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The impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on dogs & dog owners in the UK

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Abstract and Figures

Lifestyle changes ensued for many people across the United Kingdom (UK) in the Spring of 2020 due to ‘lockdown’ restrictions imposed to curb the spread of a newly emerged virus, SARS-CoV-2, which caused a global pandemic of the disease known as COVID-19. More than 6,000 dog owners living in the UK completed our online survey between the 4th – 12th May 2020 (the most restrictive phase of the lockdown measures). Dog owners were asked about their dogs’ management and routine and behaviour at two time points; in early/ mid-February 2020 (before the lockdown was imposed and prior to individuals being likely to have changed their behaviour due to COVID-19), and at the time of survey completion during the lockdown. Owners also answered questions about their relationship with their dog, and the impact of lockdown on their bond with their dog to help us understand the population of owners who took part.
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The impact of COVID-19
lockdown restrictions on
dogs & dog owners in the UK
26th August 2020
Dogs Trust
Executive summary 1
Introduction 2
Dog demographics 4
Gastrointestinal health 4
Dog owners 5
Owners’ bond with their dogs 5
Owners’ feelings about their dog during lockdown 6
Contingency planning 8
Management of dogs 9
Routine changes 9
Exercise 9
Walk location 9
On/off lead walking 9
Frequency of walking 9
Duration of walking 9
Meeting other dogs 9
House rules 9
Time left alone 10
Dog behaviour 12
Behaviour towards adults 12
Behaviour towards children 13
General observations 14
Reactivity 14
Attention seeking behaviour 14
Behaviour on walks 14
Separation-related behaviour 14
Behaviour when about to be left 14
Behaviour when left 14
Enrichment, games and training 16
Toys 17
Puppies: socialisation/habituation 18
Conclusions 19
Future work 20
Appendix 21
Table of contents
1
dogstrust.org.uk
Executive summary
Lifestyle changes ensued for many people across the United Kingdom
(UK) in the Spring of 2020 due to ‘lockdown’ restrictions imposed to
curb the spread of a newly emerged virus, SARS-CoV-2, which caused
a global pandemic of the disease known as COVID-19.
More than 6,000 dog owners living in the UK completed our online
survey between the 4th – 12th May 2020 (the most restrictive phase of
the lockdown measures). Dog owners were asked about their dogs’
management and routine and behaviour at two time points; in early/
mid-February 2020 (before the lockdown was imposed and prior
to individuals being likely to have changed their behaviour due to
COVID-19), and at the time of survey completion during the lockdown.
Owners also answered questions about their relationship with their
dog, and the impact of lockdown on their bond with their dog to help
us understand the population of owners who took part.
Key findings include:
Dog-owner bond
The people who completed the survey were closely bonded to
their dogs, with almost three-quarters of dog owners (72%)
believing dogs should have the same rights and privileges as
family members.
One-third of owners (34%) reported feeling closer to their dog
during lockdown and 97% of owners were happy to have the
company of their dog during lockdown.
Almost two-thirds of owners (65%) indicated that they would
delay hospital treatment to care for their dog, if needed.
A quarter (26%) of owners were concerned about what would
happen to their dog should they become ill with COVID-19, and
4% of owners reported that no one was available to care for
their dog (either due to a lack of availability or due to the dog’s
behaviour). A further 3% owners had not yet tried to organise
someone to look after their dog but thought no one would be
available.
Dog management & routine
There was an increase in how often people played with or trained
their dogs during lockdown, particularly for owners answering,
‘More than once a day’, which increased from 38% before
lockdown to 49% during lockdown.
The majority of owners (80%) reported that their dog’s routine
had changed (57% a little, 23% a lot), with only 1 in 5 owners
(20%) stating their dog’s routine had not altered compared with
before lockdown.
Dogs were less likely to be walked off-lead during lockdown and
were more likely to have just one walk per day (increasing to
approximately one half of dogs, from one third before lockdown),
instead of two or more walks. However, the total time spent on
walks was broadly similar with 79% of dogs walked for between
30 minutes and 2 hours a day.
The proportion of dogs left alone for 3 or more hours at a time
decreased dramatically from 1 in 2 before lockdown to 1 in 20
during lockdown.
Dog behaviour
Dogs’ behaviour towards household members was reported
by owners to have changed considerably during lockdown,
with large increases seen in the proportion of dogs reported to
display attention-seeking and ‘clingy’ behaviours. Compared with
February, there was an 82% increase in the proportion of owners
who reported that their dog whined or barked when someone
was working or busy during lockdown, and a 41% increase in
owners reporting that their dog was being clingy and following
people around the house. With most people spending more time
at home, it should be noted that these increases may be linked
to the increased opportunity for dogs to display these behaviours
and for owners to observe these behaviours, rather than an actual
change in the dogs’ behaviour towards their human household
members. Further detailed investigation is thus important.
