Don’t let dognappers catch you napping: From a locked steel lead to a GPS collar tracker, ingenious new ways to foil epidemic of theft
- Lady Gaga’s dogwalker was shot and her French bulldog stolen last month
- For millions of UK owners, it highlighted the frightening rise in dognapping
- In 2020, incidences rose by 250 per cent in some areas due to demand for pets
- Alice Smellie and cocker spaniels, Bumble and Skye, test out security gadgets
- Vet Dr Stewart Halperin, who has a practice in Somerset, gives his thoughts
Last month, the shooting of singer Lady Gaga’s dog-walker and theft of her French bulldogs shocked the world. But for millions of UK owners, it simply highlighted the frightening rise in dognapping.
In 2020, incidences of the crime rose by 250 per cent in some areas, as demand for lockdown pets led to a shortage of sought-after breeds such as spaniels and ‘designer’ crossbreeds including cockapoos, with prices for puppies soaring. But what can you do to keep your dog safe?
ALICE SMELLIE and her two working cocker spaniels, Bumble and Skye, test out security gadgets, while vet Dr Stewart Halperin, who has a practice in Bruton, Somerset (stemcellvet.co.uk), gives his thoughts.
Alice Smellie and her two working cocker spaniels, Bumble and Skye, put security gadgets to the test after a rise of up to 250 per cent in some areas in incidences of dognapping in 2020
Petloc dog lead and collar with steel cable and combination locks, £50, petloc.com
WHAT IT IS: A lead with a difference. The Petloc has combination locks at both ends and steel cable along its entire length, as well as around the collar area. This means you can secure your pet outside shops or in a vehicle and thieves can’t detach the lead or cut through it. Many owners now attach one lock to their belt for extra safety.
The Petloc is a dog lead and collar with a steel cable and combination locks, which Alice said is surprisingly light and easy to clip around Bumble’s neck and then to her belt
ON TEST: I hadn’t realised our two poorly trained dogs might be our most valuable possessions. In fact, any thief would be disappointed, as they are both spayed and quite old. The lead is surprisingly light and easy to clip around Bumble’s neck and then to my belt, so I am hands-free. I’ve never dared leave them outside a shop but this would reassure me.
STEWART SAYS: Thumbs up for this. Normally I’d warn against leaving dogs outside shops in case they are snatched but this solves the problem. Don’t leave for them long, though. 9/10
KEEP THEM INSIDE
Dog-G8, from £49.95, dog-g8.com
WHAT IT IS: The Dog-G8 is a slender, portable metal safety barrier that attaches to doors and folds in and out like a concertina as they open and close. It’s like a baby gate for dogs, to stop them getting out of the house and into the hands of thieves. The barriers are 88cm high and the brackets can be attached to any uPVC door with high-grade adhesion tape, or screwed into a wooden door or post. The gate can be detached from the brackets and used elsewhere. When the door opens, the Dog-G8 does too and your dog is kept inside.
The Dog-G8 is like a baby gate for dogs, stopping them getting out of the house and into the hands of thieves by keeping them behind a slender, portable metal safety barrier that attaches to doors
ON TEST: I’m not aware of any dogs being stolen near our house but the postman tolerates our spaniels trying to get in his van every morning, so this is just what I need. If we manage to get away this summer, I’d definitely take one. They are perfect for a holiday let, where I might worry about opportunistic thieves.
STEWART SAYS: This is a great way of keeping dogs in the house, so you know where they are while still being able to open the door. Dog thefts aside, it’s also excellent for preventing them getting onto the road. 7/10
TRACK THEM DOWN
Tractive GPS dog tracker, £24.99, box.co.uk
WHAT IT IS: A plastic waterproof tracker which attaches to your dog’s collar. It links to your phone and has worldwide location tracking and activity monitoring.
The tractive GPS dog frager is a plastic waterproof tracker which attaches to your dogs collar, through linking to your phone you can see your dog’s location and monitor their activity
ON TEST: The biggest appeal for me is that you can set a virtual fence using the Tractive app and be alerted if your dog leaves the ‘safe’ area. I set a boundary of 100 yards, then pop the Tractive on Skye, who is completely unbothered. You do have to sign up to the app, which starts at £3.75 a month.
STEWART SAYS: Every time we put a microchip into a dog, people ask about tracking, which we’re unable to provide at the moment. My only issue is that it goes on a collar, which is fine for a runaway dog but not if they are stolen. The first thing a thief will do is remove the collar. 6/10
143db Personal Alarm and Strobe, £9.99, doghorn.uk
WHAT IT IS: A small personal alarm that emits a 143db high-pitched siren sound, audible up to half a mile away and lasting up to two hours. It’s easily activated with a pull on the attached ripcord, and there is a strobe torch as well.
The 143db Personal Alarm and Strobe is a small personal alarm which emits a loud, high-pitched siren sound which is audible up to half a mile away and lasts for up to two hours
ON TEST: This would make me feel safe from all manner of attacks. The noise is piercing. I give it a couple of seconds, which is enough to know that anyone near by would be aware of a problem, no matter how remote the walk.
STEWART SAYS: Alarms are a great idea. You should frighten off anyone thinking of taking them. 9/10
Canicross Adventure Trail Starter Set, from £89.99, K9trailtime.com
WHAT IT IS: Keep your dog safe on a long lead (see main picture). Canicross is a comfortable way of exercising with your dog while keeping him/her attached to you at all times. The kit comes with a harness for the dog, a wide waist belt for the human and a stretchy bungee line up to 2.8m long. Your dog thinks he’s in The Call Of The Wild and you don’t feel as if you’re going to fall over, yet it’s not so long as to snag on things.
ON TEST: Normally I do run with Bumble and don’t like to let him off the lead in case he is grabbed or — more likely — vanishes after a squirrel, yet I find it annoying being tugged along. I put my legs through the holes and strap on the belt. My back feels fully supported, and Bumble and I run as one. This is game-changing.
STEWART SAYS: Keeping them close is a good idea. 9/10
DOG GUARD SERVICE
From £100 an hour, westminstersecurity.co.uk
WHAT IT IS: DoggyGuards are bodyguards specifically for dogs. They are available nationwide.
‘People value their dogs as family members but some owners don’t feel safe walking them at the moment,’ says John Moore, managing director at Westminster Security, who runs the service. ‘DoggyGuards is bespoke — you can either have a trained bodyguard walking your pet, or a security dog handler with an Alsatian discreetly shadowing you as you walk.’
The guards are in plain clothes and unarmed but trained in self-defence, surveillance and conflict management. John has already been inundated with calls.
STEWART SAYS: If you can afford it, why not? It’s peace of mind. I’d say it’s more of a city trend than for the countryside, though. 6/10
From JUSTINE QUIRK at doglost.co.uk (the largest lost & found dog service in the UK)
- Don’t put details about your dogs on social media, such as where you walk and what food they like. But if they ARE stolen, go straight on social media and ask everyone to share pictures.
- Don’t stop walking your dog. Just vary the time and route.
- Ask a vet to check the microchip (they can fail); and ensure your details are up to date.
- If your dog is stolen, tell the police immediately. Next, alert the microchip company, then the local dog warden, local vets and rescue centres, and register with us, doglost.co.uk. Finally, share on social media to raise awareness, and ask people to share.
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