I expect most readers will know of someone who has been a victim of a working dog theft. With the increase in popularity of fieldsports comes the increase in demand for trained dogs. And there is a danger of the demand being satisfied at the genuine owner’s expense.

At DogLost we’ve seen a rise in the theft of gundogs, especially cocker spaniels, in the past few months. Owners must be prepared. Almost 50 per cent of reports of missing dogs to DogLost are working dogs. That’s more than 75 a week.

Look at your own kennel security. In the past, it meant keeping dogs in, not thieves out. Now it’s the reverse. If you are building an outdoor run consider its location — as close to the house as possible is best. Thieves can be in and out very quickly so you need to be nearby. If your dogs are barking, don’t ignore them. Whatever time of the night, put the lights on and check. Owners regularly report that they went out at night to see why their dogs were barking and on finding nothing didn’t bother to investigate when it happened again only to discover that the dogs had been stolen the next morning.

Some owners have invested in guard dogs for their premises. Sadly, this does not put off potential thieves. We have heard of dozens of cases of guard dogs being beaten with metal bars so thieves can get at valuable working dogs. Consider the construction of your runs. Invest in solid metal runs and make sure nuts are on the inside not the outside. Equally, many working dogs are sent to trainers — check their security measures, too.

Last week I reviewed a typical situation. The owners’ kennelling was in an outhouse close to the back door of their house. There was no lock on the outside door, the run was made of plywood and chicken wire and, in case the thieves forgot their tools, on the beam above was a selection of saws and bars. They wouldn’t have needed them — there was only a bolt on the entrance. I explained that the dogs could be gone in 10 seconds. Another no-no is instant slot-down fencing as it’s easy for thieves to slide the panels up.

The most effective way to protect your dogs is the simplest. The one thing thieves don’t like is unexpected noise. Invest in cowbells for the back of your main gates and kennel doors. The sound of bells will make them think twice.

Invest in CCTV and alarms. Ask your local crime prevention officer to come to advise you. Make sure your dogs are chipped and tattooed — we recommend both. Vets do not automatically scan new dogs brought in but they do check a dog’s eyes and ears and a tattoo is visible.

Take photos of your dogs from all angles. We have daily reports of working dogs being found in all parts of the country with no means of identification. It makes our job hard in matching them to their rightful owners, but the good news is that we help to return the majority of stolen dogs.

How can you help when buying or selling a dog? If you are a breeder, don’t give your address out until you have proof of who the potential buyers are. Take their vehicle registration and insist on a landline number, address and identification.

If you’re a buyer, be aware from whom you are buying. If you are meeting a seller in a lay-by the chances are the dog has been stolen. If you think something is suspicious, contact DogLost.co.uk in confidence, tel 08448 003220.

Have your say: if you have a view on a current news topic,send it, in no more than 500 words, to selena_masson@ipcmedia.com.

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