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‘According to Google trend data, the search term Dog theft UK has received a 450% rise in searches within the last month alone.  Here, the team at Petside presents 9 ways to protect your pet and how to identify if you are a target’.

News that Lady Gaga’s 3 French Bulldogs fell victim to theft shocked the world.  For many dog owners, it confirmed their fears that dog theft is on the rise.   According to Google trend data, the search term Dog theft UK has received a 450% rise in searches within the last month alone.  Such a significant rise reflects the nations concern over the crisis and their want to protect themselves and their pup. 

As the demand for dogs rise, their financial value continues to increase.  In some cases, the cost of dogs has more than doubled.  As a result, some individuals perceive dogs as valuable assets that serve as a medium to increase income at a rapid rate.  Experience teaches us that criminals favour high value items such as jewellery, tech and items that are made with precious stones and metals. The current climate has seen dogs added to the items that thieves favour.  As much of the UK accept dogs as an extension of a family, many criminals identify them as a currency. 

Here, the team at Petside presents 9 ways to protect your pet and how to identify if you are a target.

The 1 non negotiable

First time dog owners are often surprised to learn how opiniated other owners are.  Each has their own tried and tested methods with regards to the upbringing of their dog.  Essentially, nurturing a pet is prescriptive to each owner and methods are only successful if they align with an owner’s lifestyle, income, and personality.  However, there is one non-negotiable that we advise.  Every dog should be microchipped without fail.  A microchip is approximately the size of a grain of rice.  It is placed under a dog’s skin and can only be identified with a scanner.  The chip features a unique code that once scanned, directs to a database that features the contact details of the owner.  Every dog must be micro chipped in case of loss or theft.

When passers-by ask a lot of questions

Part and parcel of walking a dog is experiencing passers by stopping to admire your pet.  This is only natural and often harmless; however, stay mindful of how much information you are disclosing and how many questions the passer-by asks.  We suggest that you have rehearsed answers in your memory bank for questions that thieves may have a particular interest in.  The following questions are often asked:

  • How old is your dog?
  • Is your dog male or female? 
  • Do you live in the area?
  • Has your dog been neutered/spayed?
  • What breed is your dog?
  • Where did you purchase/rescue your pet from?

Rehearsed answers should be as vague as possible.  If you hold any suspicion whatsoever, pick up your dog by hand and leave the area.  If you are unable to pick your dog up due to size etc. keep them on a short lead and close to you.

Garden Secure

It is common practice to let your dog into your private garden space so that they can exercise and go to the toilet.  Unfortunately, just because your pet is in your safe space, does not mean that they are entirely protected from theft.  Do not leave your pet unattended in your outside space and ensure that the space is secure with no holes.  Gardens should be kept as private as possible with an investment of a security light.  Gravel under spaces where intruders could ‘land’, is a great deterrent as they know that there will be sound generated under their feet that will draw attention.

Social media = Showcase media

Social media is so integrated into everyday life that often, we document our everyday activity without second thought.  Millions of pet owners showcase their dogs across their social channels however, we advise against this, especially if accounts are not set to private.  Criminals can use social media to determine the address of dogs, where they are kept and the routine of their owners.  Social media users are surprised at just how much information can be extracted from their accounts.  Often, criminals use social media as a tool to identify targets, asses their routines and use the information to their advantage.

2s company

Sometimes, walking alone is inevitable.  However, where possible walk with another person.  This can be difficult in the current climate but not unfeasible.  If you must walk alone, only do so in daylight/well-lit areas, where there tends to be a lot of foot fall.

Recall school!

Dog owners will often hear the phrase ‘reliable recall’ however, what does it mean?  Reliable recall refers to the action of calling your dog when off lead, and them listening and moving back towards you.  Dogs are living beings, so they may not act on recall 100% of the time however, they should be trained so that they respond at least 9 times out of 10.

When teaching recall, only use one command every time.  This will ensure that your dog relates only that command with the wanted action.  Be consistent in your training.  Use the same reward every single time.  Ensure that you practice in a closed area with minor distractions.  As your pet becomes familiar with recall, gradually introduce more and more distractions so that your dog grows accustomed to implementing recall in ever changing environments.

If you are not comfortable with taking your dog off lead, invest in a long lead or a horse lead so that they can still vigorously exercise.  Be aware that the longer the lead, the less control you may have.  Therefore, always keep your pet on a short lead when near roads or busy areas.

If you would not leave your phone in the space unattended, do not leave your dog.

There was a time when it was commonplace to leave your dog outside a shop unattended.  It is important to recognise that the climate has evolved, and this is no longer safe, no matter if the dog stays within your eye line or left for just a short period of time.   We have a general rule, if you would not leave your mobile phone in a place unattended then do you do not leave your pet. 

Before a person leaves their car, they often ensure that their valuables are out of sight.  The same logic should be applied to dogs.  Do not leave your dogs unattended in a car as this sees them vulnerable to threats.

The contradiction of BEWARE OF THE DOG

Dog lovers often collect dog related products throughout their home.  Doormats can be emblazoned with dog imagery/phrases and front doors showcase plaques asserting that visitors should beware of the dog.  Once serving as a deterrent to trespassers, plaques such as these potentially have the reverse effect as they are in fact indicating that dogs reside in the home.  Remove any exterior indication that your home includes a dog to ensure that thieves cannot identify your home as that of a dog owner.

Protect with tech!

There are many products that can aid protecting your pet.  GPS trackers that fit snuggly on a collar can serve as a great safety tool and be great for walkers who favour forests or large open areas.

Personal security alarms are inexpensive and work as a great deterrent.  Commonly, they feature either a button or a pull pin that when activated, sounds a deafening alarm.  Not only does this shock a criminal, but it also draws attention that generates attention and aid.  Do not be afraid to invest in such products that reassure you aid in your safety.

Identifying a target

It is important to stay vigilant.  It has been reported that individuals on the pursuit to steal dogs are leaving colourful elastic bands outside homes to signal that a dog resides in that home.  If you see an elastic band, remove it immediately and notify the authorities.