Behaviours generally associated with fear or frustration also were
reported to have increased in dogs during lockdown but remained
relatively rare amongst the population as a whole. For example,
there was a 54% increase in the percentage of dogs that were
reported to hide or move away when approached by an adult,
but the proportion of dogs impacted by this remained below 3%
of the population.
There was a 57% increase in dogs growling, snapping or
nipping children when approached or handled during lockdown,
presumably linked with greater interactions between dogs and
children due to school closures. However, the overall number of
dogs displaying these behaviours remained low, below 3% of the
population.
The percentage of dogs who showed separation-related
behaviour (including destructive behaviour, toileting inside the
home, vocalisation) when about to be left, and when left alone,
decreased significantly during lockdown, probably as dogs were
left less often and for shorter periods.
Overall, the findings in this report describe some of the many and
varied ways in which dogs’ lives were impacted by the COVID-19
lockdown and highlight the strong bond between dog and owner, and
the role this bond has played for owners during the pandemic. The
findings have impacts for managing the canine welfare implications
of previous, current and future COVID-19 lockdowns. At the time of
writing this report (August 2020), local lockdowns are in place in some
regions of the UK, the Government’s furlough scheme is still in place
and many people are still working from home, and redundancy rates
have increased. Vet practices are not permitting owners into consulting
rooms, or offering euthanasia of dogs at the owner’s home, unless the
dog is too unwell to travel to the veterinary surgery. These, and other
factors may impact on the health and well-being of dogs and the well-
being of owners themselves. Of particular concern in relation to the
findings of this report is the potential impact of any sudden increase in
the hours dogs are left alone in relation to separation-related behaviour,
and potential delays for dog owners seeking hospital treatment if they
do not have anyone available to help care for their dog(s).
2
Dogs Trust
Introduction
The initial lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic restricted
business and leisure activities, access to services and led many people
to adopt changes in lifestyle. These changes have the potential to
impact the short- and long-term health and behaviour of dogs, as well
as the wellbeing of dog owners. This report describes data collected
from online survey completion by UK dog owners between survey
launch (4th May 2020) and 12th May 2020, (i.e. during the first ‘strict’
phase of COVID-19 lockdown within the UK, and before widespread
initial easing of lockdown restrictions).
COVID-19
A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) linked to cases of human viral
pneumonia was first reported in Wuhan, People’s Republic of China
in December 2019, and the disease it causes was subsequently
named COVID-19 in February 2020. The World Health Organisation
(WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic on 11th March 2020,
noting the alarming levels of spread and severity of the disease.
The WHO called for countries to take urgent and aggressive
action to prevent infections. These and further details published
by the WHO around the COVID-19 timeline are available online1.
COVID-19 UK lockdown – key dates
The first case of COVID-19 transmission in the UK was confirmed on
28th February 20202. Within the UK, lockdown restrictions around the
message of ‘stay at home’ were announced by the Government on
23rd March 20203. Restrictions relating to staying at home, working
from home where possible, closure of schools, exercise restrictions and
restrictions to non-essential veterinary care were all hypothesised to
impact canine welfare. Since 13th May, some restrictions have been
eased. Key differences, statistics and dates across the four UK nations,
which are relevant to this report, are summarised in Figure 1.
1 who.int/news-room/detail/29-06-2020-covidtimeline Accessed 2nd July 2020.
2 bfpg.co.uk/2020/04/COVID-19-timeline/ Accessed 2nd July 2020.
3 gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-address-to-the-nation-on-coronavirus-23-march-2020 Accessed 2nd July 2020
Figure 1: Key dates up to the end of the first phase of COVID-19 lockdown
restrictions in the UK.
3
dogstrust.org.uk
Potential impacts of lockdown
Lockdown restrictions around the Government message of ‘stay at
home’ were suggested to impact pet dogs within the UK, in terms of
their management, behaviour and bond with their owners. Implications
for owners were also anticipated, relating to the relationship with their
dog, anxiety around aspects of caring for the dog such as accessing
veterinary care and emotional support provided by the dog during the
COVID-19 pandemic. Examples of key areas of interest which formed
the focus of this research are listed below:
Proportion of time that dog owners spent at home:
This increased for many owners due to working from home and/
or furlough.
Key workers (including NHS staff) worked longer hours leading to
decreased time at home.
The closure of schools increased dog-child interactions during
weekdays for households with children.
Exercise:
People were initially limited to one form of outdoor exercise per
day, potentially reducing the amount of exercise that dogs were
given, particularly for single-adult households.
Dogs may have reduced off-lead exercise and opportunities to
interact with other dogs4, potentially leading to frustration.
The study described in this report was designed to investigate
management of dogs, dog behaviour, dog health, puppy socialisation
and changes in owner sentiment during the lockdown period, as well
as touching on dog acquisition/relinquishment. Dog owners were
asked for consent to be contacted about a follow-up survey, so that
long-term effects of management during lockdown (and changes in
management during lockdown) on canine health and behaviour can
be subsequently assessed.
