Eight Ways To Get Your Dog Stolen


Christmas Eve should be a time of peace and solace, but for Cory and Sarah Malchow, it was the start of a nightmare. Sarah was walking her dog when she was attacked from behind and her 4-month-old Pit Bull mix was stolen. Reports indicate that one assailant grabbed Sarah from behind, held her in the air, and threw her to the ground. Meantime, another assailant approached from behind, unclipped the dog from his leash, and took off in a car. It is very easy for to get your dog stolen.

According to, as many as 2 million pets are stolen every year. Sadly, only 10 percent are ever reunited with their pet parents. Stolen dogs meet many ends. Some are sold to research labs, others are used by unscrupulous breeders in puppy mills, while still others are forced into dog fighting, among other very disturbing horrific purposes.

To catch a criminal, think like the criminal, right? To prevent a dog from being stolen, think like the low life. Here are eight things dog thieves want you to do — followed by ways you can prevent your dog from becoming a statistic:

1. Leave your dog alone in a car

This is a favored method of pet thieves. Not only are dogs at risk of death in the warmer months from being left alone in cars, but they also can freeze in the winter time. I recall a local story about a gentleman who ran into a shopping mall, leaving his two Samoyed dogs behind for a “short time.” He returned to find the windows smashed and his dogs stolen. The bottom line: Don’t do it.


2. Tie your dog up outside, alone

A 7-year-old girl was out shopping with her mom for the Christmas holidays recently and leashed her dog up outside the store. As the duo perused items, a thief was caught on hidden surveillance unleashing Marley, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The thief attempted to sell Marley on the streets, where a teacher bought the dog because she felt something was wrong. The dog was eventually reunited with his family, but this is rare. Criminals are waiting for you to leave the leash behind, with the dog attached. If you wouldn’t leave a baby alone outside, apply the same principle to your pets. The bottom line: Don’t do it.


3. Cruise dog parks and dog-friendly beaches

Look around the next time you let your dog roam off leash to his heart’s content. In my many years of covering dog travel, I have discovered that dogs are stolen from dog-welcoming properties such as dog parks and beaches. Chatting with friends while your eye roams away from your dog is exactly what criminals want. The bottom line: Let your dog have fun, but know where he or she is at all times.

4. Skip the microchip and ID tags

If your stolen, lost, or missing dog happens to luck out and end up at a shelter, the chances of a reunion with you increase dramatically if that dog is microchipped. Though collars can be taken off by thieves, identification tags that remain intact, especially something like a PetHub tag using QR code, increase the chances of reunion. If you move or change phone numbers, update the microchip contact info. The bottom line: Keep identification current and get a microchip.

big dog

5. Leave dogs home alone without supervision

Please don’t jump on me for this one because I know a large majority of dog moms and dads reading this work outside the home. A pet sitter, doggie daycare, or a security system are all viable options to prevent pet theft. Thieves case homes where pets are left alone, and sadly, homes are cased to wait for the right moment that dogs are home alone. The bottom line: If you must leave your dog alone for any significant period of time, ask a neighbor to watch your house and return the favor with a neighborhood watch. I also never leave my dog alone in a hotel room when I travel.

6. Let your dog live outside

This hotly contested topic went round and round when I wrote about not allowing a dog to live outside. Reason #864 to never let a dog live outside as his or her primary “residence?” Theft. Recently a dog in Cedar Falls, IA, was stolen from his heated dog kennel right near his owner’s home. reports that thieves in this situation are leaving notes for the owners letting them know the dog is “safe.” Bottom line: Never let your dog outside without your watchful eye.


7. Don’t use locks, fences, or alarms

This is a thief’s best friend: The property that is poorly lit, without a secure lock on a gate, and out of view of passersby. “It happened in broad daylight” is something that has become all too common as it relates to pet theft. Use an alarm or bell, and if possible, a security light, so you can hear and see anyone who comes on your property. The bottom line: Good fences make good neighbors. They also keep criminals away, and coupled with pet parent supervision, they keep dogs safe and secure.

