Pandemic Puppies

by Laura Storey

"The impulsive purchase of puppies during lockdown has led to a crisis in rescue centres"

Shortages were rife in the pandemic, flour disappeared from supermarket shelves as people took up baking, bikes were impossible to get hold off as cycling presented the only method of escaping neighbourhoods and the boost in computer sales led to an international chip shortage we’re still living through today. Yet another shortage was raging, leading to desperate buyers going to great lengths to secure what they wanted. No, it wasn’t toilet roll – it was puppies. 

There were people who were considering getting a dog when the time was right – the time was perceived as right,” Rory Cowlam, better known as star CBBC’s ‘The Pet Factor’ has recently released his book, The Secret Life of a Vet. In the midst of lockdown when a daily walk was our only outdoor activity, a dog seemed like the perfect companion. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association, 3.2 million households have got a new pet since the start of the pandemic.

“Owning a dog is a complete privilege,” Rory says, “People decide they want a dog next week and that’s so not the right way to do it because they speak to the rescue and the rescue says ‘okay, we’ll add you to a list’, and then they get impatient and three weeks down the line, when they’ve not heard anything, they buy a dog from a breeder that doesn’t know what they are doing. I pulled every string to get our pup and it took a year, and that is the time scale people should prepare themselves for. Snap decisions are not a good thing when you’re making a commitment for 15 years.”

The impulsive purchase of puppies during lockdown has led to a crisis in rescue centres as puppies bought from breeders are ill-matched with busy families. “A rescue or a charity is great as they will assess you and the dog and they will pair you with the right animal, for example I live in a London flat so for me to get a Collie would be mismatch. I need to be able to leave my dog for a few hours at a time so me getting a miniature Dachshund would be a complete mismatch, but a lady dog who runs around like a complete nutter for a few hours in the morning but spends the afternoon lazing in the sun, is perfect, so Nala is great because she’s a Lurcher. If you pair the right dog now, you don’t end up having to rehome them down the line.”

“Dogs love it when their owners come home. A familiar bark at the door and an excited wagging tail is an announcement that your dog is happy to see you”

Unfortunately, despite the hordes of puppies frolicking in every local park over lockdown, the shortage was very real and led to many buyers seeking out breeders instead of waiting to be matched at rescue centres, leading to excitable and attention-loving pets being bought by busy owners who may need to leave these pups for long periods.

Dogs love it when their owners come home. A familiar bark at the door and an excited wagging tail is an announcement that your dog is happy to see you. However, if you walk into your home and discover a crime scene of ripped apart upholstery and a guilty looking pup, you may start to wonder if your dog is missing you a little too much. As many workplaces slowly incorporate more time in the office rather than at home, Rory advises pet owners to start planning what they will do for their pets when at work.

“As people go back to work they really need to be thinking about it now. If your dog does have separation issues, which the majority of lockdown dogs do, you start by finding them a safe place and start by, no more than 15 minutes at a time, really building up slowly to get to the point where you are able to leave them for an hour or two at a time. Then once you can leave them for that length of time, it is worth getting a dog walker or on a waiting list for a dog sitter that can look after them, I tried to find a dog sitter for my dog Nala and the only way I could get someone was if I signed up to be going twice a week minimum for six months. I think dog walkers and day centres are so inundated at the moment that you need to be thinking three months ahead rather than assuming you can get cover for next week.”

We are all adjusting to post-pandemic life and those with a pandemic pup may be in for a rougher time than others. Dogs who cry when their owners leave may just need time to get used to the fact that their owners must go to work, just like their owners may have trouble adjusting to a life where it is necessary to change out of pyjamas.

The paperback version of The Secret Life Of A Vet (£9.99) by Dr Rory Cowlam is available from all good book retailers and Amazon.