We’re kick-starting 2021 with some fantastic news!
We’ve created our very own Itch Advisory Panel; a crack team of experts from the animal world, who are helping us make pet wellness a priority for all four-legged friends.
We’ll be working with our experts on a series of activities over the next few months, so keep your peepers peeled for lots of expert advice, interesting insights and helpful tips on everything you need to know when it comes to caring for your best mate.
We’re delighted to reveal the newest member of our panel, Oli Juste. Oli is a world-renowned dog trainer and behaviourist, known for training celebrity pets and for appearing on Channel 4’s Puppy School. Oli provides positive, modern, ethical dog training with an emphasis on behaviour to dogs and their owners all over the UK & Europe.
Lockdown pups missing the great out-paws
Whatever lies ahead in the months to come, it’s safe to say, our attention is starting to turn to the ‘new normal’. It’s important to start thinking about what that might mean for our pets, and how we can start laying the groundwork now to help them adjust.
To learn more about ‘generation lockdown’, we conducted research with pet owners across the nation who purchased or adopted a pup during last year’s lockdown and we were quite shocked by some of the findings…
A huge 62% of lockdown pups haven’t been in an environment other than their own home, two in five (42%) have never met another dog, and over a third (36%) haven’t experienced the joys of a park.
We enlisted the help of our pet panellist, Oli, to discuss the findings from the research and offer some practical advice to make sure our pets’ needs are taken care of during this difficult time.
Here’s what Oli had to say:
“Following almost a year of lockdowns and restrictions all over the U.K. many decided it was the perfect time to go and buy what they had always dreamt of… a puppy. With a growing part of the population experiencing loneliness, it isn’t surprising that in a moment of hardship, many fell back on “man’s oldest friend” … the dog. But did they do their research before going out and purchasing?
“The study carried out by Itch in January 2021 surveyed 1,000 U.K. adults who had bought or adopted a dog during the pandemic. From a behavioural perspective the results of this research are pretty alarming. The study suggests that 40% of Brits have had regrets about their “lockdown puppy”, and 32% are considering putting their dog up for adoption post-pandemic.
“Although we are all looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’ soon, what will become of these young dogs once the pandemic is over is extremely troubling; a rather bitter-sweet end to these unprecedented times. It might not be that people did less research than they usually do before buying a puppy, it’s just that the proportion of people buying or adopting has increased dramatically in 2020.
In my opinion, the two main behavioural issues “lockdown dogs” will come to experience when this pandemic is over are separation related problems and behaviour issues linked to a lack of socialisation over the first few months of their young lives.
“The study suggests that a whopping 42% of the dogs in this group haven’t met other dogs, 49% haven’t met children and 51% haven’t met other humans outside of their household which to me is crazy! An additional 62% of “lockdown pups” haven’t even been in an environment other than their home yet.
“The above is worrying because although you can always train an older dog new tricks, when it comes to socialisation, dog owners only have a small window to get it done. The socialisation period (training your dog to remain calm and polite in all situations) needs to be done & dusted by the 16th week or thereabouts.
“Separation related issues can be anything from not being able to leave your dog alone at all, not being able to just go to the loo on your own, or not being able to leave your dog with a friend outside the coffee shop to pick up your order without them crying.”
Oli’s tips for re-integrating your puppy into post-lockdown life:
- If your dog has lacked opportunities to experience “real life” outside over the first few months of their lives, please do not wait – get them out now. You still have an opportunity, but please do this sensitively
- Start teaching your dog fun exercises and games away from distractions. First, inside your home or in your garden (if you have one), and then gradually take them to busier spots whilst still training them
- Using the games mentioned above keep pets engaged and focused on you when visiting a park as it will not only help them remain calm and polite towards other dogs, and therefore safer too, it will help them cope with meeting new friends and cope with unusual new situations
- To encourage dogs to be alone, consider introducing a food dispensing toy. These can be great at home if they are introduced and used appropriately. For example, make sure to introduce them as games you play together first, to not turn them into a sign that you are about to leave the house
- With a substantial proportion of the dogs in the study not having met children yet, this needs to be done carefully and sensitively as kids move fast and can react in ways that may either scare puppies or excite them
- Whilst we are still unable to meet as freely as we would like it may be a good idea to start using Dogs Trust sound library to get your puppy used to the sound of a new-born baby and/or of children playing (track 16 & 17). Make sure to start playing the tracks at a very low volume to start with and of course, whilst playing a game with your dog to keep him cognitively engaged.
Commenting on the results, Oli added:
“The study also suggests that 37% of the people asked think their pet is likely to have behavioural issues as a result of the conditions of the pandemic. If you are one of them, please don’t wait. It is much easier for a trainer or a behaviourist to help you now, when the problem is in its infancy rather than once behaviour has been rehearsed for months. There are people who can help you. Dog trainers and behaviourists are still able to work and many like me work online.
“Finally, it’s not all gloomy news. Let’s take solace in the fact that the study also suggests that 29% of people in this research have managed to change their job so they could care for their pet. Although it may have been stressful, it shows that people will do anything for their beloved pet and perhaps the pandemic has taught us to care about more important things than we used to. Thank you Itch for that bit of good news.”
Image credit: Ursula Aitchison