Whilst this nationwide strict lockdown may be a one-off event,
local lockdown restrictions have already been implemented (such as
occurred in Leicester5) and may continue for some time at varying
frequency, geography and scale. Research into the impact of these
lockdown measures on the wellbeing of dogs will allow Dogs Trust and
other stakeholders to best support dog welfare.
The study methods are detailed at the end of the report (p21).
4 For example, UK Government guidelines stated: “When walking your dog in areas used by other people, you should consider putting your dog on a
lead to ensure you can stay 2 metres away from others.” (gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals)
5 bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53228067
4
Dogs Trust
Dog demographics
The survey was completed for 6,004 dogs. Two-thirds of these (66%)
were the only dog in the household, and there was a 1.1:1 ratio of
male to female dogs. Most dogs in the population were neutered
(79% of males and 82% of females). Half the dogs were 4 years of
age or younger, the minimum was 2 months and the maximum 19
years (Figure 2).
Puppy
7−12m
1y
2y
3y
4y
5y
6y
7y
8y
9y
10y
11y
12y
13y
14y
15y
16y
17y
18y
19y
250 0 250
Frequency
Age
Female Male
Figure 2: Age distribution of participating female and male dogs
Most of the dogs in the study were purebreds (55%; Figure 3), 28%
were crosses of two purebred dogs, with a minority of dogs reported
as other/of unknown breeding (17%).
Of the purebred dogs, the most common breeds were Border Collies
(12%), Labrador Retrievers (11%), Cocker Spaniels (8%), Jack Russell
Terriers (6%) and Greyhounds (5%).
Just under one-third of dogs (31%) had been sourced from Dogs Trust.
28
17
55
Other or unknown
Mix of two specific breeds
(e.g. Labradoodle, Puggle)
Specific breed
(e.g. Labrador Retriever, Whippet)
0 20 40 60
Percent
Figure 3: Breed characteristics of participating dogs
The vast majority of dogs (93%) had been living in the household
since before the end of January 2020, with 267 dogs (5%) acquired
during February or March but before the official lockdown and 59
dogs (1%) had been acquired during the lockdown period after March
23rd. Twenty-six owners answered ‘Prefer not to say’ for when they
acquired their dog.
Gastrointestinal health
Gastrointestinal health can be an indicator of dietary change,
infectious disease or stress. As an overview of gastro-intestinal health,
owners were asked about any vomiting, and digestive problems (loose
or watery stools) noticed in their dog in February 2020 and in the past
7 days of lockdown. An 18% increase in vomiting at least once in the
past 7 days during lockdown (impacting 15% of dogs) was found as
compared to an average week in February (when just under 13% of
dogs were said to vomit at least weekly). There were no discernible
changes in the number of dogs with digestive problems, with 83-84%
of owners answering that their dog had no such problems both in
February 2020 and during the last 7 days of lockdown, and 15-16% of
owners saying their dog had digestive problems at least once a week
at each timepoint.
59
Dogs (1%)
were acquired
during lockdown
22%
Live with one
other dog
66%
Only dog in
household
5
dogstrust.org.uk
Dog owners
Owners’ bond with their dogs
Survey respondents reported having a strong attachment to their dog,
considering them to be a friend and part of their family (Figure 4).
Almost three-quarters (72%) agreed that dogs should have the same
rights and privileges as family members and only 9% saw their dog as
‘just a dog’. All respondents agreed that dogs have emotional needs
and that it was their responsibility to ensure these were met. Whilst
recognising that the survey participants might be more attached to
their dogs than the general UK dog-owning population (as evidenced
by their willingness to complete a 25-minute survey about their dog),
around two-thirds of people (65%) indicated that they would delay
hospital treatment to care for their dog, if needed.
“Almost two-thirds of people
would delay hospital treatment
to care for their dog, if needed”
Very few people reported that they were considering giving up their
dog; <0.5% of those who responded to this question indicated
they had considered giving away their dog either prior to or during
lockdown.
In terms of factors that may lead people to try to rehome their dog in
the future, rehoming was reported as a consideration by:
1 in 10 owners if they could not afford veterinary care,
1 in 17 owners if their dog had behavioural problems that they
struggled to manage, and
1 in 70 owners if their adult dog was toileting in the house.
Even under the conditions of lockdown and concerns associated with
the virus, only 1 in 72 owners reported that they would try to rehome
their dog if they believed they could catch COVID-19 from their dog
(Figure 4). However, several owners wrote that they were uncertain
about COVID-19 transmission and dogs, including an uncertainty
about both whether dogs can be infected with COVID-19 and whether
they can transmit the virus. Where owners did express concerns about
the risk of COVID-19 transmission from contact with their dog, they
sometimes mentioned the potential risk from other walkers who
stroked their dog.
Figure 4: Owner responses to 11 statements about dogs. The percentages to the left and right of the figure indicate the combined percent that disagreed
or strongly disagreed, and agreed or strongly agreed to each statement, respectively. The percent undecided is given along the centre line.
