The demand for puppies dramatically increased during lockdown, with many suddenly having an abundance of time to train a new pet. However, the rise in people buying dogs resulted in huge price inflations. Since March 2020, puppies have surged in value by an average of £1,249.
The escalated puppy prices have unfortunately led to a 250% growth in dog theft nationwide. Some breeds are particularly at risk, with Chow Chows now worth an estimated £3,700 and golden retrievers more than doubling in price. Patterdales have increased in value by a staggering 328% too.
As well as the chance to profit from stolen dogs, the crime is also relatively low-risk for thieves. Although the maximum penalty for dognapping is seven years imprisonment, recent reports found that less than 5% of cases result in criminal conviction.
Unsurprisingly, this development in dog theft has left many owners worried and scared of losing their beloved family pet. To help put your mind at ease, Benchmark Kennels have put together a thorough guide on how to protect your puppy against theft.
Identify your dog
Owners are required to get their dog microchipped and registered by the time they’re eight weeks old. If any of your details change, such as address or phone number, update your microchip account.
- Collars with your name, address and neutered information
Place a collar on your dog, with an ID tag that has your surname, address, and mobile number engraved. Don’t put your dog’s name on the collar, though, as thieves can use it to lure the pup away. Some collars also come with GPS tracking and can connect to your phone.
If your dog is neutered, mark this on the collar because it could discourage thieves who steal dogs for breeding.
- Photos of you and your dog together
Keep clear and up-to-date photos of your dog from different angles, with a groomed and ungroomed coat, in case of the worst happening. Take images of yourself with the pup, too, so you can prove ownership if necessary.
Dog walking safety
Many owners have become frightened to walk their dog after horrifying stories emerged of dogs being stolen in muggings.
To enhance your and your dog’s safety when out and about:
- Vary your walk schedule and routes as thieves may try to learn your routine.
- Always remain aware of your surroundings by staying off your phone and not wearing headphones.
- Walk with someone else where possible.
- If alone, carry an alarm or referee whistle to help you feel more secure and deter attempting thieves – but only use when necessary as it can scare your dog.
Be extremely wary of strangers asking for information about your dog, wanting pictures with the pup, or trying to stroke them. If someone suspect approaches you or a car slows down next to you, don’t walk home straight away as they might follow you. Report any suspicious incidents to the police.
Only let your dog off the lead if they’re unlikely to stray away from you. In case they do run far ahead, dress them in a reflective coat during winter to help you spot them and train them to return on command. Alternatively, use an extendable lead so they can run around without getting lost.
Don’t leave your dog alone
Leaving your dog alone in public, such as in a car or tied up outside a shop, makes them vulnerable to theft. Try to attend dog-friendly establishments so they can stay by your side.
Enhanced garden security
Unfortunately, even when you’re in your own space, you still need to take precautions. According to The Pet Theft Census, 52% of dogs are stolen from their gardens.
Never leave your dog in the garden unsupervised and avoid placing them in front gardens, as this makes it easier for thieves to snatch them.
Lock any gates you have and fit them with bells to alert you when someone opens them. Ensure your fence or other garden boundary is 6ft high with no gaps to keep your dog from escaping and make it harder for thieves to access the garden.
If your dog loves being outside, invest in a secure dog kennel for them to relax in. Benchmark Kennels offer a range of sheltered and insulated outdoor kennels secured with two pad bolts per door. Place the kennel near your property rather than at the bottom of the garden. Always keep the kennel locked and fit it with a bell or alarm to warn you if someone’s trying to break into it.
To make your home safer at night-time, fit outdoor lights in your front and back garden that activate when someone approaches the house, which can deter thieves. Install CCTV for outside your property too.
Always keep your doors and windows locked and shut your curtains and blinds when you’re out. Try to avoid indicating that a dog lives at your home, such as leaving toys in the garden or hanging ‘beware of the dog’ signs.
Safety inside the home
Keep your dog safe at home by installing a security system with an alarm and cameras inside the house so you can check on your dog when you’re out. With smart security devices, you can view the camera footage remotely on your phone and receive notifications if any unusual activity occurs.
Be vigilant of strangers coming to your front door, especially if they’re inquiring about your dog, as they could be thieves assessing your home.
Dogs who are frequently left alone are vulnerable to theft but hiring a dog-sitter or walker can put off potential thieves. If you can’t use a family member or friend to look after the pup, choose someone from a reputable and licensed company. Check their references, qualifications and whether they’re certified with any professional organisations.
Social media security
Many owners love to show off their puppy on social media, with many dogs becoming Insta-famous, but this can put them on a thief’s radar. If you post about your dog online, always blur out their ID tags, keep your account private and avoid using location tags or hashtags. Never respond to a stranger messaging you about the dog, either.
What to do if your dog is stolen
Implementing these precautions can lower the risk of dog theft, but it’s still a possibility. If the worst happens and your dog is stolen, act quickly to increase your chance of finding them.
Follow the below steps:
- Ring 999 to report the theft and get a crime reference number
- Report the theft to the microchip database
- Report the theft to the local council’s dog warden (if they have one)
- Tell local dog walkers to keep an eye out
- Post about your missing dog on local Facebook groups
- Post about the incident on your social media accounts and ask friends to share them
- Inform local vets
- Report the theft on missing animal sites
- Contact local animal shelters and rescue charities
- Hang posters in your area with clear photos and contact details
Depending on your pet insurance policy, you may be able to claim advertising fees and reward costs to help you find your dog. However, don’t specify the reward amount as this could attract hoax callers or put the dog at risk of theft in the future if found.
In response to this worrying increase in dognapping, more than 300,000 people signed a petition calling for tougher penalties. Until further action is taken, owners need to be highly cautious when out with their dog, enhance their home security, and prepare for the worst.
Need an outdoor kennel to keep your dog safe in the garden?
Outdoor kennels are a great way for your dog to enjoy being outside safely. At Benchmark Kennels, we offer a range of secure and spacious kennels that you can customise to suit the dog’s breed, personality, size, and other requirements.