Dog Theft Prevention Guide: 21 Tips for Preventing Dognapping & Theft
Having your dog stolen is a nightmare scenario for any owner. But without taking the necessary precautions it can turn into reality far more easily than we’d like to think.
Statistics: Police records show a steady rise in dog theft. According to the American Kennel Club, there’s been an increase of 31% from 2007 to 2013 in the US (1). There were over 2000 reported dog thefts in 2017 in the UK, an increase of 121 from previous year (2). And approximately over 2 million dogs are stolen worldwide every year.
Out of those 2 million, most of the cases of which we know were reported in developed Western countries. We can attribute this to more and more people wanting to have dogs since they’re able to afford one, but aren’t interested in paying the full cost of certain breeds or getting a homeless dog from a shelter.
The most stolen dog breeds
It’s worth mentioning that there’s also been a shift in dog breeds that are being stolen the most. While larger dogs like dobermans were more attractive targets in previous years, smaller and more cuddly dogs are nowadays the most endangered.
Mainly because the dog market has shifted from predominantly rural areas to cities. Previously dogs were held by people who had a large backyard, and for protecting their cattle and home.
Nowadays dogs are kept for cuddles and companionship in our ever shrinking apartments. So it only makes sense that chihuahuas are being stolen more frequently than dobermans and pit bulls.
Not to mention that the latter can be quite dangerous to handle by a stranger, so petty thieves leave such attempts to more professional players.
The only exceptions to this trend are – very expensive breeds, evergreen breeds and puppies. Puppies are easy to snatch, and it seems that even people who don’t have the required space for a Husky will make the required sacrifice if it’s bought as a cute little puppy. Go figure!
Having said that, these are currently the most stolen dog breeds according to American Kennel Club:
- Yorkshire Terrier
- Boston Terrier
- French Bulldog
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- German Shepherd Dog
- Labrador Retriever
But even if your dog is not on the most stolen list, the risks are still too high to take any chances with your dogs safety. Even a big ol German Shepherd could catch the eye of a shady dog dealer and be lost forever. So here are 20 simple, but very powerful tips you can utilize to protect your dog from theft.
Dog Theft Prevention Tips:
1. Keep your pet indoors and secure the doggie door
From a security angle, it’s always better to have as many barriers between the potential thief and your property. If you’re afraid of theft, keep your dog inside your house.
If you have a big doggie door installed on your regular door or a wall, make sure that it’s secured properly. There are dog doors and collars with sensors that will open only when the dog is going in or out, instead of being a large flap through which a thief can crawl inside your home.
Read more: How to burglar proof your doggie door & best secure doors
2. Build a high fence around your property
If you have an outdoor dog that loves to spend time in the backyard, make sure that the fence is high enough so that he can’t jump over.
The fence should also be high enough so that thieves can’t climb over it. You can improve your fence security by placing spikes on top.
Furthermore, surrounding the fence with spiky shrubs can make it harder for them to even reach the fence, let alone climb it.
Read more: How to stop burglars from climbing a fence, How to make a fence taller
A microchip is essential for keeping your dog safe. As the name suggests, a microchip is a really small device planted under the dog’s skin.
It allows veterinarians, dog shelters and other authorities identify the dog and who it belongs to. If your dog wanders off or gets stolen, a microchip can be immensely helpful in tracking him down.
4. Always be aware of your dogs location
Don’t allow your pet to wander off when you’re in the park or taking a stroll through nature. While some dogs are perfectly happy to be by the side of their human at all times, others can get lost and eventually stolen by trying to identify a scent that could be miles away.
5. Hire a reliable dog sitter/dog walker
There are two dangers with hiring a bad dog sitter: they could simply be clumsy and your dog won’t be happy to listen to their commands.
Or even worse, they could be working with a shady dog dealer and allow your dog to wander straight into their hands, later making up a story about how your dog ran away.
When hiring a dog sitter, your best bet is to rely on referrals from friends and relatives in the area. Or find professional dog walking and pet sitting services in your local area.
Having said that, if you’re only leaving town for 2-3 days, investing in an electronic self-feeder and water fountain (waterer) are also great ideas. Both are affordable one time investments that can pay off for years.
A self-feeder allows you to set a timer to your dogs exact feeding time so that tasty treats come out. A water fountain will drip water into the bowl, which is better than leaving a bowl full of water that your dog can accidentally knock over. An alternative to a water fountain is to fill up a few bowls so in case one gets knocked over it won’t be a catastrophe.
