Strategies to reduce the chance of your dog being stolen

Wanstead Society’s Committee member and local trainee dog trainer Sarah Mcleod  and Dog behaviouralist and trainer Colin Spence ISCP.Dip.canine.Prac of Colins K9 Training Services advise on strategies owners can take to help to reduce the chance of their dog being stolen when out on a walk.

The upsurge in the demand for puppies and dogs has increased whilst people are at home more during this pandemic, seeking companionship, with the Kennel club commenting that searches for puppies on their site increased by 168% in 2020 when compared to 2019. So, dogs on the whole are being stolen to meet the demand for breeding (such as on puppy farms) and as a family pet. Further, dog theft has now become organised crime throughout the UK , with some police forces receiving double the number of reports of dog theft when compared to the previous year .

Some strategies you can take to try and reduce the chances of having your dog stolen when out on a walk include; ensuring your mobile phone is fully charged and if it has the setting, switch on your mobile tracker, so your exact location can be found if you need to call the police. Add the local dog wardens’ number into your contacts, their details can usually be found on your councils’ website. Always carry a personal alarm with you , have it clipped to your treat pouch and check from time to time that it works, as any loud noise can serve to be a good deterrent to someone who does not want to attract attention to the activity at hand, such as stealing a dog. Ensure it is always reachable and you know how to use it.

It is compulsory by law that all dogs are microchipped . Check your dog’s microchip is up-to-date at the vets or perhaps buy your own scanner so you can check regularly. As if the chip has become dislodged and can’t be found you may not want to take your dog out until this has been rectified, otherwise no one will know who the dog belongs to if stolen or lost.

When a newly acquired puppy or dog is taken to the vets it is not law for the vet to check the microchip but if you are a new owner it may be worth asking them, so you can verify the source of your dog is the same as you have been led to believe.

Choose a well fitted, comfortable collar or harness with suitable lead, do not personalise the harness with your dog’s name.

Let those you leave at home or a local friend/family member know when, where, the planned route and approximate duration of your walk.

Choose your routes in advance, seek routes that are well lit, populated, open with no blind corners. Vary your routes. Be visually observant from the moment you leave your home, note who is around, are you seeing the same cars passing or are new people hanging around, is anyone sitting in a car for extended periods of time with no obvious reason?

Where possible walk-in pairs or in groups (depending on lockdown rules at the time), two or more people are less approachable by thieves and your dog is less likely to be taken from you physically.

From a dog behavioural perspective, dogs don’t need to be walked daily so long as they have sufficient mental enrichment ( and total rest days for dogs is to be encouraged, so if you feel anxious don’t feel pressured to take them out daily. You don’t necessarily need to ask those with dogs to go for a walk, in accordance with the current lockdown restrictions, at the time of writing, you are able to meet one other person from another household. Meet that person at your home, start and end your walk at your home with the other person walking home, having ensured you and your dog are back home safely.

Ensure the person taking the dog out for the walk is responsible enough to cope with any eventuality that may occur , such as being approached by a stranger and having the confidence to say no to any unwanted attention. If you a have a small dog, pick them up if you are not comfortable or if the dog is larger get close to them.

If leaving a gated park, leave it on your own rather than with someone walking behind you. Take a step back and let the person pass. Continue to be visually observant on your way home, notice those around you and if anyone is following you home, if you have concerns call the police.

We often think of the messaging about not leaving dogs in cars due to the weather but it is equally appropriate advice when relating to dog theft, not to mention never leaving a dog unattended outside a shop or public venue.

If you have been approached or have any suspicions call the police immediately, reporting the date, time, location, outfit and description of the person/s, also give this information to your local dog warden. It is not creating a fuss, it is informing the correct people, so suitable measures can be taken. If it is safe to do so and you will still have complete control of your dog take a photograph of the car or person/s. Never put yourself in harm’s way.

If your dog is taken, having called the police, follow the same advice as if your dog were lost; contact the organisation Dog Lost Put posters up locally, inform all the local vets, contact the microchip company and post in social media.

If you have any training needs in getting your dog’s attention or in any way do not feel confident your dog would return to your immediately when called, then research safe, secure, privately hired local enclosed dog fields to let your dog off, such as Dollys Dog Field . You can also call Colins K9 Training services to help you build your dog’s skills in these areas. Further, you can contact us if you feel you need help in choosing the right puppy or dog for you and your family, along with sessions on socialisation.

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