The following has been inspired and written by me, David Davies, due to the number of reported and highlighted attempts and actual thefts of dogs in recent times
The question is... Why? The answer sadly is money. Your dog is worth money to these people. This is bad enough but the fact your dog may also be used to tease fighting dogs is a reality also. This last sentence should be enough to jolt most dog owners into realising that your dog needs to be your best friend. Not every stranger it meets, and not every dog it encounters on a walk! If your dog is this drawn to other dogs and people, it is a soft target - all anyone needs to do is know how to attract a dogs attention and offer it reward for going to them. This reward will be the driving force, the motivation for the over friendly dog to go willingly to them and get into any vehicle with them, or just follow them away. Often as I walk my dogs I am followed by sweet friendly dogs whose owners can’t call back. I stand still until the owner or dog walker catches up and puts the dog on a leash. Imagine however if I just opened up a car and put my dogs in, how many of these friendly dogs would follow and jump in as well? Add to the equation a bitch in heat or even just a cloth impregnated with this scent and most dogs, male anyhow, would follow very easily.
The answer is a rethink to how people train and live with their beloved pets.
Firstly management. In many of the areas I walk my dogs or work with clients when away from my training venue I notice dogs seemingly unattended in their gardens. There is no point in leaving a dog outside on its own. All it will desire is to be back in the house with its family. So why do this? Take your dog out, reward it when it has a wee etc and bring it back indoors where it is safe with you. When the dog needs to go out for exercise, take it out and interact with it. You the owner do this, don’t rely on strangers in the park, or other peoples dogs. It’s your dog, you make yourself entertaining and useful to your dog and it will crave you, not a stranger or strange dog. One will see their recall improve in a few weeks as a result!
When so walking I sometimes know which gardens and yards I will see or hear dogs in seemingly unattended. If I know where these vulnerable dogs are, then you can bet the thieves will also. Maybe you have seen a marker on your fence, wall or the footpath outside? This may be a signal left by the thieves accomplices indicating where others following can expect a soft target to be waiting for them to take. My motto - Take your dog out don’t put it out!
Security cameras are inexpensive these days and readily available. Install these. Ensure they are as tamperproof as possible but I would say make sure they are high visibility! A thief is less likely to risk being caught on camera and move on to somewhere less secure.
Be vigilant. As car thieves will follow a desirable car to the home of its owner to take later by means of a burglary, so too may the dog thief. If you have a rare, expensive or desirable breed of dog this is very likely to happen depending upon where you live.
If leaving your dog in a vehicle, ensure this is as secure as it can be, and leave it in a clearly seen location. As dog owners we try to leave our dogs in quiet areas with windows open. Now we must consider the temperature in the vehicle but obviously we are making both the possessions and the dogs in the car vulnerable. If the car was left insecure there could even be an issue with insurance claims later as well! The obvious answer is don’t take the dog with you if it may mean leaving it unattended somewhere in a vehicle or worse tied up outside a shop.
Many dogs now seem to be being taken right from the hands and eyes of their owners when walking! Once over a dog was used to prevent thefts and the irony is that now they seem to be the target of thefts! The Dangerous Dogs Act actively prevents us from having a dog that can protect both itself and us! This has placed the onus on owners and walkers to have dogs so well socialised that they are everyone’s friend. However this has to make the life of a dog thief so easy!
Socialisation however doesn’t have to make a dog everyone’s friend. A guide dog for example is sociable in that it will not react fearfully or aggressively to dogs or strangers, but then neither will it court interaction with them. It is conditioned to be indifferent to them. This is easily taught to a puppy before it has been taught to simply run up to anyone and any dog and so conditioned into the dogs mind as it matures. An adult dog which has been overly socialised will be more difficult to retrain however it can be usually taught to have a perfect recall if still young enough and the right methods used.
Make the unwanted behaviour unrewarding to the dog, this should cause the desire to weaken.
Train an alternative more preferable behaviour (counter training), probably for this case a great recall, and cause this to be hugely rewarding to the dog. For this to happen the dog simply has to view the handler or walker as being the most important thing in its life. Now consider this paragraph. The thing that provides your dog with its enjoyment will be the thing it views as super exciting or super desirable. In the case of a recall there is no way around this. It simply has to be the person walking the dog. Just because a dog is reliable in this regard with one human, does not mean it will be with anyone else, unless they have practiced and rehearsed with that dog!
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David Davies Dog Training and Pack Leader Dog Adventures are working towards getting better awareness for dog owners with regard to all aspects of canine training and welfare. At the moment the focus is on the rising number of dog thefts. Specialist recall training and awareness as well as random patrols in vulnerable areas, attempts to trace missing dogs, and personal safety to prepare people should they be targeted for their dog.
Photos below of our most recent 'Beat the Dog Thief' talk
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If you would like us to come and deliver this talk in your area or for further details of other presentations and workshops we run contact Dom Hodgson of Pack Leader Dog Adventures email@example.com or phone 07794053084