Preventing dog theft: 8 top tips to keep your dog safe

When it comes to responsible pet ownership, keeping your dog safe from theft is imperative. Whilst it is relatively uncommon, pet theft is on the rise in the UK, with dogs being stolen more and more due to increased demand for pets. The good news is, it’s not hard to keep your pet safe from dog theft with just a few simple tips.

Our dogs are integral parts of our families and when they go missing it can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved. That’s why good training and staying vigilant is so important to keep your pet safe. Here are a few of our top tips on keeping your pet close by.


Microchipping has been used in the UK since 1989 and still provides the best chance for missing pets to be reunited with their owners. Since 2016, it has become a legal requirement to get your dog microchipped (and it’s highly recommended for cats too). Getting your dog chipped by the time they are 8 weeks old is crucial, and after that, make sure you keep your details up to date should you move house or your contact details change. A microchip is a small electronic device that’s implanted under a pet’s skin, near their neck. It contains a unique ID number that can be read by a scanner and links to a database where your details are logged. This means that, in the event your pet does go missing, they can often be returned quickly and safely. It also means that a vet can contact you to get permission for your pet to be treated should they be found injured or sick. The procedure itself should cause minimal discomfort to your dog – vet Brian Faulkner compares it to a human having their ear pierced. The procedure normally costs around £20 and any vet can do it, as well as some groomers, walkers and pet sitters.

Home security

This is just as important to keep your dog in as it is to keep intruders out. Make sure your garden is securely fenced and keep an eye on your pet when they’re playing outside. Some breeds are curious by nature and may try to dig their way to freedom or seize the opportunity of a gap in the fence to follow prey or an interesting smell – which could lead them into the hands of a dog thief. You could also consider adding a sensor light or bell gate to your garden and/ or driveway to alert you of any trespassers who may be looking for your pet. You should also avoid placing anything that signals you have a dog on the front of your property such as signs or placards which could pique the interest of pet thieves.

Good training

A key part of responsible pet ownership is good training, and it’s also an essential part of keeping them safe. Things like good lead training and recall training will make it so much easier to keep your dog close by and in sight when out and about – it will also make walks that much more enjoyable! It’s best to start training your dog from a puppy when they are easier to handle as well as to form good habits. Taking your dog to puppy training classes is a great way to teach them the basics, as well as socialise them with other people and dogs. You can also check out our guides to lead and recall training for more top tips.

Never leave your dog unattended in public

When you’re out and about it’s a good idea to keep your dog close by at all times. Don’t leave your dog tied up outside a shop or alone in the car, for example, even if you’re only going to be gone a short time. If you’re going into a shop or café, ask if dogs are welcome – you might be surprised at how many places are dog-friendly! If not and you’re with a friend or family member ask them to watch your dog for you whilst you go inside. Even a very quick trip can provide plenty of opportunity for dog thieves so it always pays to be vigilant.

Have your dog spayed or neutered.

The decision to have your pet neutered is completely up to you. However, it’s worth noting that, along with helping to reduce straying it will also minimise the risk of your dog being stolen for breeding purposes. Before making a decision it’s important to consult your vet who will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your pet.

Anti-theft technology

There are plenty of anti-theft accessories and technologies that can help to keep your pet safe should they go missing. Tracking collars and GPS devices are advanced enough to show you a map view of your dog’s whereabouts and many are even able to live track your pet and indicate their speed of travel. What’s more, you’ll receive live notifications if your dog roams out of designated safe areas.

Always get your pet from a licensed breeder or rehoming organisation

Whilst it’s important to keep your own dog safe, there are simple things you can do to prevent dog theft as a whole. Ensuring you get your pet from a reputable breeder or rehoming organisation is just one way of doing this. Lucy’s Law, which was enacted in 2020, is a considerable step forward in minimising theft for breeding purposes, for example. The law, which was put into motion for animal welfare reasons, also has some strict rules and regulations for breeders to follow and will help you to sort legitimate, licensed breeders from opportunists.

Research walkers, groomers and boarding kennels

It’s just as important to background check any dog services you use as well. Make sure any companies and individuals you trust with your pet are legitimate, licensed organisations, preferably ones with lots of good reviews. Check references where possible before you leave your dog in the care of someone else.

What to do if your dog does go missing

Should the worst happen, the main thing is to act fast. Follow these simple steps:

  • If you suspect theft call the police and report it as a stolen dog, not a lost animal, and ensure you get a crime reference number.
  • Report your animal as missing to your microchip database company as well as your local authority.
  • Inform local vets that your dog is missing should they be taken in for treatment.
  • Contact local animal rehoming organisations, charities and missing pet websites.

Make posters and consider offering a reward for the return of your pet. If your pet is insured with Petplan, we will help you cover the costs of advertising, printing and the reward, as we want to help reunite you with your pet as soon as possible.

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