Experts have issued crucial dog safety advice in light of thefts hitting a record high in the UK.
Thefts have risen by 13 percent, amounting to 2,670 incidents in 2021, according to figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act by Direct Line Pet Insurance.
Sadly, that amounts to eight dogs being taken each day last year.
It's a pet owner's worst nightmare and a tragedy made more surreal as it can happen during everyday activities that feel safe, like during daily walks or at the park.
There are steps families can take to protect dogs whether you're at home or out in public, Wales Online reports.
A guide has been created by experts at PuppyHero.com to help stop your pup from being stolen - read on for their tips.
How to protect your pooch on a walk
All dogs require regular exercise, but sadly, this is prime time for dog theft to occur.
Find the top tips to keep your dog safe on a walk here.
Practice recall and/or use an extended lead
In case there is an emergency or threat to your dog, it's vital to ensure they'll respond to your calls. Try using tasty treats for your dog as this will greatly assist in recall.
This makes it harder for dog kidnapping gangs to track you and work out when to intercept and steal your dog.
Walk with a friend
Where possible, opt for safety in numbers. A friend will provide an extra witness and backup should you encounter a dognapper.
Do not give out your dog's name
Putting your dog's name on their collar, harness or ID may make it easier for strangers to lure them over
Stay aware of your surroundings
Keep your eyes on your dog and avoid distractions like mobile phones. Try to always have a charged phone and not wear earbuds when walking your dog
Be seen and be heard as the owner
So as to make everyone aware that the dog is yours and you have a constant eye on it, to deter any dognappers
Walk in open spaces
If you feel uncomfortable, try to opt for open, populated spaces where you can be easily seen
Follow your instinct
If you suspect someone may be following you or raises your suspicions, leave the area quickly
Keeping your dog safe while out and about
- Avoid location tags on social media: This prevents thieves from knowing your address or where you regularly attend with your dog
- Extra vigilant: Report any suspicious activity you see
- GPS tracking collar: Consider investing in a GPS tracking collar as this will allow you to know your dog's location at all times
- Be careful of strangers asking you a lot of questions: Always be wary of an unknown person asking unusual or constant questions about your dog (both on and offline)
- Dog walking/kennel/groomer services: Always carry out complete, extensive checks to see if they are trustworthy and reputable
- Note emergency SOS shortcuts on your phone: These can help if you feel threatened or unsafe
- Carry an alarm device: These can help to scare attackers and attract attention
- Refuse help from strangers: Unless absolutely necessary, avoid strangers' offers for help with your dog
- Tint your car windows: Dognappers have been known to steal canines from cars
- Keep your dog building side: Walk them away from the curb
- An adult should always be in control: Ensure children always walk dogs in the presence of an adult as dognappers may be more likely to target those they see as less likely to resist
- Find local dog friendly stores: This will ensure your dog need not be left outside or in the car
Preventing dog theft from your home
- Protect home and secure property: Consider dog cameras, CCTV and video doorbells
- Dogs are easily taken from gardens: Especially front gardens, so make sure to secure your garden with tall fences
- Lock and alarm gates: To prevent unwanted intruders
- Leave a light on if your dog is home alone: This can be helpful in the evening, so it looks like someone is in. Alongside this, always turn an outside light on for supervised late night toilet trips so you can see your dog at all times
- Outdoor kennels should also be alarmed and locked: For any dogs kept outdoors, ensure kennels have sufficient security
- Gravel your path or driveway: This makes it harder for intruders to discreetly approach
- Regularly test your home alarm: To ensure it's in working order
- Lock your dog flap when not in use: And don't leave the window open in the room your dog is in
- Don't showcase new puppies online: Be careful oversharing any new pets, puppies are especially valuable to dog nappers
Theft prevention by type of dog or breed
- Puppies which are not chipped are more valuable as they have no ID: Be extra careful in protecting puppies as they are prime targets
- Be extra careful with pedigree dogs: They are the most valuable and therefore the optimum targets
- Neutered dogs will deter thieves: As some thieves look to steal pets to breed them, a neutered dog will be less of a target
- When selling puppies, have someone else present: Limiting the number of people and showing them in only one, secure area can protect your dogs from theft
Proof of ownership
It is important that you have documentation of ownership in order to make sure there is no dispute should your dog be lost or stolen.
Keep ID collar tags up to date
Make sure your current mobile phone number and other contact details are on the tag.
Get your dog microchipped
This will be done by your vet - it will be relatively pain free for the dog and cheap to do. This is required by law in the UK before the dog is eight-weeks-old.
Be sure to take photos of your dog
Keep in mind capturing many angles and any identifying features. Take a photo of you with your dog, too, and before and after grooming.
Your dog's DNA
If you're really worried about dog theft then consider collecting their DNA to match later on if needed. There are services that can help with this.
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