Derbyshire Constabulary has revealed it received 32 reports of dog theft in 2020, and 48 in 2021, equating to a year-on-year increase of 50 per cent.
This comes as research from Direct Line Pet Insurance shows that the number of dogs stolen in the UK has reached a seven-year peak.
The insurance firm says that in 2021, the number of dogs stolen rose by 13 per cent across the UK to 2,760, the highest levels since they started analysing theft rates in 2015.
French Bulldogs were the most stolen breed in 2021 and saw a 29 per cent rise compared to the number stolen in 2020.
Jack Russell’s came in second, with the number stolen last year more than doubling (140 per cent) compared to the year before.
Other small breeds like Chihuahuas and Pugs were also popular targets.
Madeline Pike, Veterinary Nurse for Direct Line Pet Insurance said: “It’s devastating to see the number of dogs stolen continues to increase across the country.
"Unfortunately, the increase in dog ownership since the pandemic began and the subsequent rise in prices of these animals seems to make the crime even more appealing to thieves.
"The law will soon recognise dogs as members of the family with feelings, not just owned property and we hope that this will deter criminals, especially if they can be punished more severely if prosecuted.
“Anyone considering buying a dog should thoroughly check its provenance and see the dog with its mother, to ensure they’re not buying from a criminal organisation.
"And taking simple precautions such as not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop, left inside an empty car or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted. It’s also vital to keep microchipping contact details up to date in case your dog does go missing and is handed in.”
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, which were last year’s most popular target, saw an 88 per cent reduction in 2021 pushing them down to seventh.
Crossbreeds such as Cockerpoos and Puggles have also fallen in popularity, from second in 2020 to 10th in 2021.
A Derbshire police said: “We investigate any dog theft which is reported to us and thankfully crimes of this type are low in Derbyshire, but we understand how concerning the issue will be for dog owners.
“Many dog owners see their animals as more than pets – they are members of their family and losing them in this way is extremely distressing.
We take all reports of dog theft extremely seriously and would urge anyone who has been a victim of this to report it to us as soon as possible.
“There are reasonable security measures to prevent thefts and The Blue Cross website has a wide range of advice on how to prevent theft of dogs and steps to take if this happens.
"We would also encourage anyone buying a dog to consider where the pet has come from and to ensure that it is being purchased legally.”
If you have information about dog theft call Derbyshire police on 101.
Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.