8. Be unaware

I tell my pet friends and contacts this all the time: Know your surroundings. I remember watching an episode of Oprah years ago and learning about the book, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker. Considered one of the nation’s leading experts on violent behavior, de Becker shares how to spot subtle signs of danger — before it’s too late. Do not walk late at night by yourself, have a cell phone handy, and be aware of your surroundings. The bottom line: Know before you go.


As of press time, the Malchows had their dog returned, but this case is very unusual, and they are very fortunate.

Have you ever known someone who had their dog stolen? Got any tips to keep dogs safe from danger? Bark at me in the comments below, and let’s stay safe out there.

Note:  I originally wrote this article for Dogster magazine, but with the amount of pets being reported stolen and missing, it bears re-running here.


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  1. I just had my heart go to my throat with the leaving the dog at home. Lenny and I are both home during the week, but now I am going to be afraid when we leave for longer periods of time. The GOOD thing, is Dakota is so loud that they would bring him back lol
    In all seriousness, this was a fabulous post with important info……tying dogs outside, letting them run unsupervised at beaches and parks and leaving them in cars seem like no-brainers but we tend to let our guard down in places that we know.
    This is a must read!

    1. Thanks, Caren. Indeed, it is true I am one of those dog moms who does not leave her dog alone ever. I know some think what is wrong with her – but he or she is always with us or with a friend whom I trust. I’ve known too many people who had a dog stolen, victim to fire, have an in-house accident, and once I walked in on my Brandy having a seizure. Never again I told myself.

      Thanks for chiming in and I had to LOL that they’d bring Dakota back.

  2. Great advice! Not sure if you are familiar with NextDoor or not but a dog was taken from a yard in our neighborhood (but returned) when I suggested to never leave your dog unattended in the back yard people acted like I was nuts. This is the city, where dogs are taken from their yards every day. I break one or two of the rules once in a while but overall always cautious. Dolly & Sandra

  3. Personally, we think dog theft ranks right up there with horse-theft. There really ought to be a law with harsher consequences. Thank you for this. Now I’m going to be thinking of #5 every time I have to go to the store, doctor’s office, or anywhere else. Though everyone that doesn’t know him is afraid of Vlad, I just might hurry up my trips a lot faster anyway!

    I know something else people do that gets attention to their houses. They have all those cute yard signs like — especially when it’s NOT a guard dog breed that will attack. I wanted a couple now that we live out in the sticks, and I can do what I want, but my mom told me really fast that it was a good way to bring attention to dog thieves–especially when you have a rare breed. She said that if they wanted them, all they had to do was break a window and throw some drugged meat in, then wait until he passed out. It takes too long for police to get out here, and they could have almost anything they wanted faster than an alarm warning allows.

    1. Yeah in doing research for this piece, it really scared me a lot. I never leave my dog alone – in 20+ years of being a dog parent, not once. I know some think what is wrong with her – but he or she is always with us or with a friend whom I trust. I’ve known too many people who had a dog stolen, victim to fire, have an in-house accident, and once I walked in on my Brandy having a seizure. Never again I told myself.

  4. I love #1. I tell it to people all the time because they think that heat is the only danger to leaving a dog alone in the car. I had a friend whose had dogs stolen from her back yard. She loved German Shepherds and they were always intact males so I think this is why her dogs were specifically targeted.

  5. Yikes, that is a good list, but sometimes we are home for several hours alone. Our neighborhood is pretty active and we have lots of people home during the day, not a lot of trees, so kidnappers can’t really hide, but that would be a terrible thing. My mom would die if someone broke in and stole any or all of us!

    1. While I don’t want to create paranoia, I am one of those folks who errs on the side of caution. It’s a risk any time a pet is left home alone. They really can’t defend themselves, much like babies. I know people who had their pet stolen and I just never leave Dex alone.

