Dog theft - how to keep your dog safe and the breeds most stolen

The number of stolen dogs had risen for four consecutive years up to 2018, according to a freedom of information request that included data from 76% of police forces in the UK.

And despite a drop in 2019, it increased again in 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown.

There were double-digit increases in multiple areas of the UK in January to July 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, according to the response to a Freedom of Information request.

Our Complete policy is the most comprehensive pet insurance in the UK

Get a quote

The areas with the largest increase in theft are Northumbria, Devon, Cornwall and Leicestershire.

Some of these thefts may have consisted of two or more pets being taken, as the data only accounted for the number of crimes not the number of pets.

Although you may see pet theft in the news and it's an emotional subject, we'd like to reassure owners that the number of dogs stolen each year is relatively small considering the total pet population.

And in 2020, less than 1% of our claims were for dogs that had been lost or stolen.

But as you'll see below some breeds are more likely to be targeted by criminals and it's always worth thinking about how you can keep your pet safe.

So we've suggested some tips to help owners prevent dog theft. And if you have insurance we show how your policy could help cover the cover of advertising for a lost pet or offering a reward.

How protect your dog from being stolen:

  • Keep an eye on your dog when it’s in the garden and make sure fences and gates are secure and in good repair
  • Don’t leave your dog alone tied up when you go into a shop
  • Keeping a range of photos of your dog from different angles could be used to help identify it if it does go missing
  • Beware of strangers asking questions about your dog
  • Microchip your pet to make it easier to identify if it does get stolen
  • Helpful tip - although other owners are likely to be friendly and ask about your pet, if you feel uncomfortable about the kind of questions someone is asking, you don't have to give accurate information. Some criminals might be interested in stealing younger dogs for breeding, if you feel someone is fishing for this information you can always add a few years to your pet's age and say it is spayed.

What to do if your dog does get stolen

If the worst happens and your dog does get stolen, there are a few things you can do to try to recover it. First, report the crime to the police. You should then try to contact your local animal warden and any rescue centres. If your pet escapes or is dumped, these are the places it will most likely be.

If you have pet insurance, contact your insurer because they may be able to offer advice to help find it and pay for a reward and posters.

Finally, utilise social media. Post pictures of your pet on social networks like Facebook, Next Door and Twitter, and ask people to keep an eye out.

Other ways to keep your pet safe

Pet insurance

Insurance will probably be the last thing you're thinking of if your pet is stolen, but your policy may offer lost or stolen cover.

It will often pay for the cost of advertising to find a missing pet, such as the cost of making posts and a reward. If the worst happens and your pet doesn't return it may cover the value of your pet.

Our pet insurance can cover a reward that is twice the value of your pet. And our Complete policy offers up to £6,000 of cover for loss or theft, which may be worth considering if you have a high-value breed.

Pet trackers

As well as taking all the necessary precautions and making sure your insurance policy includes loss and theft cover, you might want to consider a GPS pet tracker. These either attach to your pet’s collar or act as a replacement collar.

They are usually robust enough to withstand your dog’s rough activities and are waterproof to an extent.

Click the following link to learn more about pet trackers.

How to secure your home against burglars

There are some simple techniques you can use to better secure your home against any potential thieves:

  • Fit key-operated locks to all downstairs and easy-access windows
  • Lock all the doors and windows every time you leave the house
  • Hide all keys out of sight
  • Install a burglar alarm and install lighting outside
  • Consider joining a Neighbourhood Watch scheme
  • Consider replacing glass door panels with a stronger laminated glass

The most stolen dog breeds in the UK

Here are the commonly stolen breeds in 2019, according to Direct Line Group's analysis of a Freedom of Information request sent to police forces.

Breed of dog Number of dog thefts reported
Staffordshire Bull Terrier 89
Chihuahua 50
Cocker Spaniel 27
Bulldog 22
Yorkshire Terrier 21

Staffies were top of the list in 2018 as well. French Bulldogs were third that year.

Some argue that Staffies are stolen more often than other pets because of their amicable personalities and because they adapt well to new homes and even new owners. They are a popular breed and puppies can be sold at a relatively high price, meaning female Staffies are highly desired.

Some police forces were unable to provide data on specific breeds, meaning the numbers may be even higher for some breeds.

Counties with the most dogs stolen in the UK

Some areas of the UK are at a higher risk of dognapping than others. We've collected data from Blue Cross below to show the 12 areas at the highest risk of dognapping. There are likely to be more crimes reported in areas with higher populations.

Again, some of these figures reflect the number of crimes committed, not the number of pets stolen. This means that more pets may have been stolen in some of these areas than has been recorded.

County Number of dog thefts reported
London (Metropolitan Police Service) 304
West Yorkshire 179
Manchester (Greater Manchester Police) 161
Humberside Police 147
Lancashire 106
Kent 104
South Yorkshire Police 91
Thames Vallery Police 85
Devon and Cornwall Police 71
Staffordshire Police 71

Again, some of these figures reflect the number of crimes committed, not the number of pets stolen. This means that more pets may have been stolen in some of these areas than has been recorded.

Unlimited free vet video calls

Get a quote