Pooch Alert! Dognapping is on the rise!

This topic came to mind because here in San Francisco I've noticed a troubling rise in missing dogs. Not too long ago, a Chihuahua was stolen from a a parked -- and locked -- car, outside a supermarket. An elderly Beagle was taken while tethered by the entrance to Whole Foods, in plain view of workers and customers. And only two weeks ago, a chocolate Lab was taken from outside a Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood while the owners were inside, dining. 

Whether traveling by foot or by car, no dog owner wants to face the nightmare of finding out that their dog has been stolen. Unfortunately,    dognappings are frequent and occur in even the safest neighborhoods. Dogs that have been leashed and left outside to wait for their owners aren’t the only victims either.

Doggy day care vans have been robbed. Pets have been stolen from their own yards, from the owner’s hands and from stolen cars. While a Chihuahua may seem easier to steal than a Rottweiler or German Shepherd, professional dog thieves can just as easily take a dog by force as they can by common trickery (i.e., overly friendly dogs or pets being lead off by food treats).  Although pocket-sized, it'd be more difficult to steal a vicious, snapping, yapping Chihuahua than a friendly, trusting, tailwagging Rottie or Shepherd!

According to the American Kennel Club, dog thefts are continuing to increase at a disconcerting rate.

  • In 2008, the number of dog thefts were 71.
  • In 2009, the number of dog thefts were 162.
  • In 2010, the number of dog thefts were 255.
  • In 2011, the number of dog thefts were 444.
  • In 2012, the number of dog thefts were 458.

People and New York Daily News go on to point out that this continued on into 2013 and 2014, too.

  • In 2013, the number of dog thefts were 609.
  • In 2014, the number of dog thefts were 637.

The 10 most common dogs to be stolen (from top to bottom) are, according to iHeartDogs:

  1. Yorkshire Terrier
  2. Pomeranian
  3. Maltese
  4. Boston Terrier
  5. French Bulldog
  6. Chihuahua
  7. Labradoodle
  8. American Pit Bull Terrier
  9. German Shepherd
  10. Labrador Retriever

The top-10 list proves that not only should dog owners not assume that smaller dogs are always the easiest to steal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a particular dog being friendlier (i.e., Labrador Retrievers), popular for dogfighting (i.e., American Pit Bull Terriers) or valuable for pet sales (i.e., Chihuahuas).

Here are a few tips to avoid the risk of coming home to an empty home, car or tethering pole. 

Avoid leaving your dog unattended outdoors for long periods of time, even if the "outdoors" is your own yard. This one can be a little tough, particularly for owners of energetic dogs who love to be outdoors and need a good amount of exercise, such as Labs and other retrievers. Labrador Training HQ recommends at least an hour of outdoor exercise, which can present a bit of problem for the busy pet owner. If you don’t have enough time to spend outdoors exercising and entertaining your dog and you feel that leaving them outside in the yard alone should suffice, you may want to rethink your choice of pet. Perhaps a cat or smaller house dog may be a better choice for you.

Avoid telling strangers unnecessary details about your dog. If cars or people approach asking about how much your dog cost, it may be that they’re genuinely interested in purchasing a similar dog, or it could be that they’re wondering how much they could collect if they were steal and sell your dog! Outside of polite hellos, goodbyes and the usual conversation that transpires between dog owners, unless you know them, be wary of those who seem overly interested in bonding with your dog.

Don’t leave your dog tied up outside of restaurants and stores. The way a dog is leashed is the same way a dog is unleashed! Dogs that are super-relaxed and friendly, as well as dogs that are timid and fearful are clear candidates for theft. Leaving an unattended dog leashed up outside is actually the same as leaving an unattended baby in a baby carriage outside. Although you may believe you can see the dog or baby at all times, all it takes is a few seconds of glancing elsewhere for your loved one to be swept away.

Only trust reliable and experienced dog walkers to walk your dog. While that child dog owner may feel like he or she is perfectly competent at taking the dog for a walk around the block, unless the adult dog owner is sure that the child has the walk fully under control, the child dog owner should be accompanied by the adult. Even adult dog owners can be the victims of dog theft, however, so be wary of all surroundings, especially in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Pay attention to your dog. The dog park often becomes the dog owner's playground rather than the dog's. The dog park is your dog's place to mingle, socialize and have fun with other dogs, other people and most importantly, with you. If your dog is neglected while you become immersed in conversations with fellow dog owners, you're introducing a perfect opportunity for your dog to innocently wander off, making it easy for someone with ill intent to snatch him or her.

As a pet parent, the more attentive you are to your dog, the safer your dog will be!