Do you have a "Pandemic Pup"?
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
Since March 2020 there has been a dramatic increase in pet ownership. Dogs in particular were seen as a lockdown companion by millions all over the world. Pets bring so many benefits to humans such as anxiety and loneliness relief, so its not surprising so many people decided to become fur parents.
The unprecedented demand for pandemic puppies has caused a colossal increase in the cost of a puppy. It has also led to a boom in unethical breeding, and increased dog theft.
Pandemic owners have often paid over the odds for an unregistered puppy. Due to restrictions many new owners were unable to see the parents or litter mates and collected their new pup outside the breeders home. These restrictions gave the perfect environment for unscrupulous breeders and puppy farmers as they could hide the poor conditions the dogs were kept in.
Over the last couple of years I have sadly seen many owners ripped off. They have been miss sold breeds, ill puppies, puppies illegally brought from Ireland and Europe. They have been lied to about vaccinations, microchips and insurance. I have also see many owners sold animals which have not been vet checked and suffering from congenital problems such as heart conditions requiring expensive, risky lifesaving surgery. Unfortunately these well- meaning owners have fallen into these traps and without realising have funded this deplorable industry.
The puppy boom made sense as people that loved dogs were now working at home and their lives became perfectly set up for a canine companion.
A major concern for vets and behaviourists has been the lack of socialisation the puppies received which is vital to dogs future behaviour and temperament.The restrictions meant people were not out and about as normal, people were not coming to the house and puppy training classes were off. Even the vets had restrictions. This lack of socialisation has lead to several problems:
Separation anxiety as owners returned to work after working from home.
Howling/ barking when left.
Toileting in the house.
Destructive behaviour when left alone due to stress.
Fear of new experiences.
Aggression towards unfamiliar people and dogs.
No longer being able to manage dog and taken to shelter.
Sadly many owners feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of owning a new puppy. We are seeing an influx of young dogs into the animal shelters. Many of these dogs are untrained and don't know basic commands.
How to help your pandemic pup now lockdown is lifted
Puppies were used to having their owners around 24/7 and now are expected to spend time alone. It is a massive shock to the system and can trigger undesirable behaviours.
Dogs love a routine and now owners are back in the office their routine has been totally disrupted. Dogs are historically pack animals an are generally very sociable and form strong bonds with their human family.
If you suspect problems the best thing you can do is address them ASAP. The first thing to do is train your dog that being alone is OK, and that you will return.
Start leaving your dog for short amounts of time in a separate room from you. Give them something to keep them occupied like a chew or toy. Gradually increase the amount of time you leave them. Try and make being left a positive experience such as filling a Kong toy with tasty treats or and dog puzzle containing treats.
It is important to do this gradually and match your training with your planned new routine. If you can gradually transition back to work over a few weeks that would be beneficial.
Leaving the radio or music on can help sooth your anxious pet. If you plan to return to work full time then a dog walker or puppy sitter is a good idea. Introduce these services before returning to work.
A canine appeasing pheromone plug in can be a great idea to help calm your dog. I have recommended these for years and have seen fantastic results.
Make sure to give your dog a good amount of exercise before leaving them home alone. A tired dog is more likely to relax and sleep. When leaving, keep it low key and the same when you return.
Dogs can build anxiety when they sense you are getting ready to leave so try picking up your keys or putting on shoes then going to sit on the couch or go in the garden and play fetch. This can help break the negative associations.
Poor socialisation means pandemic pups can be missing information that helps them live in normal society. This can cause fear aggression. In normal non pandemic situations, puppies become used to noises, smells, and sights from an early age due to limitations pandemic pups may have missed out on this. If your dog has developed aggression then contacting a qualified dog behaviourist may be helpful as these behaviours can often be resolved with some professional help. Your vet can often advise you of reputable behaviourists.
So if you have encountered some unforeseen problems with you pup, set yourself some realistic expectations. Training takes time especially if socialisation has been minimal. Pay attention to your dogs response and go at a pace that suits them. Having realistic expectations helps prevent frustration or resentment. If you and your dog are happy and functional then that's a win!
See my blog on puppy training for more info.