South Yorkshire Police have said the thefts are linked to organised crime groups, with pedigree breeds most at risk due to their high value, and since last July 2020, have recorded 63 dog thefts, with 16 of them in February alone.
Craig Welsh, 56, owner of Strassegym, on Abbey Road, Woodseats, said: “There’s a real sense of fear around Sheffield. If you get your dog nicked, it’s like your kid.
“These dog thieves, they’re not just opportunists. They follow you home, see where you live, and then it’s all organised. So it’s not just about self-defence it’s about awareness leading up to the attacks. Self-defence is the last resort.”
Dog owner Mr Welsh said he was shocked by the popularity of his seminars and wants to try and set up a group for people to meet and walk their dogs together.
Eilis Wright, 41, a dog walker attending the seminar, has changed her walking pattern and even stopped taking her dog on the school run for fear of dog thieves and hopes the seminar will make her more confident.
She said: “When I’m walking the dog, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure nobody’s following you.”
South Yorkshire Police warned dog owners to never leave their pet tied up unattended, vary their walking times and routes and to be aware of strangers.
They also advised dog owners to keep their gardens secure to prevent burglaries where their pets are targeted.
A spokesman said: “It is vital members of the public remain vigilant and report any incidents to us, as wellas anyone seen acting in a suspicious manner. We act on this information and carry out thorough investigations.”