DDespite last year’s lows, for many the running of the bulls has been the perfect opportunity to welcome a dog into their lives. The demand for dogs during the pandemic has been huge, with a 60% increase in calls from people seeking to adopt from the Dogs Trustcharity, and many other rescue organizations reporting similar findings. Google searches for “buy a puppy” increased by 115% after the UK was locked in for the first time in March 2020, and prices for some of the most sought after breeds hit record highs.
Having a dog is something wonderful, but it is also a great responsibility and a commitment that goes beyond confinement: as the saying goes, “A dog is for life”. As the restrictions ease and the resumption of normalcy begins, it is important that we consider the implications for our canine companions and give them a hand in helping them adjust.
Having a dog around has helped many people cope with the confinement. Our dogs also love us being around: taking longer walks, having more play time, and lounging by our side. However, it is safe to say that life has not been normal for our dogs for most of the past year. Few have met other dogs, and if they have seen them, it would have been from afar or on a leash, meaning they were unable to interact or play. There have also been fewer visitors entering the home, but probably more deliveries, with people arriving at the door with packages and leaving again. All of this is particularly worrisome for puppies acquired during the pandemic, as their “normal” life expectancy is confinement, and they may never have seen visitors inside the house or were left alone at home.
We all long for a great British summer where we can go out for a walk with a friend and their dog, have a family round for backyard barbecues and take our dogs out to the pub or cafe, and of course we need our dogs. to be able to calmly face all that. The return to normality is something that humans are able to process, understand, and prepare for. But our dogs, especially the young ones, will not understand why everything has changed. As far as our dogs know, the norm for them has been to enjoy time alone with family, so expecting that dealing with groups of people, children, and other dogs, both inside and outside the home, could be overwhelming for them.
A big concern for dog owners is the long-term impact of confinement on their ability to cope with being left home alone. Dogs that had separation anxiety before confinement are likely to worsen when left again when owners return to work, but we also expect to see new cases develop, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learned to expect company. all day.
One of the main reasons dogs are rehoused is because of behavior-related problems. An increase in problem behaviors after confinement could mean that families have no choice but to give up their dog. And sadly, most of these problems can be prevented with the right first few experiences.
Our message to owners is to start preparing now, rather than waiting until things get back to normal. It’s easy to do – start developing experiences of all the things that we hope you will do once the blockage clears. For example, start building in minimal periods of separation, initially only being briefly separated from you by a children’s gate or gate. If they remain calm, build up the separation time very gradually, so that they begin to adjust to not being with you all the time. If your dog worries when separated (barking, whining, panting or scratching at the door), he has progressed too quickly. Go back to a shorter period to help them adjust. By gradually increasing the time they spend apart, you can ensure that they can establish themselves and help them prepare for the time when you need to return to work or study.
Our dogs will also need help when it comes to seeing friends and family, both outdoors and indoors. Teaching your dog to greet new people calmly, to adjust when guests visit or when you’re out in a cafe are key skills. Coming back when called, walking on a loose leash, and not barking when the doorbell rings are also vital skills that will set you up for success.
It is much easier to prevent problems than to treat them, and it is not too late to help prepare your dogs for the changes that lie ahead. To support dog owners, there is Online training, so that dogs and their owners can equip themselves with the skills they can put to use as normalcy resumes.
When people take on the responsibilities of having a dog, they do so with the best intentions of caring for them in the long term. But the pandemic will have devastating effects on the lives of some people, including their ability to care for their dogs. While we provide a lot of support to help keep dogs and owners together, we are also here for when things are not going so well and owners are having trouble seeing a future with their dog. If anyone is in trouble and may be considering rehousing their dog, please contact the Dogs Trust and we will do our best to help.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism