Stay a step ahead of dog thieves

(Q) Do you have any advice about how to avoid dog theft? I got my Lurcher puppy from the RSPCA, and I've since been told he'd be great for poaching or illegal racing, and I've been approached and asked some very suspicious questions. What can I do to make him less tempting for theft?

He's microchipped, I'm very careful about when and where he goes off-lead, and I try to take him out at different times. I plan to get him neutered as soon as he's old enough, but I'm at a loss.

(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: Unfortunately, dog theft is a growing problem that applies to all owners. Certain types of dog are more attractive to thieves but all owners should take care, as different criminals will target different types of dog. There are certain things that all owners should do to limit the chances of dog theft, which may occur while on a walk or from your own garden.

All owners should ensure their dog is microchipped and some may wish to also have their dog tattooed. They should always wear a collar and tag stating your address and telephone number but not the dog's name.

Keep clear, recent photographs of your dog from several angles including any unusual markings or scars. Make sure you train your dog to return when you call and not to go out of sight while on walks. Always call your dog back if you are approached on a walk, as criminals will often try to distract an owner while their partner lures the dog away. If your dog doesn't have a reliable recall then you must keep him on a long line or an extending lead. Vary your routine and the walks you go on. Avoid discussing your dog's pedigree or value with strangers.

Dogs can be stolen from cars so try not to leave your dog unattended and make sure he is locked in, and if possible kept within a secure crate, which should hopefully dissuade opportunistic thieves. Dogs are not necessarily safe while at home, so ensure that you secure all gates and fencing to prevent thieves entering. Lock the gate from the inside and secure with a padlock or install an alarm that alerts you if the gate is opened. If you are taking all these precautions then try to relax and enjoy your walks.

There are many groups, including those dedicated to owners of Lurchers, who meet up for walks that you may especially enjoy. Local groups can be found on the internet through several sites including