0%
0%
0%
2%
18%
14%
75%
86%
77%
93%
94%
100%
100%
100%
96%
72%
65%
10%
9%
5%
1%
1%
0%
0%
0%
2%
10%
21%
15%
5%
17%
5%
4%
6
Dogs Trust
Owners’ feelings about their dog during lockdown
Overall, 99% of owners indicated that they felt as close or closer to
their dog during lockdown (65% felt as close and 34% closer). The
vast majority of respondents (97%) reported that they were happy to
have the company of their dog during lockdown, and more than half
(56%) reported that they were more relaxed when they were with
their dog.
As well as the information obtained from specific survey questions,
owners were able to use free text boxes to describe their experiences
(both positive and negative) of having a dog during lockdown.
Examination of free text data revealed some owners describing how
important their dog was for their physical and mental wellbeing,
expressing the ‘support’ their dogs offered them, using terms such
as ‘relaxation’, ‘relief’, ‘stability’ and ‘keeping me sane’. Many owners
also reported that their dogs helped them to maintain a routine and
some sense of ‘normality’, and that their dogs gave them a purpose
and ‘reason to get out of bed’ or motivated them to ‘get up and
about’. Many owners mentioned how their dogs improved their mood,
describing their dogs as ‘funny’ and ‘entertaining’ and discussed how
they made them ‘laugh’ or ‘smile’. Some owners who were now
working from home, mentioned that their dogs helped them to stop
working and get outside.
More than 9 out of 10 of our survey respondents (92%) reported that
they were happy to be able to go for walks with their dog. Many owners
described enjoying long or longer walks with their dog(s) and some
were able to have more walks. Some owners noted that their increased
ability to walk their dog (more frequently or for longer periods) was
due to being able to work from home or not working. Owners also
mentioned being able to enjoy walks more ‘without feeling like it’s
a chore’ or not being ‘in a rush to get to work’. Generally, owners
seemed to have more flexibility and fewer time constraints. Some
owners discussed how walks became shared family experiences and
a motivation for children to go for a walk. For many, having a dog
provided owners with a reason or excuse to physically get out of their
house. Some felt less judged for being out with a dog or received
‘less suspicious looks’ when they had a dog with them. A few owners
mentioned that walks were longer as they now only had one walk a
day rather than their normal two or more, due to lockdown restrictions.
Some owners were happy that it was easier to avoid other dogs (17%)
and people (10%) while out with their dog, particularly those that
described their dogs as having pre-existing behaviour problem, such
as being reactive.
In contrast, others felt unease because their walking areas had
become busier; this was especially concerning for owners of dogs
with pre-existing behavioural issues who found it more difficult or
stressful to walk their dog during lockdown. Travel restrictions and a
lack of suitable local walks also contributed to less pleasant walking
experiences for some owners.
A few owners (6%) were worried about having to leave the house
to walk their dog and around a quarter of owners were worried that
their dog was not getting enough exercise (22%). Other owners noted
that they enjoyed seeing people during their dog walk. For some, this
was stated as being the only time they saw other people and they
enjoyed meeting other dog owners (while socially distancing). Around
a quarter of owners indicated that they were concerned that their dogs
were not able to meet other dogs (26%) or people (29%) outside the
house. Furthermore, lack of socialisation for their dog was a significant
concern for some owners, particularly those with puppies and those
with dogs who already had issues around other dogs and were unable
to continue developing their social skills by interacting with friendly
dogs. Reduced socialisation opportunities with other dogs and people
were the most common concerns, although a number of owners also
mentioned difficulties in providing their puppy with experiences such
as car travel and traffic. A set of questions relating specifically to puppy
socialisation was included within the survey and responses to these
questions are summarised elsewhere in this report (p18).
Some owners reported that walks had become less enjoyable due to the
behaviour of other dog walkers and expressed frustration with other
dog walkers who they believed had only started walking their dogs
during the lockdown. They believed that the ‘fair weather’ walkers and
‘new faces’ made their walks less pleasant. Particularly worrying was
other owners not keeping their dogs on a lead, with numerous reports
of respondents witnessing owners having to break social distancing
rules in order to retrieve their dog. An increased amount of dog fouling
was also noted.
9 out
of 10
people happy to be
able to go out for
walks with
their dog
7
dogstrust.org.uk
Over half of respondents (57%) were happy that they did not need
to leave their dog alone, and a third (33%) enjoyed having time to do
extra training, with almost one quarter (24%) happy with the progress
made with training. However, some owners were concerned that their
dog did not have enough to do in the house (15%), that they were
missing training classes (12%) or that things were ‘going wrong’ with
their dog’s training (5%). More than 1 in 20 owners (7%) reported
that they were worried about changes in their dog’s behaviour, as
exampled in the quotes highlighted below.
“Since I’ve been home, he has
been playing up when being
called in from the garden, he
just doesn’t listen, every time I
let him out I have to go up the
garden to get him in, he used
to be really good at recall.”
“She was due to be spayed,
but this was postponed due
to covid so she went through
her first heat cycle. She started
humping one of her beds. Now
she does this every evening
after eating her dinner. She
has also bitten the corner of
the couch, but this is when
she hears something outside
and gets agitated, and this is
happening less often now.”