I got the WESTLINK Automatic Dog Feeder (link to Amazon) for my beagle 3 years ago and I’m happy to say it’s one of the best investments that I’ve made. Instead of worrying about finding a dog sitter or nagging my friends and relatives I just fill this sucker up and set the timer. Works like a charm.
6. Have photos of you and your dog for identification and proof
Have recent photos of you and your dog ready. These can always come in handy as proof that you’re the actual owner. They can also come in handy if, God forbid, your dog does get stolen, as you can use them for flyers.
7. Report unusual activities in your neighborhood
If you see some potential burglars snooping around the neighborhood let your neighbors know about t and ask if they’ve noticed the same. Be extra vigilant about home security.
Lock the gates, install a security camera and set up warning signs around your property letting them know you mean business.
8. Set up a neighborhood watch
If dogs start to go missing or other strange activities start happening in the neighborhood, setting up a watch can be a great idea.
A neighborhood watch boils down to patrolling the neighborhood, usually during nighttime and in turns. This is an effective deterrent against intruders. You can also set up a warning sign as an extra deterrent.
9. Get a Furbo dog camera
If you want to check up on your pet any time you’re away, a Furbo dog camera is the best way to do it. It’s a 1080p full HD camera with night vision that allows you to monitor your pet from your mobile phone.
It also has 2-way audio and barking alert. If your dog starts barking because of an intruder or any other issue, you’ll receive a notification on your phone. Then you can turn on the audio and calm your pet or hear if anything fishy’s happening in your home.
Another cool feature is treat tossing. The Furbo iOS/Android app allows you to throw treats to your dog from the belly of the Furbo cam.
This is arguably the best and definitely the most popular dog camera out there and it’s definitely a good way to increase your dog’s safety whenever you’re not at home.
I especially recommend it for new owners that still haven’t trained their dog to be left alone. If the dog is barking a lot it can upset the neighbors. This is a good way to assure your doggie that you’re there when he needs you.
The last time I checked, the Furbo dog cam was on a 20% discount on Amazon, so if you’re interested I hope you’ll catch it in time!
10. Keep your dog on a leash when outside
This is common sense if you don’t want your dog to wander off. Especially if your dog hasn’t been neutered or spayed yet.
11. Don’t leave your dog unattended when shopping
So many people tie their dogs to a post when they’re going to a store. Or even worse, leave them in the car. Both are huge no-nos. Many thefts happen when the dog is left alone in a public setting.
While most dogs will bark and distrust strangers on their own turf, public settings can confuse them. Just like a small child, they can be calmly taken by the hand (in this case a leash) and be gone forever.
Likewise, keeping your dog in a car even if it’s locked is risky due to panic and accidents that can happen while you’re not there. And if the car is in a fairly isolated area, a thief could break into the car to get to the dog, or to steal the car.
In either case, your pet could suffer a trauma that’s easily avoidable. If you’re going someplace where pets are not allowed, it’s better to leave them at home altogether or have another person stay with the dog until you get back.
12. Keep the licenses up-to-date
Licenses usually have to be renewed annually or every few years. It usually includes an identifying number along with a dog tag with the ID number and contact number of the registering organization.
Depending on your location, it might be necessary to have an up-to-date license to be the keeper of a dog. This also means that if your dog is stolen, you could be facing a penalty if you report it to the police and don’t have an up-to-date license.
13. Change your routes
I recently watched an interview by Henry Rollins and he said how he hates routines: “Routines are how people get sniped. They follow you around, see where you’re moving, at what time and then they snipe you from a balcony.”
Now, it doesn’t have to be so dramatic, but you get the point. A routine makes you vulnerable in one way or another. If you’re walking your dog through the same area time and time again, a thief could create a strategy to get a hold of your dog more easily. If you switch your routes from time to time it’s just not as likely.
Got a brand new Rottweiler? Perhaps it’s smarter to share your new acquisition with only a few close friends rather than proclaiming your excitement to the entire world through social media. Unless your social media accounts are fully private, just about anyone could find what you’re up to.
If you also happen to share where you’re heading and where you’re at, they could use the opportunity to snatch your new puppy while you’re away from home. When it comes to security, silence is golden and anonymity is power.
15. Dog collar and tag
If your dog wanders off, a collar and a tag will be the first thing that anyone notices. Make sure that the tag includes some contact information, a phone number, home address or at the very least an email address.
