One-third of all dogs in the United States are reported missing in their lifetimes and more than 80% are never found. For those who disappear because of dognapping, there are ways to avoid it in the first place.
Dognapping has been on the rise for a decade, but it exploded in 2020 with the high demand of puppies from people bored in the pandemic lockdown. Thieves steal dogs to “flip” them quickly on websites like craigslist or to pocket the reward dog owners end up offering to get their baby back. For this reason, expensive dogs like French bulldogs have been particularly targeted by those criminals. There are several steps a dog parent can take to prevent dog thefts, that we are listing below. We also can’t stress enough the importance of not buying dogs from a shady online seller, which encourages the market of dog trafficking.
Microchip and register
Dogs should be microchipped and you must register to that number. That way you make sure that if the dog is found it will be attached to your phone and name. Veterinarians, shelters and animal control always check for a microchip when a dog is brought to them. Make sure to keep those information updated so they know how to contact you. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Lord et al, July 15, 2009), dogs with microchips are returned to their owners over 52 percent of the time, as opposed to less than 22 percent for dogs without microchips.
Be alert on walks and carry protection
Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be distracted by your phone while being on walks. Mix up your routine: don’t walk at the same time and don’t take the same way every day. Someone could ambush you if they identify what your habits are. Keep it unpredictable. Carry equipment with you that will help you attract attention, distract and disarm. Depending on where you live and your local law, you can carry a whistle, pepper spray, a walking stick, a loud rape alarm or a deterrent.
Choose the right type of harness and leash
A collar can be opened in seconds by someone trying to steal a dog, so a harness is a better bet as long as it fits the dog properly and can’t slide. You can also choose a harness with an integrated leash, to avoid the risk of someone unhooking it. The leash should also be thick enough that it can’t be easily cut. Finally, some leashes have an extra strap that you can attach to your body, for extra protection. You will want to do your own research to find the product that is the best fit for your needs, with those options in mind.
Delay your social media posting
Celebrities have been doing this for years, and it might be time to apply this technique to dogs. Always delay your social media posting until you have already left the area. You don’t want someone to see your post or story, and decide to come find you because you showed them your location.
Don’t leave your dog unattended in your yard
Unfortunately, a fence is not enough to deter thieves, so the safest place to leave your dog when you’re not home is indoors. In 2020, 52% of dog thefts happened in their own backyard. If your dog has to stay outside while you leave home it should be in a yard that is not visible from the street and your gate must be locked. Also, we would advise against signs like “Beware of the dog”, as this could attract thieves. Definitely do not specify what type of breed your dog is, which could make you the perfect target to those looking for this type of dog. Finally, make sure you secure your home with alarms and cameras.
Don’t leave your dog unattended anywhere else
It goes without saying, but tying your dog up to a pole in the street while you are inside a store shopping is a big no-no. Only go to stores you know are dog friendly, go with a friend who can stay outside to watch them, or leave your pup at home. Don’t leave them in your car either, as they could be easily snatched by thieves, or escape if someone breaks into your car to steal your GPS, wallet, or other valuables.
Be aware of who is around you when you walk, avoid groups, and be suspicious of the people who show interest in your dog or ask questions about them. Don’t answer and keep walking. Also, don’t let strangers pet your dog, as they could easily unhook the leash while they do so, and take off with your dog. “No” is a totally fine answer, and it is time to use it more.
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