Keep your dog safe this festive season
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Ask any dog owner and they’ll confirm that their pet is a fully-fledged member of the family, which is why posts circulating on social media claiming that there's a sudden surge of dogs being stolen is causing additional anxiety this winter.
In this incredibly strange year dogs have flourished in their role as faithful and fun-loving companions, and demand for puppies has soared as many people seek to enjoy the rewards of dog ownership for the first time.
So how can we keep this most precious of family members safe?
Sadly, the surge in demand for puppies during lockdown - plus heightened pre-Christmas interest - has resulted in a spike in dog thefts in some places and social media hysteria.
Latest statistics from Police Scotland indicate that there has been actually been no dogs taken from the Inverurie area this year, althought this is not the case for everywhere in the UK with criminals resorting to ever more sophisticated means to source dogs for re-sale or breeding.
Local business owner Sarah Clark, who runs ClarkiesWalkies, has some reassuring tips for dog owners.
She said: “No-one wants to go through the heartbreak of having their dog stolen.
“Fortunately, by being aware of the dangers – and putting some simple measures in place – you can make it pretty tricky for thieves to target your pet.”
She recommends starting with the basics.
Explaining the first steps of protection, Sarah said: “All dogs over eight weeks old in Scotland must be microchipped under the Microchipping of Dogs (Scotland) Regulations 2016.
"Make sure that your dog’s database details are up to date – particularly if you are among the many families who have moved home this year.
"In addition, your dog should always wear a collar with your name and address when in a public place.
"If your dog has been neutered, you may wish to add this information to the tag.
"This deters criminals who are looking for dogs to breed from.”
While many dog owners have favourite walking routes and times of day to head out, Sarah suggests varying these if you can.
She said:“Thieves monitor walking patterns – and they tend to be aware of popular dog walking paths.
"This is great motivation to explore some new areas with your dog!
"If local options are limited, at least try to switch up your timings.
“Similarly, many of us have found our gardens to be something of a haven this year, however you should avoid leaving your dog outside unattended.
"If your pet uses an outdoor kennel, situate it close to the house and consider investing in a security camera.
"These can be sourced relatively inexpensively and are a worthwhile investment for extra peace of mind.”
If you love taking photos of your dog, then Sarah has some advice for you too.
She said: “Ensure you keep some close-ups of your dog from all angles, paying particular attention to any distinctive features or markings.
"These will prove invaluable if the worst happens.
"If your pet goes missing, act fast.
"Contact your vet and microchip company as soon as possible and use your photographs to produce posters for distribution locally.
Upload electronic versions to local social media groups too - the dog owning community is full of wonderful people who will rally to help a fellow dog lover.”
This article has been shared with readers by Clarkies Walkies and Clare Scott.