Two Northland flatmates are urging other dog owners to securely fence their properties after they watched a man reach over their fence and try to steal one of their dogs.

Brad Crompton and flatmate Cynamon Moseley were studying in the lounge of their Maungatapere house on Tuesday when Mr Crompton heard a car pull up. He watched a man exit a maroon Nissan Maxima, open the car's rear door and look toward the pair's four dogs, before leaning over the fence towards them.

"The dogs jumped up. As soon as they did that I freaked out and started calling the dogs and they backed off."

The man was Maori and in his late 40s wearing a high-visibility vest. Mr Crompton called the dogs and the man pretended he was looking for something, before getting back in the car, which sped off.

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Ms Moseley took down most of the licence plate number and police sent two units to the scene within minutes to search the area.

"It's scary. We're going to be installing a security system on the fence.

"It's sickening and it's hard to believe people are heartless enough to take a family member.

"It was like watching someone try to abduct a child," Ms Moseley said. "I want to urge people to make sure their fences are secure, we will be."

Mr Crompton owns a long-haired border collie and a chocolate labrador, and Ms Moseley owns an Australian shepherd and a short-haired border collie.

The pair put a post on Facebook warning dog owners about what happened to them, and within minutes they had several responses from people who had shared similar experiences.

One woman commented saying a man in the same car had targeted her dogs in the Raumanga and Otaika area, and another said she had heard the man was pretending to be a linesman.

Police told the Advocate that other than Mr Crompton's report, they had received no reports in the past two months of thefts or attempted thefts of dogs and are urging people to report these incidents immediately.

"A good prevention measure is to ensure your dog is microchipped so if it is stolen it can be easily identified. If your dog is stolen please report your loss to your local police station," Senior Sergeant John Fagan said.

Mr Fagan said the motive for the theft was unknown.

"The dogs targeted were pedigree labradors and border collies, so not your traditional fighting dogs. However, anything of value and that can be easily uplifted are usually what criminals are after."