THE PUPPY PANDEMIC PROBLEM 

Article – 16th March 2021

A Review by Karen Boyce (Behaviourist and Trainer at Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services)

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I can remember it very clearly, it was practically the first day after lockdown back in March 2020 when I was rung by a vet who had decided to have a puppy. With lockdown she was going to be home much more frequently so was going to take the opportunity to obtain and raise the dog she had always wanted. She was looking to book puppy classes with me.

And so, it began.

The UK went wild for puppies.

Everyone who had thought about getting a puppy, but couldn’t because they worked, suddenly saw it as the perfect opportunity.

 
My own puppy classes had it’s best year to date signinig up two hundred and twenty puppies; and these were just the tip of the iceberg.

People also went crazy looking at rescue dogs. The Dog’s Trust had a 62% year on year increase in calls from people wanting to rehome a dog.  The RSPCA recorded, between March and October 2020, 30 million unique views on their website’s Find A Pet service; compared to 18 million for the same period the previous year.
And even though a lot of the rescues had to close their doors they still managed to rehome dogs. Battersea reported a 79% increase in rehoming numbers.

The number of rescue puppies brought in from abroad also jumped dramatically, with a 94% increase in the legal importing of puppies.(  Let’s not talk about how many may have found their way into the country illegally!)

It seemed like every single household in the UK had decided they needed a new dog, and preferably a puppy. And a large percentage of these were first time dog owners.
And also, it didn’t seem to matter at what cost.  Pups became like gold dust, and within weeks the price of the most popular breeds of puppy were going through the roof.

 
So, what is the story now?

 
One year on, and it does appear that a small but significant number of people are realising that they made a mistake.  Some of these owners have tried to recoup their money by advertising their now older puppies on popular pet “For Sale” websites.  But unfortunately, a puppy is a bit like a new car and it’s monetary value dips significantly once it leaves the breeders’ home.

These young dogs, along with many others, are now being offered to local and national dog rescue organisations.  The Dog’s Trust itself had 114 calls alone on the two days after the Christmas Bank Holiday from people wanting to give their dogs up, and nearly 20% of these were under nine months of age.

 
It isn’t surprising that puppies have found themselves in dire straits, when a third of owners are first time dog owners but also as, according to a recent Kennel Club Survey, one in five owners say that they had not considered the long-term responsibilities of dog ownership.

 
There is a whole list of things that of course owners have fallen foul of, apart from being novice dog owners. 

 
These include:
1.  The shock of having a puppy and children home full-time
2.  Finding that working from home doesn’t always mean you have lots of free time for a new puppy
3.  Having to home school children and watch over a puppy
4.  Going from furloughed to redundant, or having a business fail, and being unable to afford the puppy
5.  The strain on relationships during a pandemic; resulting in an increase in failed relationships and puppies becoming a burden
6.  The scenario of going back to work and a huge number of puppies, having never been left alone, then become stressed and destructive  

So, what is the answer?

Well, a lot can be done to help the owner and their puppy return to a more harmonious relationship.

 
The first thing I would do is seek some professional help.  It’s quite possible that owners and puppy have painted themselves into a bit of a corner and simply need an expert in to guide them back into the light.

 
Only this week I had an owner with a new pup having problems, which included the puppy showing “aggression” towards the eight year old in the household.  It turned out it had all got rather negative with lots of “no” and “stop that”.  SO, after a chat, this week the owner is so much cheerier. She explained that she had now recognised how much negativity was being directed at the pup. But now with management, lots of distraction and just simply helping the puppy there had been no more episodes.  Everyone, human and canine, were much happier.

Raising puppies, as they turn into teenagers, can often be a trying time.  But there is no reason why, given some guidance and help, that the majority of owners can’t make it out the other side and create an obedient and happy adult dog.
 

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Karen Boyce is the owner of Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services, the leading puppy training organisation in Wales.

Karen is the Puppy School Tutor for North Shropshire and North East Wales, and also Regional Manager for North Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire. Puppy School is part of the BTPDS’s Advanced Puppy Path that offers a range of training experiences for all pups six months and under.
Karen is the winner of the Animal Star Awards Behaviourist/Trainer of the Year 2019.

Karen is regularly featured in local papers and on local radio, and has a regular column in her local town magazine. 


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