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Dog napping! And the impact of pets on emotional wellbeing.

Thu 27 May 2021

If you own certain breeds of dogs it looks like criminals are targeting them as potential money spinners. During lockdown people have been acquiring dogs and cats to keep them company, frequently sharing images on social media, pushing the price of pets up to eye-watering thousands of pounds for a puppy. This has resulted in a dramatic rise in dog napping.

Initially Chihuahuas and Pugs; now Staffordshire Bull Terriers, French Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels and Dachshunds in particular are being targeted as ‘designer pooches’. The story of Lady Gaga’s Frenchie being dog napped using violence in the US hit the headlines, and Police in the UK have been warning of organised crime dog theft.[1]

Combined with the increase in theft (equivalent to around 7 dogs being stolen every day[2]), only 22% are reunited with their owners, despite microchipping being mandatory for dogs. This is highly stressful for both the owner and the pet, particularly as people have been looking to pets to provide them with the mental health benefits of ownership such as reduced stress levels, positive self-esteem and reduced loneliness.

Recent research indicated that 91% of dog owners (and 89% of cat owners) felt their animals helped them cope emotionally with the covid-19 situation[3]. But what about the longer term? What will happen if recent pet owners tire of their new responsibilities as we have the opportunity to get out more? 

The RSPCA is bracing itself for a major dog welfare crisis this year as some irresponsible owners look to offload their dogs. They also expect an increase in dog behavioural problems and separation anxiety as pets are left on their own for a much longer time than they have been used to, as household members spend more time away from the home. Behaviour problems are already a major reason many dogs are rehomed or abandoned.

Top tips for helping your dog cope with routine changes

Start to gradually move towards the expected future timings for walking and feeding so your pet can get used to the new routine whilst someone is still present. This could include not responding to them all the time, or leaving them for a period with their toys in a room away from where you are, to get them used to decreasing amounts of daily attention.

Dogs will have got used to certain levels of walking activity, so it’s helpful for them to have this level largely maintained rather than curtailed. It will be helpful for us humans too if we could at least maintain similar activity levels achieved through dog walking.

If you are going to be reverting to a dog day walker or carer, being around the first couple of times could help reduce separation anxiety (possibly for you as well as your pet!).

Pets have proven they are wonderful at supporting our mental and physical wellbeing. It’s important we support theirs too.

[1] Police urge owners to protect their pets as thefts surge during pandemic | The Independent

[2] Priti Patel sets up taskforce to combat surge in dog thefts after lockdown puppy boom (telegraph.co.uk)

[3] Study: owning pets benefits mental health in lockdown | Vet Times

 

 


Type of article: Articles
Category: Protecting my belongings

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