Tackling a Growing Problem – Forbes Advisor UK
In March 2020, as the reality of the lockdown began to bite and millions of people began to adjust to their new situation, the UK saw a huge increase in demand for pets. Dogs in particular were seen as a way of gaining companionship and giving purpose to daily exercise regimes.
According to Pets4Homes, as of May 2020, there were over 400 buyers for every pet advertised in the UK. Pet insurance policies rose 59%, according to data from LV = General Insurance, and Google searches for “buy a puppy” rose 115%, with the prices of some of the most sought-after breeds hitting. record levels.
Fast forward to just over a year, and animal shelters are bracing for an inbound wave of animals, and pet-selling websites are filling with ads of resold puppies.
According to the Dog’s Trust, between August 2020 and January 2021, there was a 41% increase in web traffic to its Giving Up Your Dog page. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home predicts a likely increase of up to 27% more dogs abandoned or left stray over the next five years.
So why change your mind?
Dr. Tammie King, Animal Behavior Specialist at Mars Petcare, says: “We know that pets provide many benefits for humans, including relief from anxiety and loneliness, so it’s no wonder that many people have decided to adopt. But complications can arise when their cute bundle of lint turns into a juvenile delinquent, destroying any valuables in their path.
“It’s normal animal behavior in adolescents, but without the right skills it can be difficult to manage. Many puppies purchased in the first wave of containment will reach this stage now. Combined with a possible separation anxiety when their owners return to work, this can be a very difficult situation to navigate. “
Long term responsibility
Anna Webb, animal behaviorist and podcaster for A Dog’s Life, says many of those who took dogs during the pandemic failed to consider the long-term responsibilities involved: “Many have been drawn to happy faces on them. social networks, but when their puppy arrived, the cute The Postman quickly turned into chaos as puppies aren’t born trained.
“Once the puppies bought last April are teenagers – that’s about 7-10 months for a dog – these youngsters can become difficult to deal with. When online sites saw a huge increase in resales, dogs were more or less all at this age ”
What further complicates matters is the boom in selling puppies online. Webb says, “The pandemic may have changed the way dogs are greeted forever. On a recent show I did with Ira Moss from the All Dogs Matter charity, we discussed how young dog owners who spent over £ 4,000 to £ 5,000 on a puppy during the pandemic are now reselling these dogs online instead of bringing them to a shelter, as a way to recoup some of their costs.
“A charity has the resources and controls in place to help rehouse a puppy properly, but going about it this way means the animal is often pushed from one pillar to the other and sold to the highest bidder. and often unscrupulous. “
It should be noted that many of these exasperated new dog owners are young themselves (59% are under 34, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association). This same demographic may not be able to afford dog trainers and are more likely to use an online marketplace.
However, all experts agree that owners should be wary of advertising or selling animals online and instead opt for shelters or shelters, which have much more expertise to ensure that animals are relocated safely.
Rob Bays of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home says, “Dogs are brought to us for behavioral reasons and also because of changing circumstances, and we welcome everyone. We always recommend that if people are looking to repatriate a dog, they go through a rescue or shelter. Before making a decision, be sure to do your research.
Right now, according to Pets4Homes, the most popular dog breed in the UK is the French Bulldog, but the biggest peak in demand and interest during the pandemic has been the Cavapoo (obtained by crossing the spaniel Cavalier King Charles with the poodle).
Before Covid, this guy wasn’t even in the top 10, but he’s now leading the pack with a total of 1,882 potential buyers for each puppy, up from 769 per puppy before the pandemic.
Common health concerns for Cavapoos include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye problems, and while these dogs are renowned for their intelligence and affectionate temperament, they can also be known for their barking, digging, digging, their jumping, hyperactivity and, you guessed it, separation anxiety. .
Researching your breed is the first thing to do before adopting, experts say, but even if it’s after the fact, it’s still a good idea.
Dr Angela Hughes of Mars Petcare says, “Even after you have already got the dog, it is never too late to research your breed.
“It is important to understand what is hardwired and innate in dogs and what can be trained and taught. As an owner, you need to figure out what you can shape and change. Understand the traits you need to accept, learn to deal with them, and work with them.
Tips to calm your dog
Mars Petcare has other tips that exasperated owners can try before making the dramatic decision to adopt their dog:
- Realize that most “problem” behaviors are completely normal. Things like digging, chewing, barking, scratching, and jumping are all normal dog behaviors. Your pet isn’t intentionally trying to upset you, it’s just behaving in a way that serves a function. Try not to characterize the behavior as good or bad, but instead identify the possible reasons.
- Recognize the “right” behavior and reward, reward, reward! Dogs need to be trained and if you don’t teach them what is “right” they will learn as they go. Be aware of the behaviors you want to see happen more frequently and reward them when they do. Throw a treat, play a game, or give a pat (whatever your pet likes) when you notice good behavior. For example, if your pet is lying quietly on his bed, offer a reward
- Understand the animal’s body language. Dogs can’t talk to us, but they can tell us what they’re feeling through their body language. Unfortunately, many people ignore this communication or fail to recognize the subtle signs.
- Reduce stress. It’s not just us who are stressed, our pets can be too. The most common behavior problems tend to be those related to fear, anxiety, and aggression. All of this usually happens when an animal is feeling stressed. Help your pet by providing an enriched environment where they have the opportunity to engage in species-specific behaviors, such as long chewing or taking long walks.
And if all of these options have been exhausted, what’s the next step?
Dr Hughes says, “If things get antagonistic and you can’t live together, forcing it to function isn’t good for either of you. You can overcome a lot of things, but you cannot overcome everything. If one is unhappy, both are unhappy.
Other tips include:
Don’t just give up on your pet. If personal circumstances mean that you are no longer able to care for your pet, look for appropriate rehousing strategies.
Relocation options may include your animal will live with friends or family. This can be a good option if you recognize why the relationship broke down and your pet would be better off in a particular home.
Contact the relocation organizations who will guide you. They will usually provide you with a detailed history of your pet’s health and behavior, as well as conduct their own assessments, allowing them to find your pet its next home.
Animal welfare charity Battersea Dog’s & Cats Home recently launched a new range of unique virtual lessons on their website for dogs aged five to 18 months, which address the main areas of training that should occur when dogs come out of lockdown.
Mars Petcare has a range of resources that you can find here.