Keeping Your Dog Safe

Keeping Your Dog Safe

Throughout the Covid pandemic and various Lockdowns, there’s been a lot of stories in the media around the increase in pet ownership and subsequently, pet thefts.

With 26% of the UK population now owning a dog, and as life starts returning to normal, it’s perfectly reasonable to be asking yourself; is my dog as safe as possible?

According to a freedom of information request that included data from 76% of police forces in the UK, the number of dogs thefts reached a seven-year high in 2021. This is an alarmingly high number but in the context of there being over 10 million dogs in the UK, the chances of being victim to this crime are still relatively low. Whilst the Government is working hard to improve the way the British justice system handles pet thefts, it’s incredibly important that all dog owners do everything they can to make sure their dog is always as safe as possible.

Out on a walk

Whether you let your dog off the lead or not, there are plenty of steps you can take to keep your dog safe on their walks.

Keep your dog on a lead

By maintaining physical contact with your dog throughout your walk you’ll massively reduce the chances of them being stolen.

Double clip your lead

If your dog stays on their lead, add a second clip or carabiner. Some dog thieves use the pretence of saying hello to your dog to bend down and unclip their lead. If you’ve got a second clip, it gives you an extra second to notice what’s going on and get away or shout for help

Secure your extending lead

If you use an extending or retractable lead, secure it to your wrist. Something as simple as a circle of spare fabric can be secured through the handle and onto your wrist. If it’s a bright colour and visible, this alone could be enough to deter someone from watching out for easy dog thefts. It also means if you trip over or accidentally let go of the lead, your dog isn’t going to get away.

Off lead dog walking safety  

If you do let your dog off lead, make sure they:

Are always in your line of sight

You might be 100% sure they’re just behind that hedge but are you also 100% sure nothing else is? If someone’s keeping an eye out, they’ll find somewhere subtle to wait. This is especially important at the end of your walk. If you’re heading back to residential streets or a car park, make sure your dog is back on their lead before they reach anyone who could be waiting in a car.

Are never further away than somewhere you can run to in a few seconds

You have to be able to get to them before any other danger does. Your dog might love a good run on their walk but it’s important you can get to them quickly. This is about more than keeping them safe from a potential thief, it’s about keeping them safe full stop.

Never approach any other dog (especially an on-lead dog) or strangers.

This is not just expected dog walking etiquette but essential for your dog’s wellbeing. Not all dogs will be friendly, and many on-lead dogs can feel intimidated when approached by off lead dogs.

Recall straight away every time they’re called

No dog should ever be off lead if they’re not under control and it’s easily argued that if you can’t recall your dog, it’s not under control. A thief could be listening out for your dog’s name, so it’s important your dog is always close enough they’re only responding to you.

Make sure your dog is noticeable

Whether they’re on a lead or not, thieves will look for the easiest dogs to steal. Something as simple as a distinctive lead, collar or harness could be enough to deter them. Adding a bell to their collar can make them easier to hear (an especially good idea if they’re allowed off lead) and some owners even fit trackers to their dogs.

Give your dog your attention

It’s not uncommon for dog walkers to enjoy listening to music or a podcast whilst out on a walk or even return a few phone calls. Your dog should always have your full attention no matter how well behaved they are. If you’ve got earphones in, you can’t hear someone shout a warning over or hear your dog.

Consider your dog’s name

Whatever name you give your dog, you’re going to hear it dozens of times a day for years, so it must be something you’re going to like. One thing to bear in mind is how common it is, according to Pet-ID, the most common male dog name in 2021 was Teddy, and for females, Luna. If you’re walking somewhere popular and trying to recall Teddy or Luna, it’s going to be that much harder if someone close by is doing the exact same thing.

Keep your routine varied

Some thieves will look for specific patterns and routines so make it harder for them by keeping things different. If you can, don’t always walk your dog at the same time every day and don’t do the same walk. By mixing up the routes you’ll also be adding to the excitement for your dog too as they can get bored with the same walk all the time.

Be wary of strangers asking questions

Dog walkers can often be some of the friendliest people you’ll meet out walking with many saying hello to fellow walkers or giving a friendly head nod. This should only go so far, if you encounter someone asking lots of questions it might be time to walk away. Some of the most common information a dog thief might want to know is if your dog is a pedigree and about their specific lineage. They might ask how much you paid for them and if they’ve been neutered.  Dogs can be stolen to resell as family pets, for breeding or for dog fights. No matter what information you’re giving away, it could be exactly the information they’re looking for. The best thing you can do is keep any information general to your dog’s breed rather than specifically about your dog and recommend they research on the internet.

At home

According to the Government’s Pet Theft Taskforce Report, over 50% of dogs are stolen from the home or garden.

Any reputable rehoming charity will always check your home and garden are safe and secure before they let you take your new dog home. This isn’t something most puppy breeders bother with.

Ensure you have safe, secure fencing all the way around

Even a Spaniel can jump a six foot fence if they really want to and some larger breeds like Malamutes will think nothing of bulldozing their way straight through. Any dog owner should have a strong, solid fence all the way around. Chicken wire and trust in a thick hedge is not enough.

No platforms in the garden

Never leave any ladder on display in your garden as this could help anyone get in or out and never leave anything laying around your dogs could climb onto. Things like trampolines or covered hot tubs can provide a step for any dogs looking to get out or anyone looking to get in.

Only use secure dog flaps

Even if a human can’t squeeze through your dog flap, a hand and a piece of wire might be all they need. Make sure any pet flap is always secure if you’re not around.

Careful about what you’re advertising

Dog trinkets are cute and often make easy gifts for pet owners but consider what you’ve got on display. A doormat of your three terriers and their names could be an open invitation to any thieves.

Be wary of social media sharing  

Just like you shouldn’t shout about going on holiday, you shouldn’t tell the world too much about your pets. By sharing lots of pictures and information about your dog’s life, you’re helping any would-be thieves build up a profile.

This doesn’t mean social media is always a bad thing, many local communities will have groups where they share useful information. You might find your neighbours posting suspicious behaviour to keep an eye out for or any escaped pets that need tracking down. It can be a great tool for pet owners when used responsibly.

Here at British Pet Insurance, we understand just how devastating the theft of a pet can be. That’s why we offer help in tracking them down by providing budget for advertising and offering a reward within our dog pet insurance policies found on our website.

Owning a dog can be a fun and rewarding experience

However, if they suffer an illness or injury, it can also be both stressful and expensive. British Pet Insurance Services can provide the support you and your dog need, whether it is with your insurance cover, making a claim or just helpful advice along the way.

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