Over a third of dogs bought during the pandemic have never even been to the park

With more people working from home (some indefinitely since the pandemic), puppy sales have hit an all time high.

However, a new survey shows that these puppies might not have been getting the best start in life, with a large proportion never having been out of their home.

Research from pet wellness company Itch, surveyed Brits who bought or adopted a dog during the last 12 months to understand the challenges facing pet owners as they think about entering a post-pandemic world/

Their findings showed that 62% of lockdown pups have never been in an environment other than their home, and two in five haven’t yet met another dog.

As well as this almost half (49%) haven’t been introduced to children, and 36% haven’t even been to the park.  

Sadly, 40% of new dog owners have experienced regrets about their purchase, with one in five not realising the work involved in raising and caring for a puppy.

A third admit to now realising that their lockdown dog was bought from a puppy farm and that same amount are considering putting their lockdown pups up for adoption once life returns to normal.  

Andrew Pinnington, CEO at Itch, commented: ‘The results of the research demonstrate how we need to be turning our attention to the “new normal”, whenever that may be.

‘As well as how we can help reintegrate our pups back into a post-pandemic society so they can have a rich and fulfilling life.’

Getting back to that is a worrying prospect for pandemic puppy-buyers, as nearly three quarters said they were worried about separation anxiety if they go back to work out of the house.

There was some good news. Over 40% of owners feel that their pet helps with their own fitness and mental health. They just need to socialise their pet before 16 weeks.

How to socialise your dog

Oli Juste, leading dog trainer and behaviourist, known for Channel 4’s Puppy School, is the first member to be announced on Itch’s new advisory panel; a team of animal experts, who are helping make pet wellness a priority for all four-legged friends with practical advice and guidance. 

Read his tips for socialising your puppy.

Give them real-life experiences ASAP

If your dog has lacked opportunities to experience “real life” outside, please do not wait – get them out now 

Teach them away from distractions

Start teaching your dog fun exercises and games – at first, inside your home or in your garden (if you have one), and then gradually take them to busier spots whilst still training them.  

Keep pets engaged and focused

It will not only help them remain calm and polite towards other dogs, it will help them cope meeting new friends and in unusual new situations.

Get a food dispensing toy

To encourage dogs to be alone, consider investing in a food dispensing toy. These can be great at home if they are introduced and used appropriately. For example, make sure to introduce them as games you play together first, to not turn them into a sign that you are about to leave the house.

Introduce dogs to kids carefully

With a substantial proportion of the dogs in the study not having met children yet, this needs to be done carefully and sensitively as kids move fast and can react in ways that may either scare the puppies or excite them.

Use a dog sound library

It may be a good idea to start using Dogs Trust’s Sound Library to get your puppy used to new sounds e.g. a new-born baby and children playing. Play the tracks at a very low volume to start with and of course, whilst playing a game with your dog to keep them cognitively engaged. 

Dog trainer Oli Juste commented on the findings: ‘It’s extremely worrying to read that 62% of “lockdown pups” haven’t been in an environment other than their home yet.

‘Although you can always train an older dog new tricks, when it comes to socialisation, we only have a small window to get it done. The socialisation period needs to be done & dusted by the 16th week or about. These dogs will therefore need special attention. ‘

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