A new study has revealed how the UK’s dogs spent lockdown – and it’s very sweet, except more dogs than ever will now be hiding from their owners - and some dogs will now even be tidying up behind themselves!
● 8 in 10 dog owners said that their pet was extremely important to their mental wellbeing during the lockdown
● 77 per cent of dogs were very happy during the lockdown, with 8 per cent admitting they believed their dog was ‘not his usual self’ as a result of being indoors for longer periods and the whole family being at home
● Former professional dog trainer Ryan O’Meara explains more about the mental state of a dog when confronted with new situations
● Half (50 per cent) of dog owners made sure their dog had extra play sessions, 44 per cent took more walks and almost a third (29 per cent) chose to keep their dogs stimulated and occupied at home by teaching them new tricks
● Dog trainer Cat Donald had to close her business during the lockdown. She taught her dog Skye to fetch her lead and says, “Without Skye, lockdown would have been much harder to get through, she’s made it a bearable experience and the bond with my dog has definitely grown for the better.”
Dog owners have revealed how they spent lockdown with their dogs and admitted that without their pets for company, it would have been a very different experience, according to new research by Pet Munchies1, with 8 in 10 pet owners adding that they consider themselves to be pet parents (more than simply their pet’s owner).
According to the natural pet treat brand, 8 in 10 pet owners said that their dogs were very important for their mental wellbeing during the lockdown.
However, while 77 per cent of dog owners believe that their dogs were very happy during the lockdown, not all were so sure and 8 per cent admitted that their dogs were not their usual selves, putting this down to having to spend longer periods of time indoors and more time with the whole family at home2, something that under usual circumstances, would be limited for dogs to experience due to members of the family leaving home to go to school or work.
Former professional dog trainer Ryan O’Meara explained why this might impact on a dog’s happiness:
“Dogs are happiest and most content when they are in a routine. When dogs are used to days following specific patterns - wake up, breakfast, walk, kids leave to go to school, and so on, it can be something to overcome when patterns of behaviour change because it’s a shift to what they knew to be their family’s routine.”
How dog owners attempted to make lockdown fun for their pets
In a bid to repay dogs for their crucial role to their happiness, half of pet parents admitted that they spent more time playing with their dogs at home, while 4 in 10 took in more walks and almost a third (29 per cent) decided to keep their dog’s brains stimulated by teaching their dog new skills with a third (31 per cent) declaring they’ve taught their dog one-two new tricks.
The most popular tricks taught by dog owners include playing hide and seek, sit/stay, roll over and giving a paw on command. Some ambitious owners admitted that they taught their dog to tidy their toys up behind themselves3, to fetch the TV remote and even to read!
And to reward their pets for learning fun, and sometimes practical, new skills, 72 per cent of dog owners treated their dogs to their favourite food and treats, 66 per cent lavished hugs, kisses and affection on their clever dogs and 11 per cent of owners gifted their dogs new toys.
Table: Dog Owners Taught Their Dogs These Fun Games & Tricks During Lockdown
Most popular dog tricks/games taught in lockdown
Hide and seek: 21.58%
Give paw: 13.67%
Roll over: 12.23%
Tidying up (putting toys away): 9.35%
Fetch keys/TV remote: 5.04%
Learning to read: 3.60%
Source: Pet Munchies
Other popular brain puzzles and activities favoured by dogs and their owners included learning how to fetch their lead, fetching specific toys and learning agility, one of the UK’s most popular dog sports.
Natasha Wise is a three-time world agility champion.
She explains the benefit to a dog’s mental wellbeing from having stimulation, such as learning a new skill to get the mind whirring, during unusual times like these.
“Stimulation focuses a dog’s brain on the desired game and reduces stress, anxiety, and associated unwanted behaviours. As a result, through mental stimulation, dogs become happier resulting in calmness and settling around the home after a period of stimulation.
“The best training tip I can give is to find out what makes your dog tick and include that in your teaching as a reward you know your dog will love. My dogs have a particular favourite brand, Pet Munchies, they’re very versatile and my dogs love them so I always have them to hand.”
Cat Donald decided to teach her two-year-old Labrador Retriever, Skye, a new trick that she could use every day – to fetch her lead.
“We worked on this behaviour at the start of lockdown when we were limited to one walk a day. There’s two main reasons why I chose this behaviour.
“Firstly, being a Labrador Retriever she loves to ‘fetch’ so I worked with her genetics to learn a new skill. Secondly, I’m often looking for her lead when we want to go out so I thought I’d teach her to find it and bring it to me to help me out!
“Skye is a super quick and bright dog and loves learning new behaviours, so she really enjoyed learning this new skill. One of my challenges with Skye is to slow her pace of working down so she can fully focus on the behaviour she’s learning. It took Skye a couple of days to perfect the new skill. Skye will use her new skill every day.”
Ryan O’Meara shared this final piece of advice to help dog owners help their dogs to beat post-lockdown blues:
“For dogs that have gotten used to the specific routine of having their owners around, it may be jarring for them when it suddenly and abruptly ends.
“Dogs love being with their family, so less time spent with their owners can make them sad. Re-establishing routine is the key component for making sure our dogs don’t suffer the post-lockdown blues.”
- ENDS -
Notes to Editors
Interviews available with former professional dog trainer and K9 Magazine publisher, Ryan O’Meara.
Dog training tips for how to teach your dog to fetch their lead available from Ryan O’Meara alongside high res images of Cat Donald teaching Skye to fetch her lead available.
Additional case studies available with John Harrison and Cat Donald, alongside images.
Cat Donald is a dog trainer from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. Her business had to temporarily close due to the lockdown and as a result, she had more one on one time to spend with her Labrador, Skye, and decided to teach her how to fetch her lead to keep her brain active.
During the UK lockdown John Harrison taught his German Shepherd cross, Saber, four tricks including how to play hide and seek to keep him active.
1 Pet Munchies partnered up with K9 Magazine, a lifestyle magazine featuring a wide range of dog ownership topics. K9 Magazine issued a survey to its readers, to which 1,145 responded.
2 BBC news story ref. furlough scheme statistics - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52977098
3 TV behaviourist Victoria Stilwell outlined to K9 Magazine how to teach dogs to tidy up - https://www.k9magazine.com/how-to-keep-your-dog-happy-at-hom...
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Established in 2008, Pet Munchies ethos is centred around healthy, natural ingredients designed to appeal to a dog’s natural senses.
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