A recent study by DogLost, estimates a 250% increase in dog thefts nationwide during the pandemic. So whether you are one of the many new dog owners or an existing dog owner, you may be wondering how you can minimise the risk of dog theft and prevent your dog being stolen.
The good news is that you are in the right place! While lots of our tips may feel like common sense, they are a good reminder that we can make lots of small tweaks that won’t change the quality of lifestyle that you have with your friend.
One of the best parts of owning a dog is those daily walks and adventures and it would be very easy for fear to take over given the growing news coverage on the subject. So, please do remember that the risk while very real is also small and try not to panic – enjoy those walks!
Why Are Dogs Being Stolen?
Even prior to the pandemic. the most common reasons for stealing a dog are:
#1 To Resell.
#2 For Breeding
With many dog purchasers not adhering to licenced breeder or requesting full history of the dog they are buying, this has made it easy for stolen dogs to be sold onwards.
However the staggering increase in demand for puppies and adopted dogs during the pandemic has seen prices for them soar.
Cocker Spaniels for e.g. are being advertised for up to £3,500 more than double their normal selling price. And a Cocker Spaniel breeder who recovered a stolen puppy found it being sold online for £2,250 after initially being sold by themselves for £1,500.
n.b While there is a view that reputable breeders wouldn’t be advertising at these increased prices, it’s worth bearing in mind that if they kept to pre-pandemic prices, it’s likely that they would be a target for people to buy and resell on. As such selling price alone may not indicate that the dog has been stolen.
What Types of Dogs are Being Stolen?
With most thieves aiming to resell or breed a dog, it’s no surprise that those dogs that fetch higher prices and are in high demand are higher on their target list.
Dog theft statistics in 2018 showed the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as the most commonly stolen dog and remains high on the list now with DogsLost reporting the current 5 top breeds being stolen as:
#1 Cocker Spaniels
#2 English Springer Spaniels
#3 Jack Russell Terriers
#4 French Bulldogs
#5 Staffordshire Bull Terriers
Not surprisingly females and puppies are high as a % of stolen dogs too.
How Are Dogs Being Stolen?
Earlier research carried out by Direct Line suggests that dogs are being stolen via back gardens, from cars, when left unattended outside shops and businesses or while out of sight during dog walks.
However a quick google of recent dog theft attempts and stolen dogs, shows that thieves are both planning their targets and being opportunistic. Either through targeting outdoor kennels and gardens with unsupervised dogs but also owners out on regular dog walks.
Taking this all into account, there’s no surprise that the risk of your dog being stolen may now be of a higher concern than previously.
How to Minimise and Prevent Dog Theft
As an owner of a 7 year old Springer and 9 week old Sprocker Spaniel, both females, its def been more at the front of my own mind.
Both as a dog owner, and as an owner of a doggy business too.
So how we do both minimise the risk and help prevent dog thefts from happening?
Dog Theft: Minimising the Risk of It Happening
#1 Be Aware of The Risk of Dog Theft
The fact you are reading this blog is a great start and merely being aware of the fact dog theft can happen will help. The dog owner community can be super friendly and we all love to chat about our best furiend – however be aware of strangers asking questions about your dog.
If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Make your excuses and move on.
#2 Do Not Leave Your Dog Unattended Outside Shops
This seems pretty obvious and even if your dog isn’t high on the list, this is by far the easiest way to have your dog stolen! It takes just seconds even if they are tied up.
Everyday I see and hear dogs tied up outside the Co-op just next door to our premises. We know it can be difficult if are trying to combine a walk with picking up essentials but even if it seems the shop staff are keeping an eye on your dog, it really does just take seconds.
It may have all worked out ok the last 99 times you left them outside, but it might just be the 100th time that you find themselves a target for a dog thief.
#3 Avoid Leaving Your Dog in Your Car (and remove any signs on your car)
Notwithstanding the risk of a dog overheating, whether you have locked your car or not, leaving your dog unattended in a car is high risk. Windows can be broken if you are dog is visible to passers by too.
You may wish to also consider if you have any stickers on your car/transport that indicate a dog may be inside.
#4 Invest in a Dog-G8
Worried about callers at home or have a dog that likes to sneak straight out, then the Dog-G8 is the pawfect safety barrier.
I have just personally installed one of these across our patio doors. With a recent new puppy arrival, it helps me feel secure leaving our doors open without Hope sneaking out unnoticed.
#5 Never Leave Your Dog Unattended in Garden and Consider Added Security
I know personally it’s all too easy to pop that door open to let them out while you get on with other jobs around the house. With gardens being a prime target, then you may consider only letting your dog enjoy the garden while supervised.
You could consider adding a bell to your rear gate as an alert or adding extra gate locks/padlocks depending on your home set up.
