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After Lady Gaga's two French bulldogs were stolen at gunpoint last week—a robbery that left her dog walker shot—it makes sense that other dogs owners are approaching their daily walks with a little more caution.
First, we should point out that violent thefts like the one involving Gaga's two Frenchies, who were returned days later, are rare. It's much easier for dogs to be stolen when they are alone in a backyard or waiting for you outside a store.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) estimates that 2 million dogs are stolen each year. (While there is seemingly no hard data readily available, other sites put the number at 2 million as well.) Conversely, Americans owned about 78 million dogs as of 2016.
Which Breeds of Dogs Are Stolen Most Often?
Dog professionals told CNN there are three overarching reasons French bulldogs are ideal targets for theft: they're small; they're expensive; and they're popular.
It's obvious that smaller dogs—easy to pick up and carry off—are simpler to steal than, say, trying to abscond with someone's bear of a Newfoundland. Frenchies are also immensely popular, No. 4 on the AKC's most popular breeds list, so thieves who steal one can find someone willing to buy the dog pretty quickly.
Then there's the opportunity for the thieves to profit. Brandi Hunter, the vice president of public relations and communications for the AKC, told CNN that Frenchies can fetch $1,500 to more than $5,000 (or breed them).
Other small dogs breeds—which are also popular and can be expensive—have also topped the AKC's "most-stolen" lists in recent years: Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, shih tzus, English bulldogs, and Pomeranians. (Though German shepherds and Siberian huskies also made those rankings, and they are obviously much larger than the others on the list.)
How to Protect Your Dog From Theft While Walking
When it comes to keeping your pup safe, the first rule is a pretty obvious one: Don't leave your dog alone out in public, whether left in the car (don't do that ever) or leashed outside a storefront. When dogs are alone, thieves have a much easier time stealing them.
Other tips that can help protect yourself and your dog as you walk outside:
Use a leash that keeps the dog close to you.
Walk in familiar, safe areas—but change up your route each day.
Have a dog walking friend? Boom, buddy system.
As he told our friends at PEOPLE, martial arts expert Paul McCarthy recommends keeping your phone in your pocket and your earphones at a low volume (or leave them at home) so you know what’s going on around you.
Your safety is the most important thing, so if someone tries to take your dog, make sure you can get away, McCarthy says.
Hunter told CNN that you will also want to avoid disclosing the specifics of you location on social media, where potential thieves can find you.
You'll also want to microchip your dog on the off chance he is stolen. That way, he has a greater chance of turning back up after he's gone missing. You'll also want to spay or neuter your dogs. Since thieves sometimes steal dogs to breed them, your dog being unable to reproduce could persuade thieves to back off.