Protect Your Pet From Thieves

13 Safety Tips from Decorated Ex-SAS soldier Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham MBE

Safety Tips

So, what safety precautions can this ex-military man who spent over 27 years in the army including nine years in the Parachute Regiment and 20-25 years in the SAS Regiment give Westie owners?

Carry a walking stick – it will protect against other dogs and if someone wants to come at you, swing the stick and scream and shout – bring attention to yourself.

Keep your dog out of your front garden – don’t let your dog go into your front garden all the time. Keep him in the back and make sure the gate is closed and that your garden is completely secure. You don’t want to overly advertise your dog to people walking by. People are opportunists and these thieves are now doing reckies of people’s houses and they’ll just sit in a car and watch or do a little walk past your house a few times and they’ve got time to make a plan of how they’re going to get in and out of your garden or your house, so don’t give them help!

Walk on the opposite side of the road – with the vehicles coming towards you. If somebody wants to take your dog it will normally be in a vehicle that is just crawling behind you, and they’ll just pull in and you may not even notice it until they’re suddenly right beside you. If the traffic is in front of you and a car slows down, you can see them, and even if you’re a bit suspicious you’ll have time to prepare your personal protection alarm or have time to turn around. You could even walk on the road as you’ll have plenty of warning when a car is coming, and it will give you the chance to go left or right and you’ll be able to see what’s happening on both sides of the street.

Make sure your dog is chipped – I know chipping isn’t the be all and end all and many dogs that are chipped are still never returned to their owners, but it gives you an opportunity.

Keep it real – Look, the last thing you want to do when you’re planning on going for a nice stroll with your dog is to go out looking like you’re dressed for battle, you have to keep it real and simply make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. We can’t avoid everybody; we’ve got to be normal. Just be aware of your surroundings and if it doesn’t feel right turn around and go another way. It’s sad to say but we’re not going to avoid all of this, some of it is still going to happen.

Change the direction and timings of your walks. Try not to stick to a routine all the time. I know this is hard and we’re all guilty of this to some degree but if you can’t afford to change your route just change your times. Just take a minute or two to be aware and to look around. Nine times out of ten something you’re suspicious of might be nothing but you need to be aware of it so that you’re ready to react if there is going to be a problem.

Try to walk your dog in pairs – with your partner or a friend and take a torch.

Avoid dark or unnecessary alleyways – Just because you’ve lived in your area most of your life doesn’t mean you should walk down the alleyways at night on your own with your dog. Don’t forget that thieves are opportunists. Stay where it’s light.

On your phone – If you must take a phone call, do it, but look up and around and not down at the floor. I see people doing this all the time.

Knives & violence – What I would say is if somebody is coming at you with a knife, I wouldn’t get into a fight with them. The biggest weapon you’ve got is noise. Scream, shout, hit the car next to you and hopefully you’ll set off the alarm. Create as much of a scene as you can and they’re going to think twice. It will give you a few seconds whereby hopefully a decent person will see or hear you and get help.

Feeling suspicious – If you don’t feel comfortable and are getting spooked, jump into somebody else’s garden and slam their gate, make a noise, and then hopefully somebody will come out quickly and it will deter the thieves and now you’ve got a barrier between you, the dog, and the thieves too. This is what I call a jumping off point in case something should happen.

Be observant – When Jules goes for a walk, Alfie likes to sniff and pee everywhere, it’s roughly every 10 metres and his face is always on the ground, and I say to my wife, let him have his sniff and at that stage you should have your head up and be looking around because I’ll tell you what happens and I see it all the time, when you go for a walk with your dog – walk your dog. Stop talking on your phone or doing your work, people need to get into the habit of simply walking their dogs and being aware of their surroundings. It’s only for 15 or 20 minutes maybe if you’re walking your dog at night-time so put your phone in your pocket and make sure you’ve got it in your pocket so you can call someone if you need to. Try to have your camera ready on your phone so if something does happen you can quickly take some pictures or video which will help you get someone’s ID or vehicle registration number and vehicle type. This is the worst-case scenario but it’s good pre-preparation.

As one would probably expect, one of the most important tips from Billy is, Trust your Instincts.

“Around99% of the time when something unusual is going to happen your body will tell you. Look, if you start to feel something isn’t right, it probably ain’t! It’s better to be wrong and survive another day than to be in a situation where you’re beaten and knocked to the ground and have your dog stolen from you,” he stresses.

“I don’t care how tough somebody thinks they are – when somebody is up to no good, they don’t even realise it. They sort of do small things like twitch or they can’t keep still. They’re on edge, they’re not normal and you can see those traits”.