect my dog from theft? Thankfully, there are several things you can do to keep your dog safe, as well as things you should stop doing, to deter dognappers.
Let’s start with things you can do right away, that will cost you nothing more than a little extra time and awareness.
KEEP GATES LOCKED AND IMPROVE FENCING
If you have a garden or yard on your property, add a lock to the gate so people can’t simply open it to let your dog out. If you are unable to put a put a lock on the gate, can you put some kind of alarm or bell on it? Old school tech works just fine here – remember the kinds of bells that shops used to have above the door, that rang when you walked in?
If your dog is out in the garden, be sure to keep her in your sights.
Can people see over your fence into your garden? Could you maybe put up an additional fence or boundary, so that passersby can’t even seen your dog from the road?
By not having your dog on view, and by making it harder to get access to your yard or garden, you are likely to deter many would-be thieves.
If you have a ‘Beware of the dog’ sign up, or, an “I live here’ sign, take it down.
WHEN WALKING, BE WARY OF OVERLY INTERESTED PEOPLE
It pains me to write this, as the last thing anybody wants is to distrust others, especially other dog-lovers. It’s wonderful to have people compliment your dog, and most likely that’s all it will be. However, be aware of anyone who seems to be taking too much interest in your dog, or asking questions that make you uncomfortable.
Try to avoid telling people where you live, where you walk your dog, or any other details that might make it easier for a thief to have an easy target.
If necessary, lie about your dog to make her less interesting to would-be thieves. For instance, to avoid a female dog being of interest for breeding, say that she is already spayed, and getting on in years.
In the small village where I live, people often ask me if they can give my dog a treat. If it is someone I know, I offer them one of my treats to give her, explaining that she has dietary needs and shouldn’t eat certain kinds of treats. This is also a great excuse though, to use with strangers. Simply thank them, say your dog is allergic to lots of food and that she can’t accept treats. Be polite and move on.
PRACTICE YOUR RECALL REGULARLY
Make sure that if you do walk your dog off lead, that she has an excellent recall. If you’re out walking and you see someone approaching, you need to be able to call her back to you right away.
If you need some help polishing up your recall skills, consider getting some training. There are lots of excellent online training courses for pet parents. I personally have used Grisha Stewart’s techniques with my dogs:
Grisha Stewart’s Dog Training And Behaviour School
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Cook up some healthy dog treats and do regular recall practise with your dog. Make sure you always have treats with you on a walk for added incentive to return to you.
There are also plenty of things that you can STOP DOING, to deter dog thieves.
DON’T TIE YOUR DOG UP OUTSIDE STORES WHILE YOU ARE SHOPPING
In the past, my dogs have always gone everywhere with me, whenever possible. My last two dobermans both enjoyed the freedom of walking with me to the shops where I would tie them up outside. They’d wait patiently while I did my shopping. And they would still be there, waiting and watching the door for my return, when I finished.
Those days are gone.
There is no way I would leave my dog tied up outside a shop now. This is one of the easiest ways, and most common ways, a dognapper has of stealing a dog.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR WHILE YOU ARE SHOPPING
This is another thing I used to do, back in the good old days when dognapping wasn’t a thing. However, this is another thing I wouldn’t dream of doing now. Cars are easy to break into – for that reason you wouldn’t leave your handbag on the car seat in full view while you were off doing something else. Whilst you may not see your dog as a thing of monetary value, it is exactly that to a thief.
DON’T FOLLOW THE SAME WALKING ROUTINE, HABITS OR PLACES
I’m not saying any of these things to scare you, or depress you, but if you have the means to change your walking routine, times or the places where you walk, it will make it harder for any would-be-dognapper to take your fur baby from you.
Try taking a different route each time you leave the house so you’re not always going the same way. Vary the time you leave the house. Try to avoid walking on your own, in quiet areas.
If possible, walk with other people. Buddy up with fellow dog walkers in your area.
It’s tragic that we have to consider such things. I adore walking with my dog in remote country spots, but I adore my dog more, and I plan to keep her by my side. It’s not just our dogs’ safety we need to consider either, it’s our safety too. Some dog theft cases have involved injury to the pet parent or dog walker.
CHANGE THE LEAD
Thieves have been known to cut fabric leads in order to steal dogs. If you use a chain lead, it makes it harder for a thief. Some pet parents have taken to attaching the end of the lead to their belt, to stop a thief from simply yanking the lead from their hand. A carabiner is ideal for attaching the handle of the lead to your belt. It’s not a guarantee, of course, but it does make it harder for a thief to grab your dog and will deter many of them.
Put a locking carabiner between the lead and the collar too: some thieves pretend to stroke your dog while they are undoing the lead, ready to run off with your dog.
BE CAREFUL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
Don’t inadvertently make your dog a theft target by posting photos or information that may enable thieves to take advantage. Don’t add a location tag, and avoid taking pictures that show where you are. This is especially true if your dog has puppies, since puppies under 8 weeks of age have still not been microchipped, which makes it so much harder to identify them if they are stolen. They are also much easier to sell than older dogs.
DOG SITTERS AND WALKERS
Who looks after your dog if you go away, or if you are out during the day? If you need someone to care for your dog in your absence, get recommendations from other pet parents for a reputable person, company or boarding kennel. If you leave your dog with a friend or family member, explain why they need to be extra vigilant when caring for your dog. Sadly, we simply can’t be as relaxed as we used to be.
REPORT STRANGE ACTIVITY
I’m on several facebook dog-related groups and from time to time I see dog walkers reporting strange activity in their area. This has included vans driving around with the driver asking dog walkers if they want to see things they have for sale, for instance.
If you see something that doesn’t seem right, or gives you cause for concern, report it immediately. It is better to be safe than sorry. You may well end up saving someone’s dog from being stolen.
PET SECURITY TECH
There are many tech solutions you can buy to better protect your dog, and yourself.
If you plan to get one of these, make sure that you keep it in an easily accessible place, and that you know how to use it. Spraying one of these in the direction of a thief should buy you valuable time to get away and shout for help.
If you see someone coming towards you and it feels wrong, setting off a noisy panic alarm may well make them think twice. It will also attract the attention of other people nearby, something a thief tries to avoid.
If someone takes you by surprise and grabs your dog, it’s still worthwhile setting off the alarm: if nothing else, the noise might make the thief abandon your dog and run off.
Having a body camera on you is useful in two ways: It should provide very useful information for the police in the event of a theft, and also, it might deter the theft altogether. If you have a body cam, make it visible, rather than trying to hide it. Most thieves would look for an easier target than someone who is recording everything.
Make yourself visible too. Wearing a high-vis jacket is a good idea for several reasons – traffic safety, for instance – but more importantly, a thief might think twice about approaching someone who stands out.
I did quite a bit of research on different body cameras before deciding on this one. It had received raving reviews from other buyers, including being shower-proof (that’s important here in rainy England!). There are cheaper options, but I wanted one with a screen so that if anything ever happens I can check the footage right away, instead of having to wait to get home and download it to my laptop.
BOBLOV makes a small, portable body-mounted camera that can easily be worn on clothes. It captures high definition videos and photos in 1296P resolution with sound. It features night IR vision and a wide angle lens for an all-around view. You can use it to capture your entire dog walk! This body camera is great value for money, considering all its functions and features:
- 1.5″ display screen
- infrared night vision
- audio and video
- 8 hr battery life
- External micro SD card storage up to 128/256G (card not included)
- 140° wide angle allows you to capture much more information
It’s really easy to use and it has made me feel like I am protecting my girl as best I can on walks now.
When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well-built it was. It feels really solid. I found that wearing it around my neck gives me much smoother videos that don’t jump around as much as when it’s on my belt.
I just used another small camera strap for this and passed it through the back of the clip.
Can you see my tiny body cam, hanging round my neck?
METAL LOCKING COLLARS AND LEADS
In the UK, you are required by law to have a collar and identity tag on your dog in public places. The tag doesn’t need to have your dog’s name on it though, and it is advisable NOT to have your pet’s name on it. Instead, put your contact details there. Likewise, if you use a harness on your dog, think twice before having the harness personalised with your dog’s name.