  6. Dang! You mean to tell me my two older girls aren’t safe home alone while I take the little one to daycare and then go back to pick her up? My car isn’t big enough for Ducky’s crate AND her two sisters. And I sure as heck don’t have the $$$ to buy a car that would be big enough. All three girls are microchipped, so I feel a little better that way. But you’re going to make me more paranoid about leaving home now than I already am!

  7. Great post filled with important information. I never leave my dogs out in the fenced yard and leave the house. They have to come inside, and we do have an alarm that is tied into the fire dept. that’s a must with dogs and kids. I hope a lot of people read this, some people seem so intelligent until it comes to animals, makes no sense to me, they should know better.

  8. Another reason not to leave one’s dog outside is heartworms.

    Leaving a dog outside also advertises when the owner is gone & when the owner is there even in the case of (dumb owners like some of our neighbors) who leave them out even when out of town. Anyone around much at all knows they leave them out more on Friday nights (when they are gone and the dogs bark at every leaf) and on the weekends they leave town. (Just one example.) And FWIW those dogs only bark at leaves & people going in and out of their own homes. They don’t bark when seedy characters are seen in the area, probably because they know them but I digress…

    1. SUCH great points, Brenda. Mosquitos can travel indoors but to leave a dog outside leaves them more susceptible indeed.

  9. These are all very good points!! People think we are nuts too…we bring our two with us all the time. We even bought an RV because I refused to vacation…I don’t have anyone I can trust to leave them with. They are just REALLY attached to us!! xo Jeanne, Chloe and LadyBug

    1. Woo Hoo and great to hear – we take Dex everywhere. It works for us and sounds like it works for you all, too. Major wags!

  10. Great advice here Carol and great conversation that you have going. I recently added padlocks to my gates for this very reason. While it doesn’t seem to be prominent in our neighborhood, it’s not worth taking the chance for me. I’m also very glad that my mom lives with us, I’m not sure how I’d handle it if she didn’t.

  11. Glad Jodi shared this today so I got a chance to see it. Great information. I’m a pet mom who worked out of the home for many years and had to leave the dogs. We always had a dog walker, so I knew they were checked on during the day. I work from home now and they are rarely alone. They have access only to our fenced backyard that is surrounded by other fenced properties. Our front yard is also fenced – so it would be tough to get in and out of without one of our neighbors seeing. Our dog Tino loved to spend his day outside. I couldn’t deny him that but would check on him regularly. He spent the night outside on occasion, but once he went blind, I put a stop to that. I was just too nervous not so much of his being stolen, but coyotes. Jack is pretty protective about strangers coming into the house, so I don’t worry too much about him (or about myself either). I remember that Gaven de Becker show – I saw it too and bought the book. Trust your gut always!

  12. This is odd timing. Someone in the very small mountain town near us had her dog stolen. Another person spotted two dogs, including hers, in a campsite of some transients. A posse of town people went to the campsite and re-possessed the dogs. It turned out that the second dog had been stolen about a week earlier.

    I kept wondering *why* they stole the dogs. It didn’t even cross my mind that they might sell them. Wow, you opened my eyes.

    1. It is really alarming and disturbing. No one is safe or immune, so that is why we, as pet parents have to strike back and not let these %$#@ get away with it. That is so scary about the dogs stolen in your area.

  13. This is a really great post! My friends had their Rottweiler stolen from their car while they went into Costco. My other friend is going to have her pit bull stolen because she leaves her in the yard all day in a city where everyone knows there are dog fighting rings. I wrote a post about why it’s a bad idea to leave dogs unsupervised in back yards specifically for her! She still won’t listen so I always have my fingers crossed for her sweet 2-year-old pittie. A couple had their dog stolen out of their yard with a very sound 6-ft fence – lucky for them their dog was found across the country 5 years later.
    I’m making my transition to working with dogs but while I’m still at my office job, Kayo stays home. She’s on lock down though – they’d have to break through a set of two doors with two locks each; the windows have “decorative” bars. They’d then be met by a very house-protective, large dog with a serious bark. She’s definitely not a dog who’d readily go off with a stranger without me being there. But I live for the day when I don’t have to leave her home alone while I go to work. My neighborhood isn’t the greatest and I’m always nervous when shady neighbors compliment her.

