Lockdown Puppies, Two Years On
In the 2020 lockdown, we saw a huge surge in puppies sales in the UK. As more people stayed safe at home, the greater the demand for a furry friend became. But with that also came a lack of ‘normality’ in the way the lockdown pups socialised and bonded with their families. So how are they doing, two years on? In this article, we pulled research and interviewed a variety of lockdown dog owners to see how the transition from furlough to ‘normality’ has impacted pups.
Whilst getting a puppy through the lockdown may have seemed like the perfect time to bond with your new furry family, unfortunately, the realities of returning to work have had some devastating effects for some.
Research conducted by the Kennel Club last Summer found that nearly a quarter (23%) of all dog owners feared they would no longer be able to provide a suitable home for their dog when returning to “normal life”.
This was confirmed by the RSPCA’s reports of 1,478 dogs (and other animals) being abandoned over the Christmas period. This is a rise of 29% since the previous year. A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We have long feared that the combination of a surge in spur-of-the-moment pet ownership during the pandemic, the change in people’s circumstances as some normality returned, and the economic impacts of the pandemic could be a perfect storm for abandonments.”
This was reiterated by Clive Hopwood, an RSPCA inspector, who reported that “We’ve seen a massive surge in dog ownership… Many people have seen this as an easy opportunity to make money by breeding and selling puppies. We believe these puppies may have failed to sell, so they were abandoned. We’re expecting to see more dogs abandoned.”
But how has it fared for the pups in loving homes? We interviewed them to find out.
For all puppies, the key socialisation period begins at birth and ends around 16 weeks, which for those born in a global pandemic could pose a problem.
Luckily, out of all the ‘lockdown puppy’ owners we interviewed, most reported that their puppies' socialisation hadn’t been too affected due to them making a conscious effort to socialise their pups, others also had other dogs in the household so socialisation wasn’t missed.
Sarah, the owner of Dipper, a cocker spaniel said that “We had to make [an] extra effort at the start to expose her to things. We carried her around before she could go out on a walk to expose her to lots and when she was old enough spent a lot of time sat outside supermarkets etc so she would be exposed to lots.”
However, for some, they noticed a big difference in their dog's sociability. The owner of ‘Archie’ a cocker spaniel puppy, reported that “100% lockdown affected his social skills, not so much with dogs as we have another dog and he is very dog friendly, but def[inately] humans”.
This was also found by Beemo’s (a Bordie Collie from Whitney) parents, “Where she missed out was going to other people's houses and she didn't really get the opportunity to meet any children and still a bit nervous around them now.”
Having undivided attention on your pup from a young age can help improve bonding and training from an early age, however, when this is no longer available it can leave your furry friend confused and anxious.
Out of the six ‘lockdown puppy’ owners we interviewed, all bar one reported issues with separation anxiety.
Archie’s Mum said that “Yes yes yes he had separation anxiety… [in lockdown] his life was with me with him all the time, [he] would bark/scream if I shut the door on him and would look for me when I went out.”
This was reiterated by Nicole, who bought Stewie, a cockerpoo in the first lockdown, and by Beemo’s father who said that “Yes separation anxiety has absolutely been a problem for the pup, we tried during lockdown to leave the house without her sometimes to improve this but without anywhere to go it was rarely for very long. She has to be very tired and left with one of her favourite treats for any hope of her settling without us around.”.
Transitioning to Normality
When asking the owners about how the transition period from lockdown to ‘normality’ faired up, we found mixed responses.
Whilst some puppies seemed unaffected by the transition, others are still coming to terms with not being around their owners all day.
This was the case for Stewie, the cockapoo, who’s Mum said “we are still struggling with this” when asked about adjusting to normality.
It was found that most puppies who had adjusted well, either had parents with the flexibility to work from home if needed or had another dog at home.
This was the case for Jima, who bred his Labradoodle with a Bernese Mountain Dog during the pandemic and kept two of the pups. When asked about the transition, he reported it had been smooth for them as they adjusted to the “new normal”.
Sarah, Dipper’s Mother, also found this “I always have worked from home a lot and still do so she’s adjusted to that life quite well”.
Similarly, Archie’s owner said, “We struggled a bit because I started my first job, so he struggled when I went out the house, but my parents worked from home which meant he wasn’t suddenly home alone all the time.”
The time period of the lockdown also played a role in this transition. For puppies bought in the latter half of the year, the transition was much easier. This was found by Jackie, who bought her puppy, Ivy, just before the November lockdown. As she was already back at work, there was not much of a transition.
Whilst there have undoubtedly been issues that have crept up as a result of pandemic pups, for some owners, having the free time to bond with their puppy whilst young has been rewarding and has meant they have had much more time to train their dog than they would have.
Beemo’s father said that “On the flip side of the separation anxiety all the time at home with the pup has been fantastic for bonding and training. We've been able to give a lot of time to playing and training sessions throughout most days. Days stuck indoors are also a lot more enjoyable with a puppy in the house.”
This was reiterated by Nicole, Stewie’s Mum, who said she “had more time to train him” and he also bought much happiness into her life. Similarly, Jackie said Ivy was a “lovely new member of the family, bringing happiness on sad days/times”.
Sarah, Dipper’s mum also found that having the time at home was great for training “We had more time to spend at home with her at the start to focus on the basics which has really helped build a foundation for other stuff.”
To summarise, it’s hard to know for certain if the lockdown has been a positive or negative experience for dogs. Whilst the lockdown freed up much-needed bonding times, the lasting effects have left some owners experiencing separation anxiety. As well as this, there have been some devastating after-effects as the demand for puppies has trailed off and many dogs are now being abandoned.
If you bought a lockdown pup and are struggling, call us on 020 8459 4729 and make an appointment with our nurse clinic for advice.