Questions related to specific aspects of behaviour displayed by dogs
were included within the survey and are summarised on p12-15 of
this report.
With many respondents spending all their time during lockdown at
home, a major concern reported by owners was how their dog would
adjust when lockdown measures were eased, and household members
return to work and school. Many specifically cited concerns about the
potential development of separation anxiety. Only a very small minority
reported as free text that they were enforcing ‘alone time’ for their dog
in preparation for a return to ‘normal’.
Dog owners also had worries about the care of their dogs, including
access to veterinary care, should their dog need it (33%). Owners
of older dogs or dogs with pre-existing or terminal conditions were
particularly concerned. Some concerns were linked to the owner’s
shielding/vulnerable status and negotiating the practicalities of
accessing veterinary care, as well as worries about not being able to
accompany their dog into the veterinary practice. The inability to keep
up-to-date with vaccinations whilst veterinarians were not able to
offer non-emergency care was also a concern. Other worries noted
by owners included accessing enough food for their dog (11%),
while relatively few owners reported being worried about the cost of
keeping their dog (2%). Some owners had a general concern for the
welfare of other dogs. Most of these concerns were associated with a
risk of dog abandonment, either when people return to work and no
longer have the time to care for ‘iso-pups’ (puppies or dogs acquired
during lockdown), or during the pandemic as owners face financial
difficulties, become unwell or have fears about their dogs transmitting
the virus. Some were also worried about how ‘iso-pups’ will affect
the landscape of dog walking in the future, given the reduced
opportunities for socialisation during lockdown. Several respondents
noted concerns for dogs who may be at greater risk of cruelty and
neglect during lockdown.
8
Dogs Trust
Contingency planning
One-quarter (26%) of owners were concerned about what would
happen to their dog should something happen to them (i.e. the
owner) (Figure 5). This was reinforced by the free text responses, where
owners described their concerns about getting ill with COVID-19 and
being unable to care for their dog. Many respondents reported that
they could rely on someone else in their house to walk (36%) or care
for (40%) their dog, should this become necessary. However, others
had organised people outside their house to walk (17%) and care for
(20%) their dogs, should it be needed, and 9% and 7% of respondents,
respectively, had already had someone help in these ways.
N/A − [my dog] is too old/unwell
to need daily walks
No − [my dogs]'s behaviour means
this is difficult
No − no one is available
Probably − but I have not
organised this yet
Probably not − but I have not
tried to organise this yet
Someone else in the house can do
this
Yes − I have organised someone, in
case this is needed
Yes − someone else has done so
already
0 10 20 30 40
Percent
Walk Care
Figure 5: Contingency planning for walking and care of dogs during
lockdown, should the need arise.
A quarter of respondents thought someone outside their house could
probably help to walk (25%) and care for (26%) their dog but were
yet to organise this.
However, some people believed no one was available to help walk
or care for their dogs. For some, their dog’s behaviour meant they
believed others would find it difficult to walk (4%) or care for their dog
(1%), while 6% and 3%, respectively, felt that no one was available.
Some other people believed it was unlikely that anyone was available
to walk (4%) or care for (3%) their dog but had not tried to arrange
anything yet. In total, 13% of owners felt no-one was available or able
to walk their dog if needed, and 7% felt no-one was available or able
to look after their dog’s other care if needed.
9
dogstrust.org.uk
Management of dogs
Routine changes
Compared with pre-lockdown, 1 in 5 owners (20%) stated that their
dog’s routine had not altered at all, whereas the majority of owners
thought that their dog’s routine had changed a little (57%) or a lot
(23%).
Exercise
Choice of walk location
The choice of walk location based on the likelihood of meeting other
dogs (and therefore people) differed markedly between February and
during lockdown. Although just over half of owners (57%) chose their
walk location based on reasons other than the likelihood of meeting
other dogs, other owners were more likely to avoid walking in places
where there were likely to be other dogs during lockdown (Figure 6).
Avoid walking in places where there were
likely to be other dogs
Choose the walk based on reasons other than
the likelihood of meeting other dogs
Go to places with other dogs to allow [my
dog] to play
0 20 40
60
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 6: Criteria used to select dog walking locations before and during
lockdown.
Area
The area where dogs were usually walked during lockdown tended to
be less likely to be rural and had a greater tendency for other dogs to
be walked on lead, when compared with February (Figure 7).
N/A − not walked during this time *
Other dogs, but almost always on leads *
No dogs, or very rarely any dogs *
Busy, with lots of people about
Village or suburban, with some houses and
some open space
Urban, with lots of houses
Quiet, with few people about *
Rural, out in the countryside *
Other dogs, mostly off the lead *
0 20 40
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 7: Characteristics of areas dogs were walked in before and during
lockdown. Respondents could select more than one option. *indicates that
the difference was statistically significant (McNemar’s Chi Square test).
Areas are ranked according to relative change between time points, with
those at the top having the greatest decrease during lockdown and those
at the bottom the greatest relative increase during lockdown.
On/off lead walking
During lockdown, owners were more likely to walk their dogs on a
short lead or on a long/flexi-lead and less likely to walk their dogs off
lead (not to heel).
February: Lockdown:
Walked off lead
(not to heel):
43%
Walked off lead
(not to heel):
32%
Walked long lead:
28%
Walked long lead:
32%
Walked short lead:
20%
Walked short lead:
25%
Frequency of walking
During lockdown half of the dogs in the study (50%) were walked
once a day, 36% were walked twice a day and 12% were walked
three or more times a day. Compared to February, these data show
that there was a distinct reduction in the number of dogs walked 2-4
times a day, and a corresponding increase in dogs walked once a day
or not at all (see Figure 8, below). However, the increase in dogs not
walked at all still only impacted a small percentage of the population
with 3% not being walked during the last 7 days, compared with just
1% in February.
4+ per day
3 per day
2 per day
1 per day
Not walked
0 10 20 30 40 50
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 8: Frequency of dog walks before and during lockdown
10
Dogs Trust
Duration of walking
Despite a reduction in the number of walks for many dogs, the total
time spent on daily walks was broadly similar when compared to walk
time reported for February, with most dogs (79%) being walked for
between 30 minutes and 2 hours (Figure 9).
2+hrs per day
1−2hrs per day
30−60min per day
<30min per day
Not walked
0 10 20 30 40
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 9: Dog walk duration per day before and during lockdown
Meeting other dogs
Compared with February, dogs were much less likely to be allowed to
‘meet’ (sniff and/or play) with other dogs when out walking, regardless
of whether the owner’s dog was on/off the lead and whether the
other dog was familiar or unfamiliar (Figure 10). For example, if the
owner’s dog was on the lead when they met an unfamiliar dog, then
in February, 57% of dogs would have been allowed to meet the other
dog, compared with just 30% of dogs during lockdown.
February: Lockdown:
Allowed to meet
unfamiliar dog
(on lead):
57%
Allowed to meet
unfamiliar dog
(on lead):
30%
No dogs, if [my dog] was on the lead *
No dogs, if [my dog] was off the lead *
N/A − [my dog] was not walked off the lead *
N/A − [my dog] avoids other dogs *
N/A − [my dog] was not walked on the lead *
Familiar dogs, if [my dog] was off the lead *
Familiar dogs, if [my dog] was on the lead *
Unfamiliar dogs, if [my dog] was off the lead *
Unfamiliar dogs, if [my dog] was on the lead *
0 20 40 60
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 10: Dogs interactions with other dogs while on walks before and
during lockdown. *indicates that the difference was statistically significant
(McNemar’s Chi Square test). Interactions are ranked according to relative
change between time points, with those at the top having the greatest
decrease during lockdown and those at the bottom the greatest relative
increase during lockdown.
The number of non-household dogs that owners’ dogs had ‘met’ (been
in the same room, or within 2 metres if outside) in an average day
decreased markedly. In February, 9% of dogs met no non-household
dogs in an average day, which increased to 26% of dogs in an average
day during the previous 7 days of lockdown (Figure 11). Compared to
February, the majority of dogs spent currently much less (43%) or a
little less (16%) time socialising with dogs from outside the household.
6 or more dogs in total
3 to 5 dogs in total
1 or 2 dogs in total
None
0 10 20 30 40
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 11: The number of dogs met on an average day before and during
lockdown.
House rules
Owners reported little difference in the ‘house rules’ that were applied
to their dogs in February and during lockdown, relating to if the dog
was…
Allowed on sofas or chairs
Allowed on human beds
Given human table scraps
Given treats (e.g. dog treats, cheese or sausage)
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Time left alone (without human company)
As anticipated, the extent to which dogs were left alone greatly
decreased (Figure 12). The percentage of dogs that were not left
at home (for at least 5 minutes) on any day during a weekly period
increased substantially from 15% (before lockdown) to 58% (during
lockdown).
7 days
6 days
5 days
4 days
3 days
2 days
1 day
Not at all
0 20 40 60
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 12: Number of days per week that dogs were left alone before and
during lockdown
In February, 48% of dogs were left for three or more hours at a time,
whereas during lockdown only 5% of dogs were left alone for this
length of time (Figure 13).
February: Lockdown:
Not left alone
(for more than 5 mins)
during a week:
15%
Not left alone
(for more than 5 mins)
during a week:
58%
6 or more hours
3 or more hours but
less than 6 hours
1 or more hours but
less than 3 hours
20−59 minutes
5−19 minutes
Less than 5 minutes
Not at all
0 10 20 30 40 50
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 13: Longest periods that dogs were left alone without human
company before and during lockdown
12
Dogs Trust
Dog behaviour
Behaviour towards adults
Overall, dog owners reported significant increases in the prevalence
of behaviours directed towards adults in the household, which can be
perceived as undesirable, from before to during lockdown. In addition,
during lockdown fewer dogs were reported to show ‘none’ of the listed
behaviours. Behaviour directed towards adult household members
that increased the most during the lockdown period were those
associated with attention-seeking, such as vocalising or jumping up
when someone was busy, ‘clingy’ following behaviour and vocalising
when shut away from people. As shown in Figure 14, these behaviours
were also commonly seen in the population before lockdown.
Other behaviour, less common prior to lockdown, were also reported
to increase during lockdown. These behaviours are generally
associated with emotional states of fear or frustration and include
hiding/retreating when approached; grabbing at sleeves/trouser legs;
snapping or nipping during play; and barking, growling, snapping or
nipping when approached or handled. However, these behaviours
remained relatively rare amongst the population as a whole, as shown
in Figure 14.
Owners reported:
An 82% increase in dogs
whining or barking when
someone was working or busy
A 54% increase in hiding or
moving away when approached
And a 41% increase in
being ‘clingy’
Bitten someone
Stolen items belonging to
members of the household
Growled, snapped or nipped
around food (human or own)
Jumped up during a game or when
excited *
Barked when approached or
handled
Grabbed hold of sleeves or
trouser legs during play *
Growled, snapped or nipped when
approached or handled
Pulled away, cowered or
trembled when handled
Snapped or nipped during play *
Grabbed hold of sleeves or
trouser legs not during play *
Whined or barked if shut behind
a door or stairgate *
Jumped up when someone was
working or busy *
Been very clingy or followed
around the house *
Hidden or moved away when
approached *
Whined or barked when someone
was working or busy *
0 10 20 30 40 50
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 14: Percentage of owners who answered ‘Yes’ their dog displayed the described behaviour towards adults before lockdown (in February) and in the past 7
days during lockdown. 30% and 28% of respondents reported ‘None of the above’ applied to their dog before and during lockdown, respectively; this difference
was significant (p<0.05). *indicates that the difference was statistically significant (McNemar’s Chi Square test). Behaviours are ranked according to relative change
between time points, with those at the top having the greatest increase during lockdown and those at the bottom the greatest relative decrease during lockdown.
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Behaviour towards children
Dog owners reported a greater relative increase of problem behaviours
towards children during lockdown, compared to before lockdown, than
they did for behaviour towards adults (Figure 15). Three behaviours
showed a large, statistically significant increase in prevalence (see text
right), and two of these were associated with attention seeking or
separation related behaviour. Growling, snapping or nipping at children
when approached or handled was reported to increase by 57%, which
is a concern. However, it must be noted that the overall proportion of
dogs displaying these behaviours amongst the population remained very
low, despite the large relative increase when compared to pre-lockdown
levels. It should also be noted that the increase in prevalence of these
behaviour might be related, at least in part, to the increased time that
children were spending in the home (due to school closures), rather than
as a result in a change in the behaviour of the dogs. Further investigation
of this finding should be conducted before conclusions are drawn from
the results reported here.
As with behaviour towards adults, dogs also showed a large relative
increase in behaviours often associated with attention seeking and
excitement, with owners reporting a 46% increase in ‘clingy’ behaviour
towards children in the household and a 53% increase in vocalising
when the child/children were busy.
All behaviours towards children were reported to increase during
lockdown. However, the sample size of dogs living with children was
smaller and not all of these changes were considered statistically
significant*.
Owners reported:
A 53% increase in vocalising
when a child was busy
A 57% increase in growling,
snapping or nipping children
when approached or handled
And a 46% increase in dogs acting
‘clingy’ and following children
Bitten someone
Grabbed hold of sleeves or
trouser legs not during play
Jumped up during a game or when
excited *
Stolen items belonging to
members of the household
Grabbed hold of sleeves or
trouser legs during play
Hidden or moved away when
approached
Whined or barked if shut behind
a door or stairgate *
Jumped up when someone was
working or busy *
Snapped or nipped during play *
Been very clingy or followed
around the house *
Growled, snapped or nipped
around food (human or own)
Pulled away, cowered or
trembled when handled
Whined or barked when someone
was working or busy *
Growled, snapped or nipped when
approached or handled *
Barked when approached or
handled
0 10 20 30 40 50
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 15: Percentage of dogs that live with children (830 dogs) whose owners answered ‘Yes’ their dog displayed the described behaviour towards the child/
children pre-lockdown (in February) and in the past 7 days during lockdown. 61% and 60% of respondents reported ‘None of the above’ applied to their dog
before and during lockdown, respectively; this difference was not significant. *indicates that the difference was statistically significant (McNemar’s Chi Square
test). Behaviours are ranked according to relative change between time points, with those at the top having the greatest increase during lockdown.
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Dogs Trust
General observations
Owners were more likely to describe their dogs as ‘relaxed and settled
for most of the day’ during lockdown, and less likely to describe them
as ‘restless or agitated intermittently during the day’, as compared to
before lockdown.