#6 Invest in Home Security/Outdoor Cameras
A sensor light may be enough to stop someone targeting your home at night but adding security cameras may not only deter, they may aid in tracing your dog if stolen.
There are lots of options now available and while NEST cameras are becoming more popular, you might want to consider consulting with a local independent. Having had cameras installed in our grooming area and shop, we found them just as competitive and with that extra added knowledge and advice thrown in.
#7 Pawfect that Recall Training
Have a furiend who hasn’t’ quite mastered their recall. If they are friendly with strangers and won’t reliably come back to you, then this will make it easier for dog thieves to target them.
Time to start working on that recall and carry their favourite treat and/or toys to keep them fully interested in you.
Why not check out a local dog trainer or you’ll find lots of helpful information online too.
# 8 Use a Training Line
While working on that recall, a training line may give that added peace of mind. Allowing you to quickly regain control, particularly if paired with a carabiner clasp (or added carabiner – see below).
#9 Vary Your Dog Walking Routes and Times
One of the most common pieces of advice from all police reports quoted online is to vary your dog walking route and time. Given the pandemic and also the need for some dogs to have a routine to aid training etc, this can be difficult!
Swap around times with indoor or garden training and your furiend will also thank you for those different routes and locations for walks too. More stimulation for them!
#10 Be Aware of the Content You are Posting on Social Media
Love Instagram and sharing adventures with your furiends? Then you might want to consider how often you post, the timing of your posts and/or the use of location tags.
One of the changes we’ve made in our own business is that we never post photos until our furiends are at home. You can save those videos and stories until you get home and then post the county of the location rather than specific location.
This applies to when you are posting from home too. If you live in a small town or area, maybe consider to switching to using that county tag too. You can see this on our Millie and Hope The Spaniels Account below:
View this post on Instagram
#11 Remove Any Indicators That You are A Dog Owner from Outside Your Home
When you become a dog owner, your home and even outfits can become dog themed quickly (really .. it’s just me!)???? Often on our local deliveries, I’ll spot dog themed signs and small front garden statues indicating that a dog is in the home (and often what breed they are).
Consider moving these away from the window and into the back garden to remove any indicators to a potential dog thief that a dog is at home.
#12 Check in with Dog Businesses that You Use re Their Own Prevention Measures
Use a dog walker, dog boarder or dog groomer? While you may have carried out your due diligence pre hiring them, you may wish to consider just checking in with them re any measures they are also taking to keep your furiend safe while in their care.
If you have taken additional precautions or would like them to make any changes, any professional service provider should be willing to share with you a risk assessment that they’ve undertaken.
#13 Have Your Dog Neutered/Spayed
I know. This one feels a little controversial and I honestly considering leaving it out.
However the latest RSPCA guidance does include this recommendation and if you’ve been putting it off for no other reason than not getting round to booking it, then you may wish to pick up the phone and book now.
While it may not be obvious at the time of theft that a dog has been spayed or neutered the guidance suggests that if noticed after, they may be quicker to ‘release’ as they will not be able to breed from them.
#14 Walk in Busy and Well-Lit Places during Daylight Hours
Now for some of us, this just might not be possible. Our commitments at home and potentially our dogs behaviour (if reactive for e.g.), may mean that busy daylight spaces are just not an option.
There are also definite pros and cons to walking in busy areas versus quieter rural or coastal locations. For e.g. you possibly are more likely to see someone approaching from a distance and parking up etc.
Find what works for you and your dog and what would make you feel safer. And if walking in rural spaces, then def ensure you follow the below tip!
#15 Ensure Your Phone is Charged and Lose Those Earphones!
I’m a huge fan of catching up on a podcast while walking Millie but given the risk and potential to note hear someone approaching the earphones are now being left at home.
But make sure your phone is fully charged to make any emergency calls but also to access some of it’s emergency features (see below).
Dog Theft: Making it Harder for a Dog Thief During an Attempt
If you’ve taken all of the above precautions, then hopefully you’ll never find yourself in the position, but what if you find yourself a target?
There are a number of things you can do that may put the thief off while they are attempting to steal your dog.
#1 Choosing the Right Collar and Lead
Often we choose collars and leads for the simplicity of putting them on and off. But when it comes to dog theft, we want to make it impossible fo them to remove a collar or lead easily.
For e.g clasp collars can be easily unclipped compared to a buckle collar. And you can also purchase leads that have a carabiner clip instead of stand lead end.
Personally we like a clasp collar especially for dogs who are growing as they have more room to adjust but opt for the EzyDog Double Up Collar which has a double d clip that fastens over the clasp making it impossible to get to without removing the lead. When combined with a carabiner ended lead – double safe!
#2 Use Carabiner Clips
Have a favourite harness/collar and lead and would rather not swap them? It might be possible to adapt what you already have by purchasing some carabiner clips.
This will all come down to the positioning and style fo your collar/harness and lead but they are super cheap and available in packs, so worth tyring out.
