How to Keep Your Dog Safe in a Post-Covid World
An In-Depth and Complete Guide to Protecting Your Dog From Theft
By Hannah Miller
Hello and welcome to our guide to keeping your pet dog safe in a post-covid world.
2020 was a roller coaster ride for many of us, and it’s no surprise that with more and more people working from home, demand for companion dogs is now greater than ever.
Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or are experienced with this popular pet, we think you’ll find our guide extremely insightful.
In this guide will look at:
- Worrying statistics about dog thefts in 2020.
- How to prevent dog theft.
- What to do if your pet goes missing or is stolen (and yes, you need to act quickly).
The Dogs Trust, a leading UK dog’s charity, reported in November 2020 that some breeds of puppy are now being sold for over DOUBLE the normal price.
The trust found that between March and November:
- Prices for Chow Chows were up 134%
- Pugs up 78%
- Dachshunds up 73%
- French Bulldogs up 70%
- English Bulldogs up 49%
Source: Dogs Trust.
Trending Online Topics Reveal Alot
Google Trends, a tool that can be used by anyone to monitor the popularity of search terms, reports that in the UK:
- Terms such as “find a puppy” are up over 50%.
- “buy puppy” was at one point in the year, seeing a nearly three-fold increase in searches.
- “dog breeding” is being searched nearly twice as often as it was in 2018 and 2019. Perhaps individuals are researching how much money they can make by breeding dogs?
Similar search trends are being reported in the United States, particularly in states with enforced lockdowns.
Just look at the chart below which shows searches for “dog breeding” spiking after the first UK Covid-19 lockdown began in March 2020:
Dog Theft Increases
2019 was a good year with the number of reported dog thefts down slightly compared to previous years.
However, with many people in lockdown seeking pets for companionship, it shouldn’t be a surprise that criminals are now targeting dog and puppy owners.
While dog theft has always been an issue, 2020 has seen organised criminal gangs enter this sphere for the first time.
A freedom of information request by the BBC reveals that the number of dog thefts has more than doubled in some counties.
For criminals, dogs are easy pickings:
- It’s now normal for people to cover their faces and hide their identity by wearing masks.
- Garden fences are generally easy to climb over.
- Few homeowners have CCTV covering their gardens.
- There are dozens of sites online where puppies and mature dogs are sold with few background checks.
- With the cost of puppies skyrocketing, there’s an increasing number of people willing to buy a cheap dog with no questions asked.
Garden Thefts are the Most Common
Direct Line, a UK insurance company, published data in 2019 that claims 52% of all UK dog thefts are from gardens.
Thefts from houses were the next most common.
Separately, data from the Blue Cross in 2015 shows that up to 70% of thefts were from where the dog lived and up to half of these from within the home itself.
We believe many of these property-targeted thefts were planned in advance with at least some degree of research and scouting involved.
Dogs are occasionally stolen from cars and from outside local shops but these types of crimes were far fewer in number and we believe they were more opportunistic in nature.
Forced dog thefts, where a dog is snatched from its owner, are very rare but professional dog walkers are possible targets.
Recovery Rates and Your Next Steps
A similar article released by Direct Line revealed that only 22% of stolen dogs are ever returned to their owners.
While there’s plenty of bad news out there, and 2020 has certainly delivered its fair share of it, we have some good news for you.
Keep reading our guide, and we’ll show you how to reduce the chances of your dog being stolen and if you are a victim of this crime, what to do to get your dog back.
2) How to Prevent Theft
(and increase your chances of getting your pet back should the worst happen)
To protect your dog from theft and increase your chances of finding your dog should the worst happen, we have plenty of suggestions and also a few products for you too:
Secure Your Social Media
Would you advertise on Facebook for all to see that you have £2000+ sitting in your back garden?
Well, that’s what many people do when they post photos of their new puppy onto public groups and even their own Facebook page if their privacy settings haven’t been tightened up.
Anyone can see what you post on a public group and even private groups might not be as “private” as you think, it all depends on how many people the administrator allows to join the group.
You may want to think carefully about which groups you join and what details to post, especially of the groups are specific to certain breeds of dogs that are popular with thieves.
The privacy of your main page on Facebook can be narrowed down to three settings:
- Let anyone see anything you post.
- Allow your content to be visible only to friends.
- Allow friends and also “friends of friends” to see what you post.
If you have an expensive puppy roaming around your garden and you like to post details about your new pet onto social media, you may want to review the privacy of your Facebook page.
If you have a unique name, you can also do some Google searches and locate any sites that publish your address and ask them to remove it.
Microchipping and Updating Details
All dogs over the age of 8 weeks in the UK must be microchipped, and most good breeders will microchip their puppies before selling them.
However, owners often forget to update the database details when they move house, sell or give the dog away, making it difficult to relocate a stolen or stray dog with its owner.
It costs as little as £10 to update the ownership details which stay in the database until changed by the owner.
Get a GPS Tracker (& Hide it)
GPS trackers are about the size of a matchbox and by using the accompanying phone app you’ll be able to locate your dog to within a few metres.
Trackers are very popular, especially with owners of dogs that runoff and won’t recall, but there are a few drawbacks:
- You’ll need to pay for a sim card as they use data, this will set you back around £4.00 a month.
- You’ll need to get into the habit of charging it frequently.
- They are quite bulky so for smaller dogs they’re are best fitted to a harness rather than a collar.
- A thief can easily remove the tracker within seconds so the tracker needs to be hidden and not clipped onto a collar.
We do have a solution that solves most of these drawbacks.
First, get a decent harness for outside walks, harnesses are safer for dogs anyway, especially those that have a strong pull.
Second, sew a pouch onto the harness to hide the GPS tracker so it can’t be seen. You can use a sewing kit, velcro or whatever is easiest.
Now whenever you go out for walks, you can easily locate your dog should it run off and you’ll be able to track the location of the harness with the app on your phone.
You’ll just need to get into the habit of removing the harness after each walk and plugging in the cable to charge the tracker.
Secure the Property
We’ve got a few suggestions here:
- Upgrade the windows and doors if you still have old timber windows and doors with weak locks. Modern Upvc windows and doors are far more secure.
- Install a CCTV system covering the garden; prices have come down considerably in recent years and these systems are nowhere near as expensive as they once were.
- Home alarms are also cheaper and easier to install than in the past. Modern ones work wirelessly and connect to your phone via an app, so you get notifications.
- Get a dummy alarm box if you don’t want a full alarm system, they can deter both opportunistic and the more determined thief.
- Put up CCTV warning notices around the exterior of any garden walls or fences.
- Put security spikes on garden fences and walls.
Fence security spikes cost from £15 per 5 metres and are easy to install.
Make Your Dog Less Attractive to Thieves
Nobody wants to buy a sick dog or even a dog that has unknown allergies.
If I were a thief and saw a dog with a health warning on its collar, that would be the last dog I would want to steal.
Whether your dog has an illness or not, this type of collar can deter thieves:
3) Maximise the Chances of Getting Your Dog Back
We sincerely hope you are never the victim of dognapping but if you are, here’s what you need to do:
1) Report the theft to the police and get a crime reference number.
2) Check your local council to see if they have your dog. Use this government tool to find the contact form for your local council.
3) Get in touch with the organisations that store the microchip’s information and let them know about the theft. Petlog, PETtracs and Identibase hold databases of microchip information, a complete list of all database holders is here.
5) Go for a walk around the area where the dog was stolen and look for CCTV cameras, ask the owners to search the footage. Don’t assume that the police will do this for you, as a general rule of thumb the police will only investigate non-violent crimes such as dog thefts and even burglaries if they’re provided with two good lines of enquiry. A line of enquiry could be a vehicle registration number, CCTV footage or a witness statement etc.
6) Report the missing dog to any local online groups and upload a recent photo of your dog along with your contact details. A reward might act as a good incentive.
7) Print off missing posters and place them around your local area. There’s even one company in the UK that offers free printing for up to 50 missing dog posters. There are many places online where you can download or use templates to get you started.
The Dogs Trust – The leading UK dog charity.
Blue Cross for Pets – A very popular organisation that also rehomes animals.
This government page contains everything you need to know about dog microchipping.
RSPCA – The leading UK animal charity.