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Pet Owners Believe Dogs Crucial to Mental Wellbeing During Lockdown

Dog News

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!

According to new research by natural pet treat brand Pet Munchies, dog owners said that without their pets for company, it would have been a very different experience, with  8 in 10 pet owners said that their dogs were very important for their mental wellbeing during the lockdown.

Toto in training / Photo Credit: Natasha Wise

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.”

Ryan whistle training his two dogs, Chloe and Mia / Photo Credit: Ryan O’Meara

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.

Most popular dog tricks/games taught by owners in lockdown

  1. Hide and seek
  2. Sit/stay
  3. Give paw
  4. Roll over
  5. Tidying up (putting toys away)
  6. Fetch keys/TV remote
  7. Learning to read

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, pictured below, 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.

Natasha and Toto / Photo Credit: Natasha Wise

“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.”

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.”

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