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How to Keep Your Dog Safe from Theft

Written by Anna Hollisey


Rottweiler walking himself

Dog theft is on the rise. How can you protect your precious pup against dog-snatchers?


How Common Is Dog Theft in the US?

Sadly, around 2 million dogs are stolen in the US every year. Purebred pups are expensive, and dog-nappers know which breeds they will be able to sell or use for lucrative breeding or even illegal dog fights. Dogs left outside stores and in cars are particularly vulnerable to opportunists. But other thieves identify, track, and observe their targets before taking them – sometimes even from their own yard.  

#1 Microchip Your Dog

A microchip is a tiny transponder which transmits a unique number. It can be read using a scanner, enabling a veterinarian to identify your dog. That means you have a chance of getting your stolen dog returned to you (when the new owner takes them to the vet).

Does a microchip hurt your dog?  No more than a regular vaccination – although the needle is usually wider. The microchip is just the size of a grain of rice and it’s covered in biocompatible glass, often with a polymer cap which promotes the attachment of cells (to keep it in position, normally around the back of your dog’s neck). Your dog won’t need anesthetic when they have a microchip inserted.

For a detailed explanation about how this works, there’s a really cool guide at HowStuffWorks!

#2 Don’t Leave Your Dog In Danger

We love taking our dogs out to accompany us on errands… but tying their leash outside the store, or leaving them in the car, is never a good idea. If you can’t take your dog into stores with you, it’s better to leave them safely at home/learn/dog-lifestyle/dog-proofing-your-home-and-yard

If your purebred plays in a yard/learn/dog-lifestyle/how-to-keep-your-dog-from-escaping-the-yard which is visible from the road, consider installing higher fencing to prevent thieves from jumping over the boundary. Dog theft takes seconds, causing untold emotional harm: some extra fencing panels could be more cost-effective than you expect.

#3 Get Protective Gear

Did you know that there’s a wide range of new tech designed to protect dogs/learn/dog-lifestyle/the-best-gadgets-for-your-dog from loss and theft?  

Upgrade your dog’s identification tag with a QI code, which can be linked to your phone number and address. For dogs who tend to roam, a GPS pet tracker is a great way to keep tabs on their location. You can buy these with and without monthly subscriptions. If you walk at night, you could also add an LED light or reflective collar to your dog’s gear!

Printing out flyers to pin up in your neighborhood?  Don’t forget to ‘flyer’ the digital world, too. Check for social media pages which are local to your area as well as dog rescue groups. There are also some digital apps – like Finding Rover and PiP – which aim to trace lost dogs by circulating pictures to local vets and shelters. 

#4 Safe walkies 


Some dog thieves target dogs whilst out on their walks. If a stranger approaches you asking questions about your dog, it’s probably an innocent conversion. But just to be on the safe side, don’t give too much away “well, we think she’s a pure breed Labrador but she’s a rescue so we’re not sure” might be enough to deter a potential thief. If they know she’s neutered, they know they can’t breed from her. If a stranger asks what your dog is like being left home alone, this could be another red flag. 

Off leash 

Never let your dog off their leash if they don’t have perfect recall (this should go without saying regardless) as you calling their name over and over again can give important information to potential thieves. You’re not only letting them know your dog's name, you’re also letting them know they don’t have a good recall (or can be tempted away with a good incentive). 

Even the best trained dogs can be too tempted by a sniff (or succumb to their prey drive) so if you do lose your dog:

  • If they run off leash on a regular basis, attaching a bell to their collar can help you find them.
  • Leave an item of clothing that smells like you at the point they ran off - most dogs will try and return to the point they lost you (or ran off from).
  • Let as many people know you’re looking for your dog, tell them the breed, size, color, name etc. This might sound like you’re giving important information out but if someone does try to steal your lost dog, there’s more chance they’ll be seen by someone also keeping a lookout. 
  • Whilst you’re looking, blast your local social media page. Local walking groups, community groups, local dog walkers etc. It’s much easier to update a post after half an hour once you’ve found your dog than make a retroactive post that’s given potential thieves time to get miles away. 

On leash 

If your dog is being walked on their leash, make sure it’s not something a potential thief can easily undo. Under the guise of bending down to fuss your dog, a potential thief might be able to quickly undo a clip and run off with a smaller dog. Adding a second clip from their leash to their collar or harness creates an extra second or two of confusion for you to notice what’s going on. 

You could also add an extra strap keeping the leash on your wrist to make it a little harder for someone to yank it out your hand. This is a great security tip if you prefer an extendable leash that you need to keep a grip on because it means you can’t accidentally drop it if you trip. Use something like an old sock so it’s stretchy enough to slip over your wrist and soft enough that it won’t rub. Tie it in a circle through the handle of your leash.

Alternatively, you could loop a spare leash through the handle and loop it round your waist. 

These measures aren’t designed to take the full force of a pulling dog, but they do give you a few seconds to recover if you drop or have the leash pulled from your grip. 

Resources to Help Locate Lost Dogs

Lost Dogs of America runs a Facebook page for every state, and the Missing Animal Response Network connects animal rescuers all over the county.