DOG owners have been given advice on how to keep their dogs safe from thieves as part of a national campaign.

Gundog theft awareness week runs from October 31 until November 7 and Dorset Police's Rural Crime Team is backing the campaign to raise awareness of the issue.

According to DogLost.co.uk, almost half of all the site's missing dog reports relate to working dogs, with the most commonly stolen gundogs being Cocker, Springer Spaniels and Labradors.

The Rural Crime Team has issued the following advice on keeping dogs safe: "It’s worth just taking a few moments to think about the security of your working dogs and the simple crime prevention measures that you can take.

"It is important to think like a criminal. Look at your property as if you are trying to steal your dogs. How would you do it and how could you be stopped? If you find a flaw make sure it’s rectified as soon as possible."

If your dog is stolen, the Rural Crime Team says the key is to act quickly, call Dorset Police on 101 and contact the local council dog warden and RSPCA.

You can also contact organisations such as DogLost and Petlog.

A police spokesperson said: "The use of social media is great to spread the word if your dog is stolen, making them “too hot to handle”, but be aware of hoaxers claiming to know where your dog is if you provide money. Always speak to the police for them to follow up potential leads."

If your dog is having a litter of puppies, police advise that you should be extra vigilant because the puppies will have no identity. Do not tell everyone and never have potential buyers come to your house when you are alone.

When looking to buy a new dog or puppy, always buy from responsible breeders and always puppies from the breeder's home.

If vehicles or persons are seen acting suspiciously, please gather as much information as possible such as the registration number and descriptions of the persons. Then please contact Dorset Police immediately by calling 999 if the vehicle or persons are seen committing crime.

For all non-emergency queries or incidents please call 101, email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or visit the website www.dorset.police.uk/do-it-online/

Alternatively if you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crimestoppers Rural Crime Reporting Line by calling 0800 783 0137 or visiting http://www.ruralcrimereportingline.uk/