    1. Thanks, BD. I just get so sick with fear for the dogs who don’t stand a chance – left outside, alone, in a car, etc. And now I am reading trends of thieves slicing dogs’ leashes and then the dog is loose and then run with the dog – so sick and frightening. I sure do worry for dogs in general.

  14. Hi Y’all!

    Thanks for posting this great article. I’m never alone outside…course I don’t want to be alone outside. Our house is alarmed, even when the Humans are home. However, when we travel I am sometimes alone for a short time while the Humans go “inside” where they don’t allow me to go. Usually they try to alternate, especially if it is warm, which it usually is here in the south. I’m so growly and scary if someone comes near my crate I hope no one wants to challenge me further. The car is alarmed too.

    It’s so sad the world has so many terrible, mean people.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  15. This is a big fear for me that I try not to focus on. We’re fortunate, because we live on a lot of land so if someone shows up at our place, our two neighbors immediately become suspicious and will call my boyfriend, who is a deputy.

  16. Thank you for the great info!! A few weeks ago I began getting posts from GA Missing Pets & it just amazes me that so many dogs and cats go missing or are found. I always share them with the thought that someone out there will know who the pet belongs to. There have been some joyous reunions, but also some are never found. I just pray that someone loving has taken them in. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of your family member being gone & not knowing where they are or how they are doing. Unfortunately, the world is full of evil people, and we must be on guard at all times.

  17. Somehow I missed this post when it was originally published, but I’m glad I found it and will share it on TLPB FB page today. I’m lucky to work from home, and my dogs are rarely left alone for more than a couple of hours at a time, but even then I’m kind of a paranoid freak about it. Thanks for sharing these great tips – I hope people will read them and really think about the things they do that might put their dogs in jeopardy!

  18. Amazing article.

    Over the past few months I have seen a small maltese running loose thru the neighborhood, at least 6 times, day and at night.

    Yesterday we were out for our morning walk and I saw the dog run across the street twice and down the block. As we turned a corner I saw a woman walking a golden retriever on a leash. I greeted her with ‘good morning’ and told her I’m trying to find the owner of the little dog that just ran down the street.

    She shocked me when she said SHE is the owner. !?!

    I asked her why she lets it run loose, when there is a leash law? She said the dog usually stays near her. I said I have seen it running loose. She said it got out once alone. I told her no, I have seen the dog running loose several times and looking lost and scared and that I had tried to catch her to see if she was wearing a tag.

    The woman said the dog always comes back. I said to the woman, what if the dog DOESN’T come back, is stolen or run over by a car? She had no reply so I told her she needs to be a more responsible dog owner.

    I’m still shaking my head about it. Some people don’t deserve to be pet owners.

    1. I am so glad this article helped. It is really scary what goes on with dogs and the things people need to be aware of.

    2. That is so bothersome to read. Why would someone allow their dog to do that? I agree, some people should not have a pet.

  19. For so many of my friends their pets are their babies I can’t imaging the heartbreak of someone looking a pet because someone stole them. 🙁 I have never heard of this happening!

  20. OMG, this is terrifying. I think I have become way more neurotic but aware of a result of this article. A couple of years ago on Christmas eve, we went to go pick up Harley who had been at my Mom’s house while we were at Kevin’s parents house. My Mom lives in a rural area, no houses in sight really. We left the car unlocked ran inside to get our presents brought them to the car, then went back in to get Harley. Within moments (prbly less than 2 minutes) our car was broken into, all of our presents, luggage, cell phones were stolen. I will forever be thankful that my sweet boy wasn’t in the car. I can’t help but think he would have been stolen if we had changed the order of carrying things out to the car…someone was watching us and waiting for us to walk away from the car.

