Dog thefts on the rise: Keep your pup safe from dog snatchers

Man putting hand through letterbox and dog at door
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dog theft is an ever-increasing problem and one that is heartbreaking for the victims, both dogs and owners alike. There can be different motives for dog theft, such as selling, breeding, and fighting, all of which are not things you want to think about happening to your beloved canine companion.

It is said that nearly two million pets are stolen every year in the United States, and at least five dogs are stolen every day in the UK. Stealing a pet is already a criminal offense under the Theft Act 1968, but with dog theft on the rise, particularly since the National lockdown, there has been a call by British campaigners to make pet theft a specific criminal offense.

Despite the existing laws, dog theft remains rife and with many households having a four-legged companion in their family, it is more important than ever to take our own measures to ensure our pets are kept safe. So here are some of our top tips to protect your pup from thieves.

1. Secure your garden

It is surprising how many dogs are stolen from within their own homes, and this often happens because thieves have found a way into the back garden. Be sure to check all fences and think about getting a lockable gate if you don’t have one already. Installing automatic lights can also work as a deterrent for strangers trying to enter your property. 

2. Don’t leave your dog outside while you go into a shop

It is still a very common sight, to see dogs tied or chained up outside a shop. Even if you’re just popping in, this is enough time for someone to simply walk off with your dog. If you must go into a shop when out with your dog, then it’s best to leave them with someone you trust.

3. Keep your dog close to you at all times

When out for walkies, dogs love to run off into the distance, but this can make them an easy target for dog theft, especially if walking in a wooded or crowded area. Be sure to keep your pooch in sight, or invest in a pet tracker so that you can keep close tabs on them when out and about.

4. Don’t leave your dog in the car unattended

Leaving dogs in cars is dangerous as it is and it really shouldn’t be done at all. Even in winter, when death from heat is unlikely, it can still leave them vulnerable to thieves. If your window is opened slightly, this makes it very easy for someone to force their way in and take your pup, so avoid doing this completely.

Dog tied to lamppost on street

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Invest in smart tags, collars and microchips

The latest pet tech can help keep your dog safe. There’s a variety of pet trackers out there such as the Pawfit 2 Tracker or the Tractive GPS Dog Tracker, that allow you to keep track of your pet should they wander off, or heaven forbid, be taken by someone. Microchipping pets is the norm now too, and this will make your dog easily identifiable by the authorities should they be stolen and recovered.

6. Train your dog

Often easier said than done, training your dog can help make them aware of strangers and learn to always listen to your command no matter what. Good recall will prevent your dog running off or getting lost and falling into the hands of dog thieves.

7. Only leave your dog with someone you trust

Dog walkers and dog sitters can be a great help if you have a busy lifestyle, but its important that you fully vet the person before giving them the job, or better yet, give the job to someone you already know and trust such as a friend or relative.

8. Be wary of strangers

While it's natural for people to want to come up and pet your dog or chat to you about them, be vigilant about the types of people you encounter. Fellow dog walkers you see on a regular basis are most likely genuine, but if anyone that’s not familiar or seems suspicious comes up to you when out with your dog, or comes to your door unexpectedly, then just be cautious. It’s always best to report anything suspicious and share concerns with other dog owners in your area.

9. Check your privacy settings online

Dog thieves are becoming more and more savvy, and may use social media to target pets. Check your privacy settings on all social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram to limit who can see your photos and updates. If they see you’ve got a dog, it’ll be easier for them target you.

10. Change up your walking patterns

If you take the same route on your dog walk at the same time every day, this makes it easier for someone to track your whereabouts and plan a theft. By regularly changing up your dog walking routes, it makes it harder for any potential threats to know your whereabouts. Plus, changing up your route is a good way to keep both you and your dog entertained.

While it’s not nice to think about your dog being stolen, dog theft is on the rise and it’s better to be safe than sorry. As long as you are savvy and aware of your dog’s whereabouts, you’ll be able to keep them safe. It’s also a good idea to keep up to date with the news on this subject in your area by speaking to other dog owners locally, and always reporting anything immediately if you suspect your dog has been stolen.

Sarah Butcher

Sarah is a freelance writer and marketer, covering a variety of topics from lifestyle and fitness to sustainability and travel. When she’s not writing for PetsRadar or other websites, she can be found looking after her pet chickens or relaxing with a cuppa and a cute doggo snoozing on her lap!