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Pandemic puppies will need ‘enhanced support’, report finds

Puppies purchased during the pandemic were more likely to have been designer crossbreeds, instead of Kennel Club registered purebred dogs, new research by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) reveals.

The 2020 cohort of pandemic puppies were also more likely to already hold a pet passport at purchase, indicating they may have been imported from Europe, to meet the greatly increased demand for puppies during the pandemic.

The Pandemic Puppies study, which compiles data from more than 5,500 UK owners using an online survey, also explores early socialisation and health and behaviour of pandemic puppies purchased in 2020 compared to 2019 puppies.

The study reveals that many of the health and socialisation experiences examined didn’t vary significantly between puppies purchased in 2019 and 2020. However, because of lockdown restrictions, there were still some concerns, such as 2020 ‘pandemic puppies’ being less likely than 2019 puppies to attend puppy training classes or to have experienced visitors to their homes.

The researchers believe these differences could potentially lead to the development of future behavioural problems in some pandemic puppies. For example, pandemic puppies may experience stranger-related fear and anxiety and other behavioural problems related to insufficient socialisation, from being unable to attend puppy classes under 16 weeks of age.

Dr Claire Brand, Researcher in Canine Welfare at the RVC, said: “For many of us, life over the past two years changed in countless ways due to the pandemic. During periods of the tightest restrictions, our social experiences with others outside of the home environment were greatly impacted, including those with puppies bought during this period.

“Despite many owners’ concerted efforts to raise their puppies as well as possible, some puppies missed out on key experiences of puppyhood, such as going to puppy classes, or experiencing visitors in their homes. This has potential consequences for the future behaviour of ‘pandemic puppies’ and so we encourage owners to seek out training and behaviour advice from accredited professionals so that these now adult dogs can learn to live happily in our post-lockdown world.”

Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the RVC, added: “Attracted by this booming demand, unscrupulous breeders and puppy importers have cashed in by intensively breeding large numbers of puppies in poor conditions. These puppies are often then transported over long distances at a young age and without their mothers, to meet the UK’s demand. This has particularly been the case for popular breeds including designer crossbreeds like the Cockapoo and Cavapoo, Dachshunds and flat-faced breeds like the French Bulldog.

“These stressful early life experiences could have long-term impacts on the future wellbeing of these dogs, and we urge owners to seek help from veterinary professionals if they have any concerns over their dog’s behaviour or health.”

RVC is advising owners to aim to attend training classes with their puppies and dogs and to make use of services such as dog walkers and day-care facilities when they need to return to their place of work.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC, said: “Pandemic Puppies are such a special cohort of dogs in so many ways. Like human cohorts such as the Baby Boomers or the Millennials, these puppies of the pandemic will carry the ghosts of their unique puppyhoods during the Covid lockdowns with them into their adulthoods. This is likely to shape the dogs that they become. The Pandemic Puppies study tells a gripping story about the lives of these puppies that helped humanity get through our darkest days of the pandemic.”

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