Is dog theft really something to worry about?
Dog theft is unfortunately on the rise since lockdown, when puppies and even adult dogs became much more in demand. Dogs Trust reported that the price of the five most sought-after breeds increased by almost 90% during lockdown, which goes some way to explaining the rise in thefts. In March 2021, Dog Lost, the charity dedicated to finding missing pets recorded a 170% increase in dog theft with 465 dogs stolen last year with around 80% never being recovered.
Thankfully, this month the UK government have set up a Pet Theft Taskforce specifically to target dog-nappers with the aim being to research the main reasons why theft is occurring, and to find ways in which to prevent it. Currently only 1% of those found guilty of pet theft are prosecuted meaning there is little deterrent for criminals.
How can I prevent my dog being stolen?
Luckily, there is lots that you can do to prevent your dog from being targeted by thieves. Firstly, by law your dog must be microchipped. This gives you the best chance of recovering your dog if they are stolen. Ensure that your microchip details are kept up to date if you move house or change your phone number.
Lawfully your dog must also wear a collar and tag in a public place containing your name and address details. It is important that the tag does not contain your dog’s name, as opportunistic thieves can shout them over making the theft look less conspicuous.
Over half of stolen dogs are taken from their own gardens. It is therefore really important to never leave your dog unattended outside if your outdoor space is not completely secure. Avoid signs that advertise that you have a dog in your house or garden, or uploading pictures to public social media profiles, particularly if they are a desirable breed or a puppy. Additionally, never leave your dog tied up outside of a shop or alone in the car as thieves also target supermarkets and their car parks.
Not as many dogs are stolen from a walk as you would think but someone showing too much interest and asking a lot of questions, particularly if your dog is pregnant is a cause to be vigilant. Varying the routes that you take for walks in future is an easy way to protect yourself and your dog.
Is there anything useful that I can teach my dog?
There are steps to take with your dog’s training to keep them safe. Teaching your dog to give you attention before meeting anyone out and about helps to train them that before greeting people, they check-in with you first. This starts with not allowing your dog to run up to other dogs and people on a walk by keeping them long lined. Then before they go up to greet, wait for them to give you eye contact and mark with a YES and reward with a treat before telling them ‘okay go’ if you feel it is safe, or changing direction by luring them with a treat if not.
A solid recall is also essential to prevent your dog from running long distances or out of sight. If your dog is not reliable at returning when called consider using a long-line to give them a chance to run whilst keeping them at a safe distance. If you would like some tips on how to work on a rapid recall with your dog you can download my free recall guide at www.rachaelclairedogbehaviour.co.uk/
Rachael Claire is an IMDT accredited canine Behaviourist offering remote sessions covering many aspects of dog behaviour.