Is the UK Heading for a Dog Behaviour Crisis?

Since the pandemic began there have been a number of welfare reports that have suggested that up to 3 million of the nation’s dogs have developed problem behaviours. A particular concern are the rapidly increasing statistics around new dogs that were acquired during the UK lockdowns, the ‘pandemic puppies’

Demand for puppies was feverish during lockdown with the Royal Veterinary College reporting that 86% of new dog acquisition was attributed to the pandemic. Due to restrictions these pups did not have access to socialisation opportunities during their critical period of development leading to poorly socialised dogs that are unequipped to deal with social interactions.

According to the Dogs Trust, the predominant reason for dogs being rehomed is due to behavioural issues and  with rehoming centres seeing a rise in dogs being abandoned,  the evidence that a crisis is looming is becoming stronger.

To investigate the factors surrounding this crisis, I talked to leading dog behaviour expert Nigel Reed, aka ‘The Dog Guardian’.

Is the pandemic responsible?

Nigel identified that we are seeing three  main issues which can be directly linked to the pandemic, the impact it had on our daily routines and subsequent interactions with our dogs.

Separation Anxiety

With many dogs becoming very used to having their owners home during lockdown it has been extremely difficult for them to adjust back to being left alone with the releasing of restrictions and owners going back to work. This has led to dogs manifesting behavioural signs of separation anxiety.

Aggression to dogs 

Many dogs, especially pandemic puppies didn’t have  proper socialisation due to social restrictions on mixing.  Many dog services were also closed such as puppy play groups and doggy day cares, all of which allow dogs to mix and build essential social skills.

Aggression to visitors 

Social distancing has kept us away from anybody outside of our bubbles for extended periods of time. Visitors have been scarce so now that we are returning to normal and resuming normal social interactions, our dogs are showing signs of being overwhelmed with the sudden ‘intrusion’ to their territory.

Like many behaviourists around the country, Nigel is working with owners who are seeking help for these problem dogs in a last ditch attempt to repair the damage the pandemic has caused.  In one disturbing case, the owner was unable to leave their dog at home alone due to extreme separation anxiety but was equally unable to take them out for a walk due to their distress and aggression towards other dogs. Leading to a distressing 24 hour situation with no respite.

To hear more about this issue and whether there is hope on the horizon, check out the full podcast on the link below.