Dog theft increases by 19% during lockdown

New research from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals that reports of dog theft increased by a fifth in 2020.

Last year, an estimated 2,438 dogs were reported as stolen to police forces in the UK, a 19% rise on 2019 (2,026). This is the equivalent of seven dogs being reported stolen every day.

In the past five years, dog theft incidents have risen by 31% from 1,774 in 2016.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers continue to be the most popular breed of dog targeted by thieves, with 97 dogs stolen in 2020. The breed accounted for 21% of all named stolen dogs in 2020 and the number stolen increased by 9% on 2019.

Crossbreeds remain the second most targeted, with 52 dogs stolen last year, although this was a fall of nearly a third (31%) compared to 2019.

Labradors did not make it into the top 10 in 2019 but were fifth in 2020, which may be partly due to their popularity among celebrities like Reese Witherspoon, Camilla Cabello and Ant McPartlin sharing images on social media.

Cocker Spaniels become the third most commonly stolen in 2020 with 34 dogs and moving up from fourth place in 2019. The same trend is true for Springer Spaniels, which were outside of the top 10 in 2019 but are now the most popular targets for thieves.

Breeds that have fallen in popularity for thieves include Chihuahuas, which saw a 76% reduction in the number stolen in 2020 and French Bulldogs have fallen in popularity as a target since 2018, moving from 7th to 10th.

This could indicate that owners have become extra vigilant. The recent high-profile case of Lady Gaga’s stolen French Bulldogs is a stark reminder how valuable and easily identifiable these dogs are.

Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: “It’s incredibly sad to see the number of dog thefts rising by such a large proportion in 2020. Unfortunately, it seems the increase in dog ownership over lockdown has also translated to a rise in dog thefts, as thieves know how valuable some of these breeds can be and see them as a commodity rather than a beloved member of the family.

“The worry is these numbers will increase even further this year once dogs are left alone more as restrictions ease and we return to a new ‘normal’. Taking simple precautions like not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop or keeping it on a lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted, while making sure microchipping contact details are up to date can help identify a dog if it is stolen and handed in.”

Table one: Top 10 most commonly stolen dog breeds in 2020

Rank Breed 2019 2020 Percentage change Position change Proportion of all named stolen breeds in 2020
1 Staffordshire Bull Terrier 89 97 +9 per cent No change 21 per cent
2 Crossbreeds 75 52 -31 per cent No change 11 per cent
3 Cocker Spaniel 27 34 +26 per cent + 1 7 per cent
4 Bulldog 22 27 +23 per cent +1 6 per cent
5 Labrador 9 26 +189 per cent +8 6 per cent
6 Jack Russell 12 23 +92 per cent +5 5 per cent
7 Border Collie 13 20 +54 per cent +3 4 per cent
8 Springer Spaniel 3 16 +433 per cent +12 4 per cent
9 Chihuahua 50 12 -76 per cent -7 3 per cent
10 French Bulldog 18 12 -33 per cent -4 3 per cent
  All breeds 2,026 2,452 +13 per cent    


Steps to follow if your dog has been stolen:

  • Firstly, check the local area and your dog’s favourite spots in case the dog has wandered off.
  • Engage the local community and make your dog ‘too hot to handle’ by sharing with local groups, putting up posters, informing local media and using social media – include pictures and any distinctive marks.
  • There are some specific sites set up to help find lost and stolen dogs, like
  • Report your dog as stolen to the police and provide them with as much detail as possible
  • Report your dog as stolen to local pet related services like vets, animal shelters, pet shops, dog wardens and the council. Provide photos, a physical description and the dogs microchip number.
  • Report your dog to the microchip database and make sure your contact details are up to date.