The family of a retired former police officer and dog trainer have posted a £5,000 reward after his dog was stolen in a violent mugging in Wimbledon.

Mike Jasper was walking Ted the Sprocker Spaniel in Cannon Hill Common on December 15 last year when he was set upon by two thieves who attacked him and ran off with Ted.

Mr Jasper, 66, said he had initially been approached by a man who asked questions about Ted's breed.

When he said he was just leaving, the man responded “What, do you think I’m going to steal your dog?”

Just as he bent down to put Ted on his lead, a second man came up behind him, punched him in the back and pushed him to the floor.

Read more: Police appeal after dog stolen on Cannon Hill Common

They then grabbed Ted’s lead and ran off laughing, he says.

The short tail Sprocker Spaniel, a cross between a cocker and springer spaniel, joined the Jasper household three years ago.

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He was been a source of comfort and support for Mr Jasper, who suffers from depression and anxiety.

Hoping to get Ted back, the family have posted a £5,000 reward on social media and put up posters around the Wimbledon area.

He paid £600 for the dog three years ago but it is probably now worth around £3,000 as prices have shot up in the pandemic as people rush to buy a pet.

Mr Jasper said: “He is everything to me and my family and the house is so quiet and lonely without him.

“I've really struggled with my mental health over the last few years and Ted was a big part of my recovery, without him I don't know how to go on.

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“It just feels like I'm living in a nightmare with no end in sight.”

It was the first time Mr Jasper had been walking on Cannon Hill Common in the past six weeks.

The last time, he thought he heard someone snapping pictures of Ted on their phone.

A fellow dog walker also claims to have spotted the two men on the common before the incident.

The dog snatchers have been described as two white males in their late 20s, between 5'10 and 5'11, one with a London accent wearing camo trousers and a black hoodie, the other, a black Puffa Jacket and a baseball cap.

Mr Jasper said: “I never thought anything like this would happen to me.

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“I've always been able to take care of myself and I never believed someone would be able to do this.

“I just keep thinking 'no this can't have happened. Ted can't be gone”

Mr Jasper has been a dog-person his whole life, having previously owned a kennel and trained security dogs.

Mr Jasper said: “Ted is the happiest most loving dog and having spent my life owning dogs I've never known one like him.

“His tail never stops wagging and he would follow me absolutely everywhere, I feel like I have lost a family member and a best friend.”

Mike’s daughter, Lucinda, 28, who arrived in the scene shortly afterwards, said: “My dad has been struggling with his mental health for the past four years.

“So after a year of battling depression and anxiety my mother decided to buy Ted.

“It was amazing to see the amount of change Ted had on my dad.

“Obviously he still has his down days, but Ted was a massive part of his recovery.”

Ms Jasper believes Ted was targeted because he looks like a working cocker spaniel, which can be worth thousands of pounds.

Ms Jasper said: "You would think he’s a working cocker, which is one of the top breeds being stolen.

"They go for a lot of money, so they will be out there selling him as a cocker."

UK dog theft has surged 250 per cent since the beginning of last year.

The rise is being blamed on the increasing demand for cuddly canine companions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three petitions calling for pet law reform and harsher penalties have now received over 250,000 signatures.

The Jasper family have posted a £5,000 reward for anyone who brings their beloved Ted back.

Ms Jasper said: "It was the advice we were given when we spoke to people who had gotten their dogs back safely.

"Either your dog comes home or they will contact you and extract money from you."

A police spokesperson said: “Police were called on Thursday, 15 December 2020 at 10:00hrs, to a reported robbery on Cannon Hill Lane.

“Upon police arrival, officers found a victim who reported that his dog had been stolen.

“The victim had been approached by a male who was asking questions about his dog and was then pushed from behind by a second suspect and his dog, a white, light brown Spaniel, with darker brown ears, was stolen.”