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2020 saw a huge increase in the sale of dogs and puppies online. The coronavirus pandemic and spending more time at home lead to an increase in supply and demand for dogs. Pets4Homes website doubled its monthly traffic compared to the same period in 2019 and the cost of buying dogs and puppies also doubled. The average dog is now selling for just short of £2,000 and puppies are averaging at £3,000.
Some of the most common breeds for example, Cocker Spaniels, saw a price increase from £700 to £2,100 from 2019 to 2020 and Cavapoos from £900 to £2,800 in the same period.
With the increase in dog owners in the UK, there are growing concerns about dog and puppy welfare as owners return to normality. On Monday 17th May most businesses returned to a more promising look of “normality” with indoor activities resuming. There is less pressure now to keep employees working remotely as office doors reopen along with the hospitality sector.
Dogs and puppies that have been purchased and brought into new homes during the pandemic are now likely to be reliant on their owner’s interactions with them. They are naturally social animals and crave human interaction. Their natural instincts tell them to live in a family group, work with us, play with us, love us.
So what happens to all of the dogs and puppies who are now being left alone?
As normality returns and dog owners make their way back to their places of work, dogs are likely to be spending long periods of time alone, an experience that they are unlikely to have dealt with before. This can be a distressing time for dogs and the Blue Cross is expecting to see an increase in separation anxiety.
Back in March for pet anxiety awareness month, we published our top tips for aiding paw parents with anxiety in dogs. Now we are all returning to work, it is more important than ever to follow these tips, endorsed by dog expert Dr Louisa Graham. One of Dr Louisa’s key points is to try not to change their routine too quickly, take baby steps and go slow. So, if you’re likely to be returning to your place of work in the coming weeks, put in the groundwork now to make the experience less stressful on your new puppy or dog.
“It’s important you don’t change your pet’s routine too much and make sure you try and keep their routine consistent. If they are used to spending a lot of time with you, then try and give them some alone time. Dogs need to feel comfortable being alone to prevent behavioural issues such as separation anxiety when our daily routines change again by returning to work. Before you become busier post-lockdown, then continue to give them that space so they are used to it when it is time for you to go. Try and leave them alone in the house for short periods and build it up over time – a great tip is to associate this downtime with something positive like a treat.”
She also suggested that there is no quick fix, if a dog is experiencing separation anxiety, it won’t just go away the more you leave them. This is in fact going to make the issue worse and could lead to the dog toileting in the house or becoming destructive over time. You need to continuously work on the behaviour to make a change. Leave them for a short period of time initially and build up over time so the change isn’t quite so obvious to them.
Introduce positive reinforcement and increase their social time with you when you are there. Dr Louise Graham suggests trying nose games which are mentally stimulating and a great way to let your dog explore their natural sniffing abilities. This is a really great way of bonding with your dog and can also help to mentally and psychically tire them out, in hope that they sleep more in our absence.
For information on how to spot separation anxiety and help your dog through this challenge, please read our full guide.
Head to our YouTube video below too for top tips from vet Michael Lazaris about how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs from being an issue early on.