How to Find Stolen Dogs: A Complete Guide for Worried Owners

Police investigating stolen dogs

Key takeaways

Our pets are part of the family, which is why pet theft is one of the worst things a pet parent can imagine.

While the chances of finding stolen dogs are slim, there are a few things you can do to give you the best chance of reuniting with your furry friend as possible.

We're exploring why people steal dogs and how to identify pet theft before detailing how to find them again.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. Understanding pet theft
  3. How to find stolen dogs
  4. FAQs
  5. Final thoughts

Understanding pet theft

Pet theft is a very real concern for pet owners all over the world. Whether you've got a rare breed of cat or a purebred pup, they are vulnerable to being stolen. To be a responsible pet parent, it's important you fully understand this danger.

Why do people steal dogs?

People often steal dogs in order to sell them again. Sometimes, people may steal a dog with the aim of breeding them so they can sell their puppies. This is especially prevalent in more sought-after purebreds, like:

Yorkshire Terriers



German Shepherds


Expert Insight: These dogs have a high market value, and criminals will usually be able to sell them very quickly without being caught due to their high demand.
A German shepherd

How common is pet theft?

The likelihood of pet theft depends on where you live. Below are some countries and their rate of pet theft to give an overall idea:

The UK: 2290 dogs were stolen in the UK in 2023, which is up from 2160 dogs in 2022. (source)

The US: Two million dogs are stolen every year in America. (source)

France: 75,000 dogs are stolen every year in France. (source)

[[quote]2290 dogs were stolen in the UK in 2023, which is up from 2160 dogs in 2022[[/quote]]

Indications your dog has been stolen

It's not always easy to tell whether your dog has run away or whether they have been stolen. However, trying to figure it out is important for your next steps and for getting your furry friend back. Look out for the following signs that may indicate pet theft:

Signs of a break-in: If your dog disappeared from home, then it's essential you look for evidence that someone entered your home. This can include broken locks, smashed windows, damaged backyard fences, and unlocked doors.

Your dog suddenly disappearing: Often, if you lose a dog, you've watched them run away. Sometimes, they can sneak away without us realizing, but this isn’t as common. So, if your pup has suddenly disappeared, it may indicate that someone has taken them.

Suspicious people in the area: It's important to be aware of your surroundings, and you’re likely to notice any suspicious people around your neighborhood. You can also ask your neighbors if they've noticed anything or if they have any footage to review from CCTV cameras or doorbells.

Neighbors experiencing the same: Sometimes, specific gangs or thieves will continue to target a specific area if it's a particularly easy place to steal dogs from. Asking people in your immediate area and further if they have experienced anything similar to you is incredibly important. You can compare stories and spot similarities in order to track your dogs down.

neighbors all searching for a stolen dog

How to find stolen dogs

A lost dog is every owner's worst nightmare. Our panic and distress can prevent us from making practical and proactive decisions to increase the chances of getting them back. However, over 90% of lost dogs are found, so the odds are in your favor.

Report them missing

Your first step should always be to report them missing. This will help notify as many people as possible about your pup and get advice about your next steps. Be sure to contact:

Animal shelters: Many lost dogs end up in animal shelters after members of the public report them or take them in. Ensuring all shelters in the area are aware of your missing dog and have a detailed description of them means you'll be contacted if any sightings are reported or if any dogs with a matching description are handed in.

Police: If you suspect your pet has been stolen, it is essential to report it to the police. They can file a full report and help you investigate the situation. They'll also be able to tell you if there have been any other pet thefts in the area.

Veterinarians: Many people will take a dog to the vet for a checkup if they find them alone on the street. This is why it's essential the vets in your area know your pup is missing. Also, if your dog has been stolen and sold, the new owners may have taken them to the vet for a checkup.

A stolen dog being checked up on at the vet

Spread the message

Your neighbors are incredibly valuable in the search for your dog. The more people searching, the more likely your furry friend will be found. Ask your neighbors to:

Tell their friends: Word of mouth is a great way to ensure a whole neighborhood knows that your best bud is missing. This may help reach the right person who has some information or has seen your pup.

Search their backyards: If your dog has run away, they will likely be hiding somewhere. Your neighbors' backyards offer plenty of perfect hiding spots, like outbuildings, bin storage, and garages.

Join the search effort: Having your neighbors join the physical search will mean you'll be able to cover more ground. This will help you find your dog more quickly, and the first week is the most important.

Distribute flyers: Pinning up posters in your area is a big job that can take a lot of time. It can also distract you from actively searching for your pup. Delegating this task and asking your neighbors to help can make the process more efficient.

PetRadar's missing dog poster

Start a PetRadar search

When you report your dog missing with PetRadar, we'll do all we can to get them home. First, we create a digital missing dog poster and distribute it on social media as a sponsored post or an advertisement.
This targets people in your area, meaning over 4,000 neighbors will be alerted to your lost dog. So, when your neighbors are scrolling through their Facebook and Instagram feeds, they'll see your furry friend. From the post, they can report them missing, send it to a friend, or save it for later.
We'll also:

Send you a personalized, free, and printable missing dog poster: We create an expertly designed missing pet poster for your pup. It'll have all of the information you submit, as well as a QR code that passers-by can scan to report a sighting. This means you don't have to share your personal contact details with the public.

Offer constant support and guidance: Our team of pet lovers will be there for you every step of the way. We'll instantly notify you when a sighting is reported, send you updates on your search every 12 hours, and provide you with hundreds of articles full of advice.

List your missing pet on our website: We'll create a listing of your lost dog on our website. This means if anyone finds your pup and searches for lost dogs in the area, the listing will pop up, and they'll be able to contact you.

PetRadar's expert team looking for stolen dogs

Physically search for them

The most effective way of finding a lost dog is by getting out there and searching for them. It can feel daunting when it seems like there are endless possibilities of where they may be hiding. But don't worry. Thinking practically and proactively will be the most effective way, so use the following checklist:

Bin stores



Under cars


In neighbors' houses and backyards

Local parks

Backstreets and alleyways

Fields and trails


A dog hiding outside


What to do if someone steals your dog?

If you suspect someone has stolen your dog, report it to the police straight away. You should also report it to local shelters and vets, in case your pup ends up there.

What is the most stolen dog in the UK?

Bulldogs are the most stolen dog in the UK. This includes French bulldogs, English bulldogs, and XL Bullies.

Do stolen dogs ever get found?

Yes, stolen dogs do occasionally get found. However, this can be quite rare. To increase your chances of finding them, report them stolen and missing straight away to the police, local animal shelters, and local vets.

Do I call the police if someone stole my dog?

Yes, you should call the police as soon as you suspect your dog has been stolen. They will be able to file a report, advise you on your next steps, and investigate it further.

What do thieves do with stolen dogs?

Thieves will often sell stolen dogs in order to make money. If they don't sell them straight away, they may use them for breeding so they can sell the puppies.

Is it a criminal offense to steal a dog?

Yes, it is a criminal offense to steal a dog. In the UK, pet theft is a specific law. However, in the US, it is categorized as personal property theft.

What are the chances of finding a stolen dog?

Unfortunately, the chances of finding a stolen dog are slim. In 2023 in London, only 6% of stolen dogs were recovered.

Final thoughts

Stolen and lost animals are a real issue all around the world. It's essential to keep your pups safe and to act quickly if you suspect they have been stolen.
If your dog is currently missing, start a PetRadar search. We'll do all we can to get them back home safely and will support you throughout the whole process.

Written by

Image of the author
Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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