Yesterday (Sunday, October 31) marked the beginning of Gundog Theft Awareness Week 2021.

Theft of working dogs continues to be a huge problem in rural areas; according to the volunteer-run national service DogLost, almost 50% of its missing dog reports relate to working gundogs.

Gundogs are types of hunting dogs developed to assist hunters in finding and retrieving game. Popular breeds include spaniels, labradors and pointers.

Because they are both well-trained and sociable, they are ideal targets for thieves, who can get up to £5,000 for one pupper.

With Gundog Awareness Week underway, the Countryside Alliance (CA) have issued some advice to rural gundog owners:

Take precautions

The CA recommend taking photos of your dogs from several angles and keep them with your dog’s documents, making sure to document any specific markings or features that make your pet identifiable.

Remove ladders or tools from the area where your dog is kept as they can be used by thieves to gain entry to your premise.

Stay vigilant

Avoid boasting about your dog in public area the CA warns, as you never know who may be listening.

Sign up to local and regional neighbourhood watch programmes so you are aware of other local thefts in the area. Make sure to note down the registration numbers of any suspicious looking vehicles.

If you are having puppies avoid roadside advertising and if potential buyers come to see your puppies have somebody with you and show the puppies one by one.

Keep your dog’s kennel as close to your home as possible. If your dog lives indoors, take the usual principles to ensure safety.

If your dog has been stolen

By law, all dogs must be microchipped, so ensure your details are up to date.

Should your dog be missing, report it to Petlog and register the dog’s microchip as missing to it will show up when scanned.

The CA recommends to take action swiftly; make sure you call 999 and get a crime reference number. Also contact your Local Council, Dogwarden and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to alert them should the dog be handed in.

Rely on your community, both in-person and online, to spread the word and let people know what has happened.

Keep the police up to date and always allow them to follow up any potential leads.