Urgent advice has been issued as police have noted a spike in dog thefts.

Essex Police has urged dog owners to stay alert after a rise in thefts in the county’s rural communities.

Officers advise to keep dogs microchipped, avoid putting photos of missing dogs on social media, keep an eye on the length of their coat so they're easily identifiable, and to make sure gardens are secured.

Police say most of the dogs which are stolen are used for breeding or for resale value, and owners should vary times they take their pet pooches for walks.

PC Nigel Wright from the rural engagement team said: “Working dogs can be a real asset to farmers, they are not only a beloved member of the family but also a vital member off staff.

“All dogs should be microchipped, it helps us when trying to identify a dog’s rightful owner, should they get lost or stolen. If you find a dog, please take it to a local vet or dog Walden and not put it on social media. They will help make sure they are look after until their rightful owner can be found."

Jane Frankland the stolen dog’s coordinator from Doglost said: “Many dogs are being stolen because of a sudden high demand due to an increase in the price of puppies.

“Dogs are known to have been taken from gardens, kennels even when on walks. We would advise to always be on your guard and even if you think you have a secure garden, do not allow your dog to be alone for a long time without checking on them."

A spokesman said: "You can report a stolen dog to us on our website www.essex.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime or via 101."