Of course, if your dog is stolen, any such identifying features would immediately be removed by the thief. Some pet parents have turned to high security solutions to further protect their dog.
Some new metal collars and leads will soon be entering the market. These are similar to bike locks that have a steel core and can’t be cut open with bolt cutters.
Many people leave their dog’s collar on permanently, something I too used to do many years ago. However, after a close shave with one dog getting caught up and nearly choking when playing with another dog, I no longer leave collars on.
If you do get a high-security metal collar, please consider taking it off when you return from your walk: if your dog were to get tangled up on something you might not be able to get a locking collar off quickly.
The problem of course with GPS trackers is that whilst they might be useful in the case of a lost dog, they are unlikely to be so useful if your dog is stolen. As soon as a thief realises that there is a GPS unit on a collar, it will quickly be removed and thrown away.
Most GPS trackers are bulky and obvious. We pet parents really need a company to come up with a lockable dog collar with built-in GPS!
In the absence of this, for now the Link AKC Collar is the sleekest, least obvious GPS collar system I have found. It may give all-essential information to find your dog in the event of a theft, as the thief might not immediately realise that the collar has a GPS unit.
HOME SECURITY AND CAMERA SYSTEMS
Firstly, make sure that you have good outdoor lighting – some thieves are deterred by motion sensor lights coming on if they approach.
There are so many home security systems on the market now. Some home security systems have a ‘pet’ feature – dogs under a certain size can move about and not set off the alarm.
The Blink security system is my favourite for ease of setting up, affordability and expansion. You can start with just one camera, indoor, or outdoor. Add on additional cameras as necessary. It’s a wifi system, so no cabling is necessary. You don’t even need to drill holes in the wall to fix the camera mounts if you don’t want to, since you can get flexigrip mounting systems that wind round posts or gutters, for instance.
The following actions won’t help you prevent the theft of your dog, but, they will help you be more likely to get your precious dog back in the event of her being dognapped.
If you’re like me, you’ll have more photos of your dog on your phone than you do anything else. Make sure that you have up-to-date photos of any particular markings or features that can clearly identify your dog. Be sure too, to have plenty of photos of you with your dog, not just of your dog – these will be useful as evidence that you are the rightful owner.
LOST DOG GROUPS
Register with online lost dog groups where you live. A quick Google search for lost dogs, dog theft and stolen dog groups will soon give you options for organisations dedicated to finding and reuniting dogs and pet parents in your area. You can join these groups now, just in case.
Some dog insurance policies will assist with the costs of hunting down your dog, including offering a reward: check your policy so you know what help you could get from your insurer if needs be.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS STOLEN
I hope it never happens to you, but should your dog ever be stolen, you need to act quickly.
Call the police immediately to report it. Make sure it is reported as a theft, and not a lost dog. Try to remember all the details about what happened and give the police all of the information you can think of that might lead to a swift recovery of your precious dog.
There was a case just recently of a dog stolen from a farm in the UK. The police were quick to act, tracing the suspects in a vehicle and pursuing it across 3 counties. When the vehicle was found abandoned, thankfully the dog was also found unhurt, not far away. Sadly, the thieves were not found.
Contact your vet so that the theft can be updated on the microchip database. Should anyone try to re-register your dog, you would be informed.
Contact your local authority dog warden, local dog pounds and dog rescues. If your dog managed to get away from the thief, she might have been handed in.
Post details of your dog on all the missing / lost / stolen dog websites and social media groups that you can.
Print out posters with a photo of your dog and put them up in local parks, vets, supermarkets etc. Make sure you include your contact details and any other important information.
Dog theft is on the rise, and dramatically so. It’s tragic that we have to prepare ourselves for this reality, but thankfully there are many things we can do to protect our dogs – and ourselves – from dog thieves. From high security pet accessories to a simple change of walking habits, taking action will help to deter would-be dognappers from getting their hands on your fur baby.