Terrified pet owners are arming themselves with bodycams, rape alarms and sprays to ward off dognappers.
Those who own designer breeds like Cockapoos – which sell for up to £3,500 – have told of their run-ins with crooks.
Criminals are targeting the pooches to sell or to use for breeding on so-called puppy farms.
The Daily Star revealed how organised crime bosses had even switched their focus from drugs to dogs, because they are so profitable.
The cost of puppies more than doubled in 2020 as dognapping soared.
To put off criminals, some dog owners are walking their animals with vests on pointing out they have been spayed, castrated and microchipped.
One owner wrote online: “I have two Poos and was followed for 20 minutes by a man who kept asking me questions. I take an alarm out now.” Another added: “I got a bodycam after I was followed by two blokes in a van.”
Missing pets website DogLost recorded 465 thefts last year, compared with 172 in 2019 – a 170% rise in a year.
Safety site Doghorn has advised owners to “stand tall and be quietly assertive”, adding that “dog thieves don’t normally look like dog owners” – they are “typically hooded, male and without a dog”.
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Earlier this month the Star reported how crime gangs have been turning from drugs to dogs to make cash during lockdown.
Thefts rocketed 170% year-on-year.
Charity DogLost recorded 465 thefts last year compared with 172 in 2019. Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, of Gwent Police, said: "Dog thefts can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners.
"It’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.
"The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year, making this a lucrative market for organised criminals."
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