More than a third of puppies bought in lockdown haven’t been to the park
Last week a study by pet company Itch revealed that more than a third of dogs adopted by Brits during the past year have never been to the park – and some puppies haven’t even left the house.
Puppy sales have been at an all-time high due to the pandemic and more people staying at home, but the restrictions of lockdown have also meant that many dogs have not been exercised or socialised in the way that they normally would have been and this could have major consequences for a whole generation of pups.
The study carried out by Itch in January 2021 surveyed 1,000 UK adults who had bought or adopted a dog during the pandemic. The results are pretty alarming, with some 42% of dogs are yet to be introduced to another dog, 49% have never met a child and 51% haven’t met another human outside of their own household.
Many dogs have never been left alone and have received no training when it comes to being left at home, with 71% of new owners expressing concern that their dog will have separation-anxiety or related issues once life returns to normal and they return to work.
The findings also suggest that 40% of Brits have had regrets about their lockdown puppy, with 32% considering putting their dog up for adoption post-pandemic as many admit they hadn't realised the amount of work that goes into raising and caring for a dog.
Puppy Photo by T.R Photography on Unsplash
Concern for lockdown puppies
Dog trainer and behaviourist, Oli Juste of Channel 4’s Puppy School, spoke about the findings and shared some advice for integrating your puppy into society once lockdown has ended:
“Although we are all looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ soon, what will become of these young dogs once the pandemic is over is extremely troubling; a rather bitter-sweet end to these unprecedented times. It might not be that people did less research than they usually do before buying a puppy, it’s just that the proportion of people buying or adopting has increased dramatically in 2020.
"With a growing part of the population experiencing loneliness, it isn’t surprising that in a moment of hardship, such as 2020, many fell back on a 'man’s oldest friend'… the dog. However, Itch’s study suggests some are finding dog-parenting more challenging than they thought.
"When re-integrating your dogs back into post-lockdown life, start teaching them fun exercises and games away from distractions first, and ensuring they are kept engaged and focused on you will help them to remain calm and polite towards other dogs, therefore safer too.
“The study also suggests that 37% of the people asked think their pet is likely to have behavioural issues as a result of the conditions of the pandemic. If you are one of them, please don’t wait. It is much easier for a trainer or a behaviourist to help you now, when the problem is in its infancy rather than once behaviour has been rehearsed for months. There are people who can help you. Dog trainers and behaviourists are still able to work and many like me work online."
Lab puppy Photo by Andrew Schultz on Unsplash
Tips for training your lockdown puppy
Here are Oli’s tips for re-integrating your dog into post-lockdown life:
- If your dog has lacked the opportunities to experience “real life” outside over the first few months of their lives, please do not wait – get them out now. You still have an opportunity, but do it carefully and sensitively so that you don’t alarm them
- Start teaching your dog fun exercises and games away from distractions. First, inside your home or in your garden (if you have one), then gradually take them to busier spots whilst still training them
- Use games to keep your dog engaged and focused on you when visiting the park as it will not only help them to remain calm and polite towards other dogs, it will help them to cope better with meeting new friends and dealing with unusual new situations
- To encourage dogs to be alone, consider introducing a food dispensing toy such as Kong. These can be great at home if they are introduced and used appropriately. But make sure that you introduce them as games that you play together first, otherwise your dog may interpret them as a sign that you are about to leave the house
- With a substantial proportion of the dogs in the study not having met children yet, this needs to be done carefully and sensitively. Children move quickly and can react in ways that may either scare puppies or excite them. If your dog has not yet met a child, get them to do so ASAP but do it slowly and gently.
- Whilst we are still unable to meet as freely as we would like, there are ways to introduce your dog to unfamiliar sounds such as a new-born baby and/or of children playing. The Dogs Trust has an online sound library that you can use to get your puppy used to various unusual sounds which may otherwise alarm them. Oli recommends that you start by playing the tracks at a very low volume to begin, whilst also playing a game with your dog at the same time to keep them cognitively engaged
Tiny puppy Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash
Start training now
The BBC has reported that many people have struggled to cope with their ‘pandemic pets’ and there may be a large amount of dogs being rehomed or given up when people return to work. If you have lost your job during the pandemic this may be a good time to start planning a career as a doggy day care provider or dog walking service. The unprecedented popularity of puppies means this is probably going to be a growth area for pet-related work.
One of the main concerns that the owner of our puppy diaries dog, Murdock has is that he has rarely been left alone and this is something that they that they need to focus on before it becomes an issue. As Oli says, start training them now and check for free online resources, such as the Dogs Trust sound library online that can help you with your training.
Main pic Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash