Post-pandemic behavioural problems in puppies and dogs: useful information for vets

You may have heard of the pandemic puppy boom, but what about the changes in behavioural problems? In this blog, we discuss the key takeaways from clinical animal behaviourist Loni Loftus’ research into post-pandemic behaviour in dogs.


Key findings: 


  • Social interaction problems 


The report highlights social interaction problems in dogs and puppies as one of the behavioural changes caused by the pandemic. It cites fearfulness, growling, lunging, general aggression and misreading social interactions with other dogs as examples. As many as 36% of dog bites were reported as being directed to strangers, while 21% of the dogs observed showed fearfulness towards new people. 


  • Risk factors for social behaviour 


Being a puppy who experienced decreased levels of social interaction (e.g. during lockdown) or inappropriate socialisation (e.g. being overwhelmed/’flooded’) were identified as key risk factors. Being a small puppy, having health issues and being younger than 8 years of age were also flagged as potential risk factors. 


  • Covid-19 


During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw an unprecedented surge in demand for pets. As a result, breeding rates increased – but safety checks and protocols seemed to go out the window…


An alarming 83% of pet owners interviewed were not asking any questions prior to adopting their dog. Furthermore, 96% said that their puppies had not been socialised while 86% said their pet had not experienced anyone else visiting the house. 


A key trend seen in older dogs was a decrease in interaction with other dogs and an increase in the number of dogs wearing leads on walks. Sadly, 61% of owners believed their dog’s quality of life had worsened during the pandemic. Further research revealed that dogs most at risk of behavioural problems were those in households where inhabitants were at home but not working. Researchers suggested that this is because the dogs in these environments would have been under more pressure to ‘comfort’ and interact with their owners, thus causing a form of burnout. 


How can we tackle these behavioural issues? 


The article encourages pet owners to focus closely on the avoidance of triggers, as well as bearing in mind environmental factors. As a veterinary professional, you can help clients by advising on the best social environments and level of interaction for their pet(s) based on their age.


The following should also be taken into consideration: 


  • Capability of owner to implement advised changes 
  • Time commitments needed of the owner
  • Closeness between owner and pet
  • Client’s level of compliance 
  • Prognosis for the case


It is important to remind owners that they should seek professional advice as soon as they pick up on behavioural changes in their dog or puppy. 


To read the report in full click here.


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