Every dog owners biggest pet-parent anxiety is the thought of their pooch going missing, or getting stolen. And since the start of the pandemic, dog thefts have increased dramatically, with more and more owners becoming concerned for their pets’ safety.
Figures recorded by the DogLost UK charity show a 170% increase in dog theft between 2019 and 2020, with Direct Line estimating 2,438 dogs were reported stolen last year – the equivalent of seven a day.
The price of pandemic puppies likely contributed to the increase in this abhorrent crime, with thieves planning to sell on, or breed from unneutered dogs.
I’ve always worried about my dogs being stolen. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are one of the most targeted breeds, with 367 thefts of staffies reported in the last five years – more than one a week. In 2019, they were the most likely to be stolen of any breed in the country, with 89 reported thefts that year alone.
So, to keep myself and my dogs safe, I ordered a Barkie personal safety alarm from Bark and Shout. Launched during the second coronavirus national lockdown, the East London-based small business is run by young couple Alex and Cameron, and their CEO staffy pup Ember, born just weeks before the brand went live!
They sell a selection of gorgeous handmade accessories, including snoods, bandanas and bows, as well as collars and leads. But one of their stand out products has to be the Barkie.
What is the Barkie?
As ‘loud as a jet engine’ with a disorientating flashing LED light, the alarm aims to deter attackers, whilst calling for help, thus preventing dog thefts. It costs just £14.95, and you can get a 10% discount for ordering three, or 20% off when you order a pack of five – so all your dog owning friends could share the cost and save some pennies.
The Barkie is a small 9cm by 2.6cm device that is incredibly lightweight, and comes with a carabiner clip ideal for attaching to leads, belt loops or keys. It’s got a really sleek look and feel to it, which is so on brand for Bark and Shout, who strive to be a stylish and affordable independent business.
What inspired the product?
Ember – of course! Alex said: “With the rise of dog thefts since lockdown, as an other of the most common breed to be a victim of dog theft, and as a female, I felt like a target any time we go on a walk. Most obvious defence tools such as pepper spray are illegal in the UK, so I felt a bit defenceless.
“We started searching for a solution and came across personal safety alarms – but most on the market are cheaply manufactured and unsightly. But the Barkie is practical, reliable and stylish, whilst still being affordable.
“The Barkie makes myself and many other customers feel more secure when out walking, and provides me with the confidence that I have an effective plan if the worst was to happen.”
How to use the Barkie
To use the Barkie alarm, Bark and Shout recommend pointing the light towards the target and pulling out the pin at the top of the device. It takes 1.5kg of force to activate to avoid accidents – so just a firm pull on the loop. The alarm rings at 130 decibels, reducing to 108 decibels after one hour, with a replaceable battery that lasts for two years.
To disable the alarm, you just have to push the pin back into the top of the Barkie, which only takes a moment to do.
The Bark and Shout Barkie personal safety alarm is a must-have product not just for pet owners, but for anyone nervous about travelling alone. As a young female, I never walk the dogs without my dad, but carrying the Barkie when I do take them out can really help put my anxiety at ease, making the walk more relaxing for both me and The Scamps. The alarm is also a great device to carry whenever I go anywhere without company, from walking to my car after a meal out with friends, to heading out to the gym late at night. It’s not just reserved for walking the dogs – the personal safety device comes everywhere with me when I leave the house.
How to make sure your dog is identifiable to prevent pet theft
So, when you’ve ordered your Barkie personal safety alarm from Bark and Shout there are a few other things you can do to help protect your pet from theft.
The Blue Cross are reminding owners to ensure their dogs microchip is up to date – especially if you’ve moved address – as all puppies must legally be chipped by eight weeks old. Your dog should also be wearing a collar with an ID tag displaying their owners’ name and address, as well as a phone number. The charity also suggest that having ‘neutered’ on the tag may also deter thieves looking to steal dogs for breeding.
And, whilst we all have 12,853 photos of our dogs in our camera rolls, be sure you have clear photos of all angles. The Blue Cross added: “Update them regularly and take photos before and after any grooming trips. Make note of any distinguishing features. Have lots of photographs of yourself with your dog, to help you to prove ownership if needed.”
Here are some tips from The Blue Cross to bear in mind whilst out and about:
- Beware of strangers asking you questions about your dog, bending down to stroke them or vehicles slowing down around you
- Vary your times of walks and routes; some dogs are targeted and snatched during walks after being watched previously
- Consider walking in pairs, where possible, but keep your focus on your dog
- Stay aware of your surroundings and avoid distractions such as mobile phones
- Never leave your dog tied up outside a shop, no matter how safe the neighbourhood seems. This makes them a tempting target for opportunist thieves.
- Do not leave your dog alone in a car at any time – not only can they quickly overheat and die, even in dull weather, thieves can break into a vehicle and snatch them in seconds
- Never let them off the lead if you are not sure they will come back to you. If in doubt, use a long lead, also known as a long line, to build up recall, especially if you are in an unfamiliar area where your dog may get lost more easily.
- Make a note of emergency SOS shortcuts on your mobile phone
- Consider carrying an alarm device. These can be scary for your dog so only activate in an emergency or test when they’re not close by.
- GPS pet trackers which attach to your dog’s harness or collar may help