16. Anti theft dog collar
Anti-theft dog collars have a GPS tracker. If your dog goes missing, you can access the tracker through an app and see the exact location. The Tagg GPS Pet Tracker is the most popular choice for dog and cat owners, withover 1300 customer reviews on Amazon. It has many useful features such as:
- Sends Text and Email Alerts When Your Pet Gets Out
- View and Track Daily Exercise Levels
- Receive Alerts When Your Pet Gets Out
- Interactive Map – Directions to Your Pet
- Attaches to Your Pets Current Collar
17. Install an outdoor security camera
Security cameras can improve your home security by a huge margin. That goes for your dog’s safety as well, especially if your dog spends a lot of time in the backyard. A camera serves as a deterrent, an alert system and a device for identifying criminals.
I recommend installing an outdoor security camera with night vision and motion sensor technology to monitor the gates, the backyard and/or any entry door to your home.
For regulars home use, the best pick is the Nest security camera (link to Amazon) which can send you a notification in case it catches any strange movements, it has a built-in speaker and mic, night vision and it works with Alexa.
You can connect it to other smart devices such as smart light bulbs to get your attention while you’re sleeping in case of a home invasion. So this type of camera is not just a clever way to prevent dog theft, but any other home invasion scenario as well.
18. Place anti-theft signs on gates and fence
Don’t underestimate the power of anti-burglar signs. If the dog thief thinks you have a surveillance system, weapons or a really big dog guarding your home, they’ll probably look for an easier target.
Warning signs and stickers cost around $1-10 per piece depending on size and material. Placing a few of them around your property (depending how large it is) can vastly improve your security.
However, don’t overuse empty bluffs. If you’re pretending to have a surveillance system but there aren’t any cameras around, a clever thief might be aware of this.
At least place a few fake cameras which are super cheap and easy to set up but look like the real thing. Even better, use real devices along with the warning signs to fully protect your home.
19. Motion sensor floodlights
Thieves like to operate in the shadow of the night rather than broad daylight. Which is why floodlights that activate when the motion sensor is triggered are such powerful deterrent. It exposes any movement on your property to yourself and anyone else who happens to be near.
Set the motion sensor floodlight at the gates or any other area that you consider a security vulnerability. If your dog is in the backyard, don’t point the floodlight directly at his area of movement, because it will get triggered by your dog. In that case, any area that leads to the backyard would be a good choice.
20. Improve the security of your doors and windows
Always lock your doors and windows, even when you’re at home relaxing on the couch. And especially before going to bed or when you’re leaving your dog alone at home.
During summer time you might be tempted to leave the window open to get some fresh air inside. If you’re worried about burglars I advise against leaving any ground-floor windows open.
However, you can leave slightly open a window or two on upper floors that are difficult to access from the outside. But not so much that the dog can go outside through the window, especially if it hasn’t been spayed/neutered yet.
If you have a window or a door with a broken lock or one that’s pretty weak, consider upgrading the lock. There are door and window barricades, deadbolts, keyless locks and many other locking mechanisms available. I wrote many articles on how to easily improve door and window security.
21. Spay and neuter your pets
The great philosopher Blaise Pascal said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. But isn’t the same true for dogs? Dogs get horny and wander off. They can jump the fence to chase tail. They can run off with the leash in some cases.
But spaying and neutering are big decisions. It can make your playful pet even meeker than you’d like it to be. On the flip side, neutered/spayed pets are quieter, cause less trouble and are less likely to be stolen or wander off. Not to mention that many thieves want dogs that can breed, especially if they’re of a more expensive breed.
Final Word: Dog Theft Prevention
Dog theft prevention boils down to three components:
- increased home security (tall fence, locked gates, warning signs, security camera, floodlights, locked doors and windows..)
- keeping an eye out on your pet (dog collar and tag, GPS tracker, microchip, never leave your pet outside of a store or alone in a car etc.)
- being aware of your surroundings (hire experienced dog sitters, watch out for theft in your community, change your dog walking routes frequently)
We’ve also discussed other tactics such as spaying and neutering, using an automatic feeder and a dog camera when your dog is home alone etc.
All of these methods can help keep your dog safe from dognapping and theft. Use the ones you think will work best for your situation. Overtime they will become habitual and you’ll notice just how easy it is to keep your dog safe at all times. Hope this helps!