Puppy love can easily fade once lockdown ends and reality bites
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
A dog is never for Christmas, and should never be for lockdown.
The number of puppies out walking on Norfolk beaches, in the parks and through woodland is overwhelming.
All bought since the spring. A whole new generation of lockdown dogs, brought into full houses when everyone is always at home.
What comes next must be a huge worry for dog charities and welfare organisations.
What will happen to all these l dogs when life gets back to normal and new owners discover that a bored or anxious dog is a nightmare. It’s more than thoughtless, it’s cruel.
That chocolate box puppy amusingly shredding a cardboard loo roll holder to your delight won’t be so admired when you come home from a long day at work and the 30-kilo labrador has chewed off your skirting board and your velvet sofa has been fringed by sharp canine incisors.
I know of only three lockdown babies to make an appearance early next year, but more than four times the number of canine new additions bought, some at eyewatering prices, to make lockdown more interesting.
Those puppies, if they enjoy a long and healthy life, could be dependent on their owners longer than the babies that arrive March will be on their parents, and just as much of a commitment.
My bounding bundle of joy ran into our family 13-and-a-half years ago, when my sons were seven and 10.
If he had been a child, he’d been capable of rustling up his own supper, taking himself to the loo – and in a couple of years stay on his own over night. You get my drift. A dog’s dependence last longer than a child’s
Still puppy-like today with mischief in his soul and the biggest spring in his step, he’s as much of a handful and a responsibility as an elderly dog as he ever was. My sons are now 21 and nearly 24 and have long left home.
Bouncy, shiny appealing young dogs are everywhere. Sniffing their way along the seashore, accessorised with fashion bandanas and matching jackets among autumn forest trees and pulling on swanky new harnesses wanting to play with the big boys on exciting first walks in their neighbourhood.
Cute, adorable, funny and all those other puppy-appropriate words they are, of course, but these amusing little bundles grow into bored chewing, ripping and shredding nightmares without company and the right training.
Pets at Home revealed this week that membership of its puppy and kitten club had risen by 25% in the last six months. Its revenue had risen by 5.1% to nudging £575 million, and it was recruiting more staff.
Visits to its website between April and June peaked at 20 million a month - double last year's figure.
They call it a “baby boom.” Are people really looking to puppies to pep up a jaded marriage or difficult family like people have a sticking plaster baby to save a failing marriage?
Pets at Home's chief executive might be right when he says that pets played an incredibly important role through a period of social loneliness” – but this “period” will end, and what role for the dogs then without 24/7 stimulation?
Prices of puppies have also soared, to an average of £1,900 up to £3000 for prized breeds.
One noticeable common factor among the new dog owners is there’s not much off-lead training going on. All the dogs are on leads and the owners seem to be first dog owners.
With lockdown affecting face-to-face dog training, it feels like they are putting off the basics, also storing up trouble for the future.
Canine behaviourists will be the next sector to cash in when businesses pull staff back to work, or rescue shelters girded to expect an influx of younger dogs next year.
However hard these charities work, people still seek out puppies, with one in four ending up with the products of puppy farms rather than considering taking on the adult dogs that fill shelters, and have clean bills of health..
As puppy prices soar, so do puppy smuggling and dog thefts.
You see the top 10 dog breeds demanding high prices everywhere - labradors, cocker, springer and King Charles spaniels, border collies, shih tzu, cockapoo, cavapoo and Yorkshire Terrier and Jack Russells.
There are horror stories of puppy breeders refusing to let people view puppies and insist they deliver a puppy by courier, yet people still buy puppies from unregistered breeders.
Only this week, I heard of a couple who bought a Japanese Akita just weeks before his wife gave birth to their first child. The poor puppy was found a new home within weeks.
Too many people underestimate the work, training, responsibility and the life limitations being a dog owner means, and the poor dog will end up paying the price.
They are gorgeous, intuitive, fabulous company, mood lifters and the perfect excuse to get out walking.
But, putting off training, which takes dedication and time, hoping they will be fine and learn to behave themselves when they’re at home all day, and expecting a puppy to create a few nights’ hassle and then it’s plain sailing is cloud cuckoo thinking.
If you want a dog, view it like having another child, with the responsibility, time commitment and expense it brings. It’s really that simple.