21 Tips To Prevent Dog Theft (Don’t Let This Happen)

One thing that most dog owners don’t like to think about is the very real possibility of their pup being stolen by a so-called “buncher” — someone who kidnaps dogs to sell them for profit. It’s estimated that two million dogs are stolen every year in the United States. Most of those pups are not returned to their owners, so it’s crucial for us all to take precautions.

If these statistics make you feel anxious about leaving your beloved pet unattended, never fear! There are plenty of things you can do to prevent dog theft and keep your Fido safe from harm.

Here are the top tips we’ve gathered from experts around the country on how you can keep your doggy friends safe:

How To Prevent Dog Theft

How to Prevent Dog Theft

Keep Your Dog Leashed

It’s no secret that dogs are more likely to be stolen if they’re not leashed. A leash can help deter thieves by making it clear that your pet belongs to you, but it also protects both you and your dog from potential dangers.

If a stranger approaches you in an attempt to steal your pet, the presence of a leash will give them pause before acting.


Beware At The Off-Leash Park

Off-leash parks are a great place for you and your dog to play, but they’re also a hotbed for dog theft.

Thieves will wait until you’ve let your dog off the leash, then convince the pup to go with them by pretending that they are an owner and asking them to go home with them.

Once they’ve lured your dog into their car, they’ll drive away as quickly as possible before you notice what’s going on.


Get Your Dog Microchipped

In the event that your dog is stolen, a microchip can help track down the thief and get your dog back.

Microchips are tiny devices that are implanted under the skin of a pet. They contain identifying information about the pet and its owner. If your dog is stolen, authorities can scan the chip’s unique number and quickly determine who owns it.

There are many different types of microchips available, including ones that can be used in case of an emergency or if someone finds your lost pet. These types of chips can be scanned at veterinary clinics or shelters, which makes them useful if someone finds your dog running around on their property and wants to return it safely to its rightful owner.


Be Extra Vigilant on Holiday Weekends

Be extra vigilant around holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Fourth of July, when there are more potential thieves among the crowds.

There are several reasons why holiday weekends should be a red flag for pet owners.

First, there’s the fact that many people like to get out to enjoy their time off and interact with others over the weekend. This makes it ideal for thieves who want to take advantage of distracted pet owners who may not notice someone taking their dog until it’s too late.

Second, many people celebrate these holidays by drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs, which can make them forgetful and less likely to maintain vigilance over their animals’ whereabouts.

Another reason why you should pay close attention during these times is because of how crowded they tend to be: more people means more opportunities for theft!


Don’t Let Anyone Distract You While You’re Walking Your Dog

If someone tries to get your attention while you’re out with your dog, keep the conversation short and be wary of their intentions. It’s not uncommon for thieves to use children as an excuse to approach a victim while they’re distracted by the kids.

If someone approaches you on the street and asks if they can pet or play with your dog, politely decline and keep moving along the sidewalk; don’t stop for any reason!


Avoid Leaving Your Pup Alone in The Car

Another important way to prevent dog theft is to avoid leaving your pup alone in the car. Although it’s safe enough for us humans, leaving a dog in a vehicle can be dangerous. It’s illegal in some places and even if you’re not breaking the law, it still isn’t good practice.

In addition to being potentially illegal, leaving your dog unattended in the car is also dangerous because of how hot temperatures can get inside a parked car on a hot day.


Ask For An ID if Someone Comes To You Asking About Your Dog

If someone comes to your door asking about your dog, ask for identification. If they don’t have any or won’t show it to you, it’s a good sign of foul play. You can also ask if they’ve called ahead and made an appointment with the owner before showing up at their home.

If they say they’re here because a neighbor told them the dog was loose and could be dangerous, politely explain that you have no idea who this person is or where they live (or even whether such a person exists). Ask them to please leave immediately and call 911 if anyone else comes knocking after this incident.


Carry A Flashlight With You When Walking Your Dog At Night

If you walk your dog at night, it’s important to be able to see where you’re going. A flashlight can help illuminate dark areas so that your pup won’t get hurt while walking on uneven surfaces (like sidewalks) or bumping into obstacles (like trees).

If your dog tends to run ahead of you when they’re off-leash, having a flashlight could help prevent them from running into any harm’s way.


Only Hire Verified Dog Walkers

Who else is in a position to steal your dog if not the stranger that knows it well? Dogs grow fond of their walkers easily and it makes it easier for a dubious walker to steal your dog.

As a dog lover, I have always been careful of the dog walkers I employ to walk my dog after a friend’s dog walker stole her dog. I ensure to hire dog walkers from an agency that has done a full background check on their dog walkers.

