The UK’s largest dog welfare charity – Dogs Trust – has issued the first results from research investigating the impact of covid-19 lockdown measures on dogs and their owners, as part of International Dog Day today, August 26.
The charity surveyed more than 6,000 dog owners in May about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their dog. “¯Those who took part were asked about their dog’s routines, walks, enrichment and time spent alone during and before lockdown.
Findings from the research:
The majority of owners (55%) reported that their dog’s routine had changed a lot, including having fewer walks – as owners stuck to government guidance -and being less likely to be allowed to run off-lead. More than a quarter of dog owners (26%) reported that their dog showed at least one new problem behaviour during lockdown.
Owners were also asked about the occurrence of behaviours in different situations before and during the lockdown period. The findings showed there was an:.
82% increase in reports of dogs whining or barking when a household member was busy
20% increase in reports of dogs frequently seeking attention from their owner
54% rise in the number of people saying their dog has hidden or moved away when approached
41% increase in reports of dogs being clingy or following people around the house during lockdown.
In addition to these findings, after lockdown started, Google searches for ‘dog bark’ increased by around 48% and searches for ‘dog bite’ increased by around 40% suggesting that people were actively seeking help online about their dog’s behaviour.
Rise in abandonments and euthanasia
The single biggest reason why dogs are handed into Dogs Trust is because of behaviour-related issues. While Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog down, around a third of dogs under three years old are put to sleep by vets because of behavioural problems.
The charity is concerned that if these behavioural problems aren’t identified and treated early, the country could see an increase in dog abandonment, and even euthanasia, in the future.
Dogs Trust predicts that up to 40,000 dogs could be at risk of abandonment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. A rise in problematic behaviours, due to lockdown measures, could compound this issue still further if families find these behaviours difficult to manage, and have no other option but to give up their dog.
The Dogs Trust is encouraging owners to take steps now to ensure problems don’t develop when things return towards normal.
Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at Dogs Trust, said:
“These are challenging times as millions of us across the country have had our daily lives turned upside down. Whilst some dogs have been happy to have their human family at home more, others have been stressed by reduced exercise, inability to find a quiet place to rest or no contact with other dogs. Our research shows some early warning signs that lockdown is having a negative impact on some dogs’ behaviour.
“A big worry for us is what the long-term impact of lockdown will have on dogs’ ability to cope when left home alone. Dogs that had separation anxiety before the lockdown are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work.”
For information on how to prevent and mange problem behaviours, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/changethetale.
Owners can also find advice and training videos through Dogs Trust Youtube Channel.