  21. I read “The Gift of Fear” a long time ago, and it’s one of my all time favorite books! I stumbled across my copy this weekend and plan to read it again.

    My Pomeranian, Sarah, is never out of my sight. Ever. If she’s outside, I’m outside. Just yesterday, she was sitting by a tree in our front yard and I was sitting in a chair in the driveway when I spotted a bicycle rider looking at her as he rode by. He quickly turned around and headed back toward her. Clearly he couldn’t see me sitting down behind the SUV, but he definitely saw me after I jumped out of my chair and was by my dog’s side in a flash. He quickly turned around again and rode off. Before the guy had turned back toward Sarah, I knew that he was going to come back for her. I could tell just from the way he looked at her. Too bad our 150 lb dog wasn’t outside with me, as well. 🙂

  22. My fear is my dog will get taken when I leave her outside of the grocery store. We like to walk every where and sometimes I run in a grab something. Any tips on this?

  23. Can I get an AMEN?! I worry about my dogs getting stolen – more so Khloee because she’s white, fluffy and friendly. If a stranger approached Wynston, he’d bolt. Although I live in an upper class neighborhood, you can never be too sure. People think that because they live in nice areas, their dogs could never get stolen! Guess what – I see it too often where I live because a lot of people have beautiful, expensive, pure bred dogs. So so sad.

  24. So crazy. I would DIE if my dogs got stolen. I have 3 and they are my babies, I don’t know what I’d do! The people who live behind me leave theirs out so much, it breaks my heart. My dogs are always by my side!

  25. I’ve had my dogs run away, luckily they were found quickly , but thankfully never stolen. I had never even heard of this before. I will be more aware now for sure!

  26. It would be so scary to have a pet stolen, but I don’t worry about it too much because our dog is pretty much with me almost all the time.

  27. I know pibbles are one of the top ranking most stolen breeds…they love their humans more than the house and are commonly just grabbed from backyards.
    Sadly we don’t have a choice but to leave our pups at home. I can’t bring them to work, and while we did daycare when I needed the help because of long school hours it just isn’t feasible to spend that much money to do it forever….
    We’ve been wanting to invest in a security system to deter thieves but can’t afford it at this point in our lives. Our next house we’ll definitely have security because we plan to move out of the city.
    Right now though I feel pretty safe, I work odd hours and my sister just moved in with us while she’s going to college so our schedules are pretty random and would be hard to pin down. Plus our cars rotate regularly and we often ride our motorcycles into town and leave all the cars home so it looks like the house is occupied. We take precautions by never leaving our dogs outside, EVER. And my neighborhood is very safe, we know all our neighbors and several families stay home. My neighbors are also nosy and tell me when someone stops by my home, and would gladly confront any suspicious characters.
    We’re doing all we can to keep them safe, they’re also microchipped and never without tags on their collars.

  28. These are good tips to think about! People can get very comfortable and not pay attention to a lot of these things. Although, we have a 200lbs+ St Bernard so he might be kind of hard to steal (or hide), but still…you never know. 🙂

  29. We have two dogs and I think my husband and I are pretty good about keeping them safe. We do leave them home alone and outside if the weather is nice if we are just going to be gone fore a short time. However, we are gated and the gates are locked and we have 8 foot fences around our property and cameras to boot.

  30. Yep, that’d do the trick. At least one of the many listed would do it anyway. I have never understood why people get pets and then aren’t diligent about their care and safety. Seems they’re instant family and should be treated as such.

  31. My mom had hers stolen right out of the backyard! She was in a fenced yard for maybe 3-4 minutes alone while my mom ran inside to grab a ringing phone. Devastated! Here in Vegas, it’s become a real problem. Mostly with small purebreds and pitbulls. Just like your kiddos, never take your eyes off them!

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