Hiring dog walkers from verified agencies makes it hard for a walker to steal your dog because it is easier to find them.

(Maria A. McDowell | EasySearchPeople)


Use Traditional Security Practices

Protecting your dog from theft requires the same kind of attention that protecting any other aspect of your life and home requires. The most difficult challenge here is that the more secure your dog, the less freedom they will likely have — this is just a tradeoff that is a fact in security.

But if you truly want to protect your dog, take the traditional security measures you would use for yourself, your valuables, or a child and apply them to your dog.

Avoid things like posting to social media about your daily walk, especially posting about location. One of the best tactics to protect yourself and therefore your dog is to also avoid creating a strict schedule.

If someone can witness you leaving for work in the morning at 9 AM and not returning until 6 PM every day, they know they have those hours to steal your pooch. As often as possible, change things up so that potential thieves have a harder time planning their crime.

Keep in mind that criminals do not want to be caught, so even setting up an alarm to blare loudly if the door to your home is opened without authorization is a great deterrent. But if you do this, keep in mind that your dog is going to need to be familiar with the sound so they don’t lose their minds.

Give your pup some familiarity with it, and set up a remote control for the alarm so you can turn it off once you see that the criminal has fled the premises (having current-time feeds of your house cameras is a necessity here if you go with this option).

(Glen Bhimani | BPS Security)


Keep Updated Photos of Your Dog

One simple way to ensure a dog’s safety is by capturing your dog’s pictures from every angle.

Once we nearly missed our dog in the busy street and had to ask the policemen if they had seen him. We were lucky to have his pictures on our phones that we take whenever we feel like doing so.

However, our dog went through grooming the other day and we didn’t have a picture after that. Things went a bit difficult and fortunately, at the end of the day, we got him back, not more than a few distances away in a backyard of a home safely.

This lesson had taught me to not only take pictures of my dog but also to update it as the situation demands. Hence, it is equally important to update those pictures too!

(Isaac Robertson | Total Shape)


Give Your Dog Some Recall Training

The best way to protect your dog from all sorts of dangers is proper training. A well-trained dog won’t wander off to areas where theft is more likely.

Work on recall training to make sure your dog always listens to your call, and work on boundaries so they know where they belong.


Write Your Phone Number On Your Dog’s Collar

Just because your dog is microchipped doesn’t mean you don’t still need additional ways to track them.

Microchips are great if your pet ends up at a shelter with the proper equipment to scan the chip. But they won’t help you locate your dog if they’re simply lost in your neighborhood or if they’ve been stolen and taken to a different home.

Look into GPS trackers, such as the Fi Dog Collar, or other forms of tracking, such as an Apple AirTag.

It’s also a good idea to put a method of contact on your dog’s collar, so anyone who discovers your dog has a way to contact you as soon as they find your dog. This could be a dog collar with your number woven into the band, or collar with an ID number or QR code, such as those provided by PetHub.com, so anyone who finds your dog can get in touch.


Don’t Leave Your Dog Outside Unattended

If you need to pop into the grocery store or another shop, it’s best to leave your dog at home. Although it’s rare, some dogs leashed outside of businesses have been stolen.

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your dog if they’re leashed out in your yard. Potential thieves may canvass the street over multiple days to see when dogs are regularly left outside, so don’t allow them out unless you can watch them from the porch or a window.

(Daniel Caughill | The Dog Tale)


Use DNA Protection Technology

As a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant with FiveBarks, Dr. Linda Simon recommends the following:

A new technology that is making its way onto the market is ‘DNA protection’. While we’ve all heard of collars and microchips as a means of identification and theft prevention, this new technology goes a step further.

Unfortunately, neck collars are easily removed and even microchips move, fail, or can be surgically taken out quite easily. This means it can be hard to prove your dog is yours after they’ve been taken.

To combat this issue, we can have our dog’s unique DNA profile on a database. Not only is this a great deterrent to thieves, but it can also help the police when it comes to convicting dog thieves.

While not yet widely available, there are currently companies that can decipher your dog’s DNA profile for you and save it on a database.

With costs starting from about $100, it is not a huge financial investment. The information is gleaned from a simple mouth swab that causes your dog no pain or distress.

Owners can deter thieves further by getting their dogs’ collars and harnesses that say ‘I’ve been DNA protected’ or similar. Quite a neat idea!

(Dr. Linda Simon, FiveBarks)


Keep Your Pet In A Secure Location At All Times

Dog theft is a huge problem in the United States but there are various methods to prevent dog theft. In order to prevent this, it is important to take some precautionary measures. The best way to avoid dog theft is by securing your pet in a safe location.

It can be as simple as keeping your dog on a leash or putting it in an extra secure enclosure when you go out. If you have multiple pets, consider moving them all into one secure location so that they don’t get stolen together.

