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How has lockdown affected new dog ownership

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Lockdown has been a catalyst for dog ownership in the UK. For many of us, our furry companions have been a lifeline under lockdown. However, for many these furry friends have outgrown their owner. We are now at the other side of this initial flurry and dogs are being returned in huge numbers. We wrote about these concerns last year and now they have come to fruition.

For the fieldsports community, we’ve seen our favourite breeds gone from attainable to unattainable. We’re looking at Labradors starting at over £2000 and spaniels being similar money. Even Springer Spaniels have reached £1700 pounds. Considering only last year Country Life said a springer could be had for as little as £300 pounds. This shows how far these prices have risen.

Lockdown puppies

Current state of Lockdown Dogs

As of the start of last years Lockdown, puppies have been bought en mass. They have become a lifeline for so many and those stuck at home now had time to look after them. The demands of a puppy are relatively small so a lunch hour can fulfill the exercise needs. However, when these dogs begin to approach their full size over the next few months this becomes more complicated. Rescue pages are now inundated with young dogs that have become too much for their owners.

As for now, the cycle is still ongoing. The prices of dogs are still astronomically high as the demand for dogs is sustained by another lockdown. At the same time, dogs approaching a year old will continue to be handed into shelters to have new homes found. Until we reach our new normal this trend will continue. Here’s hoping that prospective owners do their research and breeders endeavour to send their dogs to good homes. Unfortunately, money talks and corners will be cut.

Lockdown dog theft

Consequences

The knock on effect of this is profound and even reaching the mainstream media. Dog theft is now on the rise with no dog safe from criminal eyes. The BBC released a video in December of last year showing the extent of this. The victims in this video show how rife these thefts are, blase thieves taking dogs from homes in the middle of the day. In addition to dog thefts, uneducated owners are no regretting their dog purchase. The Dogs Trust estimated last year estimated that up to 40,000 dogs are at risk of abandonment.

This dark undercurrent is a direct consequence of this unbelievable surge in dog demand. The demand has been universal across all breeds. Prospective owners are picking breeds based on looks and not thinking about the consequences. Numerous charities especially dedicated to large breeds have noted this. Breeds like Alsatians and German Shepard’s are being handed back as owners weren’t expecting the demands of a fully grown dog. Owners never considered life after lockdown and how these dogs would cope. The Dogs Trust has received 1800 calls in the past 3 months in regards to giving up their dogs. This may only be the tip of the iceberg as plenty of owners look for other means to part ways with their dogs.

Rottweiler boxer and Labrador puppies

What’s next?

Unfortunately, this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Dogs will become victims of circumstance and owners will offload them as they become an inconvenience. At the same time, breeders will continue to charge astronomical prices for as long as they can. We hope this is unsustainable as for fieldsports dogs are crucial to the success of a shoot day. It would be a crying shame to see those who wish to own a dog priced out by speculative buyers and greedy breeders. It seems likely that there will be an increase of working dogs coming from outside of KC litters for fieldsports.

In a post lockdown world, we are sure that the prices will subdue but not to their old prices. There will be a surplus of dogs available from homes with statistics estimating there will be plenty of young dogs returned. The crime aspect will slow as the demand for dogs declines. However, we need to educate potential owners on the demands of owning a dog. Should lockdowns continue we can’t get back on this carousel. The stats don’t lie and 25% of new owners have admitted to buying a dog without any research.

Lockdown Labrador puppies

How do we change

There needs to be systems in place to owning a dog more complicated. further to this, there needs to be strong follow ups to people who give up dogs. This should only be enforced for dog being given up for avoidable reasons. Buying a large breed that was never going to fit in your home is always avoidable. Failing to exercise a high drive dog that’s now destructive is also avoidable. There’s good reason that in the UK dogs aren’t for sale in pet shops. Much of this has to do with dissuading the opportunistic buyer.

People also need to understand what breed of dog they’re buying. Unfortunately, we’re living in a world of form over function. Brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs have detrimental health problems from day one. Alongside this spike in demand unscrupulous breeders have paired dogs regardless of health records. The Dogs Trust has reported that 1/3rd of new owners were willing to turn a blind eye to smuggled dogs to get the breed they want. This cocktail of designer dogs, poor health records, and dodgy beginnings is detrimental for all breeds. Prospective buyers need to be more aware of what owning a dog entails and what’s normal when buying a dog.

Puppies playing together black lab chocolate lab

Conclusions

For now we aren’t expecting much to change at all. Uneducated dog buyers will continue to pay these prices with little though to whats next. The allure of a dog for many is that young puppy playtime at the start but rarely whats next. The old adage of a puppy isn’t just for Christmas rings especially true at this time. For the fieldsports enthusiasts this is particularly frustrating. A potential lifetime of working is replaced by an uncertain future. Not all new owners are bad owners but the facts don’t lie in relation to returned dogs.

We’re hoping a few things change in the immediate future. Firstly that the legal implications for dog theft are heightened to act as a deterrent. We also hope that measures are put in place to vet potential buyers properly. It would be nice to see that the motivation for breeding dogs isn’t only financial.

Lockdown Spaniels

If you are reading this with a dog that you are looking to rehome then please get in touch with the companies linked below.

Dogs Trust
RSPCA
NAWT
Blue Cross

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