Audience shot #21: Dog ownership goes through the woof
Man’s best friend became the sought-after pandemic survival essential
How much is that doggie in the window? Eight-nine per cent more than it was in March if the dog in question is a dachshund puppy, according to the Dogs Trust.
Yes, with offices and schools closed for the foreseeable, Britons seemed to decide en masse that it was time to fulfil that long held dream of becoming a dog owner. Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ hit a five-year high in May this year, even as the body which represents the interests of Britain’s dog breeders urged people not to make impulse purchases.
Two breeds in particular — the labradoodle and the cockapoo — attained ‘breakout’ status according to Google Trends, meaning there was a tremendous increase in searches on these terms. Both breeds are often mentioned as being particularly good for families with young children.
With animal rescue centres forced to press pause on their re-homing activities between March and April, it was puppy breeders who benefited from the boom as people flooded them with requests.
The Dogs Trust report found that prices for some of the most popular breeds soared. A review of ads showed the cost of a chow chow pup went up by 67% to £1,872 while breeders were asking over 50% more for pug and French bulldog puppies.
Dark side of the boom
Almost everyone loves a puppy.
But a puppy boom is a different matter. With high demand for legit breeders’ litters forcing prices up, puppy mills reacted quickly to fill the gap between demand and supply, sometimes with tragic consequences. There was also a boom in scammers claiming deposits or even full payment for non-existent animals.
The Dogs Trust is also warning that lockdown will lead to a rise in problem dog behaviour as dogs and puppies who are used to having people around all day are forced to adjust to being left alone as we return to our schools and offices.
Hopefully, though, the steady rise in searches for puppy classes since May suggests that lots of owners are trying to sort any problems sooner rather than later.
Animal rescues are anticipating a rise in dogs needing to be rehomed but there has also been a boom in searches for dog adoption, which hit a five-year high in June.
The new puppy checklist
Dog owners-to-be were also wanting to find out what they’d need to keep the newest members of their families comfortable and safe, with searches for what to buy for a new puppy hitting a high in May.
The retailer Pets At Home has benefited, with Google stats showing it has breakout status — searches hit a five-year high in May.
In spite of Pets At Home’s vet service being hit by lockdown, its share price rose 30% in July because of the pet boom. While other retailers are contemplating a gloomy future, it is making plans to move to huge new headquarters.
People also wanted to know how to keep their houses safe from their puppies, with more searches for puppy pads in May than at any point in the past five years.
People looked up first night with new puppy more in the last week of April than any other week. By July, there were spikes in searches for toileting training advice, while late August saw a spike in searches for naughty puppy.
Entrepreneurial types seem to be keeping an eye on the situation, with Google Trends reporting users who were looking up info on starting a business were also searching dog walking and dog grooming. But it’s not just about making money — communities are responding too, with informal dog groups being set up.
There’s plenty of research showing how spending time with pets is good for our mental and physical health, and that dogs in workplaces are a largely positive influence. It will be interesting to see if a rise in dog ownership corresponds with improvements to our well-being. We hope it will — so here’s to all the new dog owners and their canine friends, and to long, happy, life enhancing outcomes.