Some of the other common ways to prevent your dog from getting stolen are:

  • Make sure that your pet is microchipped and registered with the local animal shelter.
  • Install an outdoor camera so that if someone tries to steal your pet, they will be caught in the act. 
  • Install an alarm system around your yard or house so that intruders will be caught by the alarm before they steal your dog.
  • Keep your dogs on a leash when they are outside and make sure they cannot jump over fences.
  • Make sure you have a fence around your yard or house so that the thieves can’t easily get in without being caught by the fence.

In order to prevent your dog from becoming a victim of theft, you should make sure that it is not left outside unattended and that you always keep it on your property or inside your house when you’re not home.

(Aaron Rice | Stayyy)


Send Your Dog to Doggy Daycare or Hire a Dog Sitter

The majority of dog thefts occur when our dogs are left in the garden unattended for long periods of time, giving thieves the perfect opportunity to simply reach in and do their thing.

Even if your garden is surrounded by high fences and a lock on a gate, thieves who go on a mission to steal dogs are usually prepared, and they’ll have everything to make it in and out of your garden with your dog in the blink of an eye.

This is why I think sending your furry friend to doggy daycare, or failing that, hiring a dog sitter who can constantly keep an eye on them are among the best ways to avoid dog theft.

Although it could happen, dog thieves don’t usually go around the neighborhood stealing dogs from their owners at gunpoint; they’re more likely to monitor a specific dog for a long period of time and simply wait for the perfect opportunity to strike without making a fuss.

Hence, I believe that having someone who can watch our dogs when we’re not home or sending them to a place where they’re receiving constant vigilance is an infallible method to keep your dog from being stolen.

(Emma Miles | PawsomeAdvice)


Buy a GPS Tracking Collar

Last update on 2023-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I have found that this is the best solution if you are worried about dog theft (or just have a dog that likes to run off). This will ensure that you can locate your dog at all times, and can help you track down a lost or stolen pet immediately after a crime occurs.

Using this in conjunction with microchips, and other safety practices (like having a secure yard) will reassure you that you have the best security level possible.

(Jacquelyn Kennedy |  PetDT)


Keep the Documentation that Proves Ownership Of Your Dog

If you own a dog, you need to make sure that your ownership is documented. That way, if your dog gets stolen, you will be able to prove that you were the rightful owner and recover it.

Documentation can include copies of the dog’s registration, certificate, vaccination history, a receipt from a purchase, a microchip ID number, or even a photo of the dog with you. It’s also a good idea to include a photograph of your dog and any other identifying information such as its name and breed.

If possible, keep this information in a safe place so that it’s easy to access should you need it at any time.


Link Your Smart Camera To Your Mobile To Keep An Eye On Your Dog

One of the best ways to prevent dog theft is to use a device that you always have on you – your mobile phone.

A benefit of the world that we live in today is we have smart technology which can link to our mobile devices. This means that we can be alerted when something is happening at home and then alert the authorities in order to minimize and prevent the negative impact of criminal behavior.

Smart cameras, for example, can pick up when there’s movement in your home or in your yard and let you know that there is movement. By being able to connect to those cameras with your mobile phone, you can get the alert, access a live stream, and then make a call from there. If someone is trying to steal your dog, you can alert authorities and stop that from happening.

Our phones are extremely valuable tools in the modern world. And when combined with other technology, they can help us live safer lives and prevent criminals from succeeding in their crimes.

(Josh Wright | CellPhoneDeal)


Use Pet Tracking Solutions

LIVE Tracking with new Tractive GPS

Pet tracking solutions like Tractive GPS can immediately alert you on your phone if your pet leaves your property, including a fenced backyard. Additionally, they can help you locate the pet with real-time GPS tracking.

Signage in your yard, similar to home security systems, notifying would-be thieves of the fact that your pet is tracked via GPS can help deter theft in the first place.

(Andrew Bleiman | Tractive)



It might seem like a lot of precautions to take, but dog theft is becoming more common every year. We always encourage our readers to make sure their dogs are microchipped and up-to-date on vaccinations. We also suggest keeping them inside or within your line of sight at all times when outside so that they don’t get lost or stolen by criminals looking for easy targets.

We know that it’s easy to be distracted by the excitement of a day at the park, but it’s important to always be on your guard — even if you’re surrounded by people you know. If you think you might forget, try making a list of potential pitfalls and stashing it in your pocket so that you can refer to it when necessary.

We also recommend that everyone with a dog should read up on their local laws surrounding dog theft — in many states, there is nothing illegal about taking an off-leash dog without permission, so it’s up to us as owners to protect our pets!

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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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