Rewind the clock to March 2020 & remember the strange world we found ourselves living in with little warning.
Our liberty curtailed we were ordered to stay at home by our government who only allowed us out for limited periods to exercise. We were told to work from home where we could, people were furloughed & all but the most essential services were forbidden to operate.
We couldn't mix with our family, friends & neighbours, financial security was uncertain & the fear that we might succumb to Covid19 was all too real to us.
For some people lockdown presented an opportunity to get a dog,. being at home all the time seemed like the ideal situation to spend time with a puppy & get it settled in before life returned to normal.
For others, especially people who lived alone the lack of contact with others was particularly difficult to bear & having a dog around was a much needed & welcome comfort.
Friends heavily involved in the rescue world shared their concerns with me, predicting an influx of unwanted dogs in the near future as the reality of owning a dog hit home.
That might sound like a strange thing to say but the sad reality was that many people went ahead & bought a puppy with very little knowledge of what living with a dog actually entailed. I will recall some of the reasons that were given when people surrendered their pandemic puppies further down the line.
" I didn't realise she would get bigger"
" I didn't think I would really need to take him for a walk"
"We thought we were dog people but found out when we had one that we aren't"
And so the rescue centres began to fill with unwanted dogs at a time when they were struggling to make ends meet. Covid19 impacted severely on rescue organisations ability to raise funds. We aren't talking about the huge charities with wads of cash in the bank. We are talking about the small volunteer run organisations whose charity shops were closed, whose fundraisers were cancelled & whose regular donors had lost their jobs or seen a reduction in their pay packets. So, imagine if you will a rescue with diminished resources & increased intake.
The puppies that stayed with families & were loved & appreciated got through lockdown & grew into teenagers.
Teenagers who had not lived a "normal" life because their normal was our abnormal lockdown life.
It's important to socialise your puppy, the first 12 weeks of their lives are particularly important. Many people think that the term socialisation means mixing with other dogs. And while that is indeed an important part of the whole socialisation process there is quite a lot more to it. Pups need to get used to the rattle & hum & rhythm of a human world with its wealth of sounds & smells & strange objects & substrates.
While it might be difficult to achieve all that you would like in a lockdown situation there were several trainers offering online classes, some free of cost, offering advice on ways to socialise your dog from the confines of your property. And as a result the pups who engaged in these classes sailed through lockdown with few issues.
On the other hand a dog who has spent a year of it's life never hearing the sound of a drone, or an aeroplane, never seeing a bicycle or another dog is going to find life worrying or even frightening coming out of lockdown & may display a few behaviours that humans aren't too keen on.
And lets not forget that our cute pups grow into stroppy teenagers too. As a very proud mother of two teenage sons & numerous teenage canine family members I can say that it was my experience that there is little difference between the two species.
Don't expect your pup to go from baby to adult in one giant leap over night. Between the ages of 6 months to 18 months your pup will experience canine adolescence. I have given a bit of a wide range in age there because I am told that this stage occurs at different times depending on the breed & size of dog. I have always had medium to large breeds & observed mine becoming teenagers later rather than sooner.
I noticed that during my dogs teenage years they were less inclined to listen to me & showed a desire to do it all their own way. certainly with three of my dogs this was the stage in their development when they developed selective hearing if they perceived it safe to do so. While recall was still pretty good outside, getting them in from the garden could sometimes be a monumental task.
They can sometimes become fearful at around this time as they enter what is known in the text books as the second fear period. You may notice that your dog suddenly becomes fearful of things that they were not afraid of before. My Golden Retriever started to worry about toddlers in buggies & would stop close by my side as soon as he saw them in the distance, thankfully he didn't bark or lunge.
I have never forced my dog to "face their fear" as I can't imagine that would be helpful. Putting myself in their paws whatever they are seeing is very scary to them & moving them closer must only increase the fear. One of our girls has suffered from lead reactivity & when a Yorkie approached I imagined her perceiving it in much the same way as I would an approaching lion.
We have talked about lack of socialisation & canine adolescence. Lets talk about lockdown restrictions easing & your pandemic teenage dog.
School is back on, so is work, shops are open & while life isn't quite back to normal yet we are leaving the house & there are more of us in the streets & on the roads.
Suddenly your dogs life changes very dramatically. You are not with them 24/7, they have to cope with being separated from you, a new routine, a day that is probably quite lonely, boring & confusing for them.
And the world gets noisier, more traffic, more flights, more street noise, lots of sounds that are new to your dog. How do they know if the sounds are friend or foe?
They may be going out in the car for the first time ever or over to the vets in a socially distanced but still busy surgery waiting room with other animals & strange smells & new people too.
They have an awful lot of change to cope with all at once & some dogs will respond better than others to these challenges.
I want to talk about the dogs that don't do so well. The confused, fearful anxious dogs that may start behaving in ways that we find unacceptable.
The dogs who destroy the house when you aren't there, the dogs who vocalise excessively, the dogs who begin to soil in the house, the reactive dogs, the resource guarders, the dogs who try to stop you leaving the house, the lead reactive dogs who turn into the love child of the incredible hulk as soon as you attach the lead.
What happens to these dogs?
Unfortunately many have found themselves no longer welcome in their homes because their owners cannot deal with the behaviour, or don't know what to do, or don't want to help them because they don't have time or can't be bothered..
We are seeing a disturbing trend in these dogs being sold online, I am assuming because the human involved in the equation spent a lot of money when buying them & wants to see something back from their capital.
I cannot stress strongly enough that this is NEVER a good idea. You have absolutely no way of totally checking the credentials of a purchaser online & in any case you are simply passing on a dog you no longer want because of behavioural problems to someone else to deal with.
There is a campaign urging people not to use these selling sites which we totally 100% agree with, the campaign is asking people to surrender to rescue instead.
Surrendering to rescue is a much better option for your dog but should always be your last course of action unless there is a threat to the dog or a person in your home. Or if you really do not have any inclination or desire to keep your dog with you.
If the potential surrender is due to a behaviour issue & you want your dog to remain at home help is available.
You may be at your wits end with a dog who has started snapping whenever you touch it, perhaps the dog is hurting somewhere? take it to the vet for a check up. We heard a tragic story from a vet nurse of a dog taken to a vet to be put to sleep because it had bitten a child. The vet discovered that the dog had a coloured pencil lodged deep in its ear canal. Investigation discovered that the child had put it there. No wonder the dog snapped at her.
A dog in pain can be grumpy & air snap if you touch it wherever it is hurting or can just be plain moody because of it's discomfort.
Dog trainers & dog behaviourists, if they use reward based training & are any good at their craft are the super heroes of the canine world. And I would thoroughly recommend that you visit one for advice before you surrender your dog.
They will assess the situation based on the information you give them combined with observing you & your dog & will work with you to modify the behaviour that you find undesirable.
In my experience their advice works but you have to be committed to your dog & you have to be willing to follow your trainers advice & patiently put the work in.
If you decide that you are able to work with someone to try to keep your dog with you & you have a success story we would be delighted to hear about it. Please email us here
If you really, honestly feel that surrender is your only option you must do it, it will be the best option for your dog in the long run. Please choose a good reputable rescue, we can signpost you to an organisation that carries a directory of rescues countrywide. You can email us for more information here.
Please keep away from selling sites & closed facebook groups & similar. Dog peddlers are known to trawl such sites & your dog could end up in all manner of horrific situations.
I hope this blog post has been useful to you & has helped you make the decision that is best for you & your dog.
Whatever you choose to do we wish you well & thank you for taking the time to read this blog. if you have enjoyed reading it & found it helpful please use the share buttons to send to a friend or your social media pages.