#3 Carry a Personal Alarm
Carrying a personal alarm may both buy you a little time but also attract attention from nearby walkers or home owners. The risk of being caught due to triggering the alarm may be enough to put them off.
n.b these aren’t kind to dog ears so be wary with using with over reactive dogs who are sensitive to sounds.
I purchased these super simple personal alarms via amazon HERE – you just pull the cord to activate.
#4 Carry a Legal Spray
You can now purchase legal sprays in handy handbag/pocket size.
Most sprays aims are to deter, mark and identity an attacker or dog thief without injury. If you read some of the reviews of different sprays, they do suggest some that mark (for e.g red) ca be easily washed off. However the person you are pointing it at, doesn’t know either way and again just like a personal alarm, may not wish to take the risk.
#5 Ensure Your Dog Has an ID Tag and Review the Details On It
The Control of Dogs Order 1992, made the requirement for every dog to wear identification (usually via a dog tag) a legal requirement. As such most dogs do wear them as standard Not wearing an ID tag can result in a fine up to £5,000 and they can also aid with identifying your dog if they are stolen and subsequently ‘dumped’.
When it comes to dog theft you may want to carefully consider what details you have on your ID tag, particularly whether to include your dog’s name.
The legal requirement is for the owner’s name and address to be included, though we always suggest adding a contact telephone number for easy contact.
#6 Invest in a GPS Tracker
A GPS tracker can be a great tool if your dog was to become lost as they can let you know where your dog is in real time. The one downside is that they can be easily removed but potentially something to consider if your dog is prone to wandering off too!
#7 Make the Most of Your Phone (Apps and Emergency Call Feature)
Staffordshire Police recently shared a fab video on facebook talking about the Hollie App which one of our customers, Marie shared with us.
The App not only tracks your location but when you shake your phone, it sends a text to your emergenyc contacts and starts to record voice and video too.
Also worth remembering that if you have an apple iPhone, it also has an emergency SOS Function.
Normally you’d press the side button five times and it will sound an alarm then call emergency services with your location but just search emergency SOS in your phone to check the settings.
Dog Theft: Making It Easier to Trace a Stolen Dog
If the worst was to happen, then there are a few actions now that will aid you with your search for a stolen dog:
#1 Check Your Microchip Details
While it’s now a requirement, by law, for all dogs and puppies to be microchipped by 8 weeks old when was the last time you checked your details?
Do you know where the paperwork is? Grab it now and even if you haven’t moved home or changed details, check the database is accurate and up to date.
You may also want to consider asking your vet to check the microchip at your next appointment too to make sure it’s readable and can be found.
#2 Ensure You Have Lots of Photos of Your Dog
Now for most of us… this isn’t a problem! But have you ever taken photos of all angles so that you can compare al the markings.
I’ve found myself visually taking in particularly features of Millie given she is predominantly white and after her last groom took lots of photos from diff angles to capture all minor markings and also recorded her height and length (base of tail to neck) on my notes app too.
There are lots recently where Police have found dogs where some have had their microchip removed by the dog thieves. We’ve all bumped into very similar dogs, especially with popular breeds so this will help reunite you.
#3 Ensure You have Photos of Your Dog and You
If their microchip has been removed then you may need to prove ownership over and above markings. So even if you are not keen on having your photo taken – ensure you have saved lots of photos of yourself with them to help prove ownerships if needed.
Have lots of photographs of yourself with your dog, to help you to prove ownership if needed.
This may sound extreme but is fairly common practice to be requested like in this recently recovery of 59 stolen dogs.
#4 Check Your Dog Insurance
This is something that I just discovered during our research and talking to other dog owners, they weren’t aware of this either.
However some dog insurers containing cover for items such as advertising costs if your dog was to go missing. This might not be standard and instead an add-on so check your insurance details as it may aid with the financial cost of recovering your furiend.
Direct Line for e.g. has an add on which covers up to £1,000 if stolen or lost while insured (under their 5 in 1 care package).
In Summary: How to Minimise and Prevent Dog Theft
While the risk is low, the emotional impact of losing a dog is something that we all know, we don’t wish to experience. They really are our whole world!
And if you are concerned, every dog walk can feel difficult and anxious. But hopefully armed with the information above, we can get you and your furiend back out walking happily and prepared for any situation.
Over To You:
Is dog theft something you are concerned about? We’d love to know:
- If you have already put in place any of these measures, do you feel safer having done so?
- Are there any suggestions in our blog that you are planning to implement?
- Are there any other ideas or suggestion for dog owners to help further minimise the risk?
We’d love to hear from you, do just jump into the comments and let us know.
If you’ve found this blog helpful then please do share with your fellow dog owners – the more that we raise awareness and implement measures, the harder we’ll make it for those dog thieves!
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