Reactivity
Owners were asked to select under which contexts their dogs
were ‘reactive (e.g. barking, running about)’. Reactivity to everyday
occurrences outside (such as a postal worker coming or other dogs
barking) was high, reported by over 95% of owners before and during
lockdown (Figure 16). Overall, less than 1% of owners reported that
their dog was not reactive to any of the situations listed. During
lockdown, all forms of reactivity were reported to show a small but
statistically significant increase, with the exception of reacting to family
members being excited or noisy, which did not significantly change.
Family members are excited or noisy
He/she hears normal things outside (e.g.
the postman coming, other dogs barking) *
There are unusual or loud noises (e.g.
thunder, gunshots) *
He/she sees things outside (e.g. people
walking past, birds in the garden) *
0 25 50 75
100
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 16: Reactive behaviours displayed by dogs before and during
lockdown. In addition, 0.9% and 0.8% of respondents reported ‘None of
the above’ applied to their dog before and during lockdown, respectively;
this difference was not significant. *indicates that the difference was
statistically significant. Behaviours are ranked according to relative change
between time points, with those at the top having the greatest increase
during lockdown.
Attention seeking behaviour
When asked a specific question on how frequently their dogs sought
attention, there was a 20% increase in owners answering ‘frequently’
(from 39% to 47%), with a corresponding decrease in answers of
‘occasionally’ and ‘rarely’ (Figure 17).
“I do think [dog name] has become
more ‘needy’ during lockdown. But
that may be my imagination because
we’re all craving a little space.”
Frequently wants me to give him/her
attention
Occasionally wants me to give him/her
attention
Rarely wants me to give him/her attention
0 20 40
Pecent
Before lockdown Dur ing lockdown
Figure 17: Percentage of dogs who sought attention from owners before
and during lockdown.
Behaviour on walks
Owners reported a significant decrease in interest towards other people
or dogs when walked during lockdown as compared to February
(Figure 18). This could be due to dogs receiving extra social stimulation
in the home, fewer people and/or dogs encountered on walks, or due
to both people and dogs being further away during walks due to social
distancing requirements.
N/A − not walked during this time *
None of the above *
Pull towards other dogs on walks *
Pull towards people on walks *
Show interest when passing other dogs on
walks *
Show interest when passing people on walks *
0 20 40 60
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 18: Interest shown by dogs toward other dogs and people while
on walks before and during lockdown. *indicates that the difference was
statistically significant. Behaviours are ranked according to relative change
between time points, with those at the top having the greatest decrease
during lockdown and those at the bottom the greatest relative increase
during lockdown.
Separation-related behaviour
The percentage of dogs who were reported to have shown specific
behaviours that could be indicative of separation-related behaviour
when
about to be left
decreased significantly during lockdown (Figure 19).
Paced around, or turned in circles or chased
his/her tail *
Vocalised (barked / howled / pined /
whined / cried) *
Chewed or destroyed non−food items other
than toys *
Urinated and/or defecated inside the home *
Scratched / damaged around the door,
skirting boards, windows or entrance to the
house *
Scratched / damaged furniture *
0510 15
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 19: Separation-related behaviours displayed during periods when
dogs were about to be left alone, before and during lockdown. *indicates
that the difference was statistically significant. Behaviours are ranked
according to relative change between time points, with those at the top
having the greatest relative decrease during lockdown.
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Similarly, fewer owners reported behaviours that could be indicative of
separation-related behaviour during lockdown
when dogs were alone
(Figure 20).
Paced around, or turned in circles or chased
his/her tail *
Vocalised (barked / howled / pined /
whined / cried) *
Scratched / damaged around the door,
skirting boards, windows or entrance to the
house *
Urinated and/or defecated inside the home *
Chewed or destroyed non−food items other
than toys *
Scratched / damaged furniture *
0510 15
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 20: Separation-related behaviours displayed during periods when
dogs were alone before and during lockdown. *indicates that the difference
was statistically significant (McNemar’s Chi Square test). Behaviours are
ranked according to relative change between time points, with those at
the top having the greatest relative decrease during lockdown.
These findings may be related to dogs being left alone less often and
for shorter periods, and hence showing less anxiety before and during
periods left alone.
“The percentage of dogs
who showed separation-related
behaviour in anticipation of
being left decreased significantly
during lockdown, probably as
dogs were left less often and for
shorter periods by owners.”
16
Dogs Trust
Enrichment, games and training
There was an increase in the frequency with which people reported
that they, or someone in their household, had played with or done
some training with their dog during lockdown (Figure 21). This was
particularly evident for the category ‘more than once a day’, which
increased from 38% before lockdown to 48% during lockdown.
None
Less than once a week
Once or twice
3−4 times
5−6 times
Once a day
More than once a day
0 10 20 30 40
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 21: Frequency with which owners reported that they, or someone
in their household, had played with or trained their dog, before and
during lockdown.
When asked what games (with people) or training the dog had
participated in, some activities decreased during lockdown (agility
training; obedience training; tug of war games; fetch or retrieve
games; wrestling / rough and tumble type games) and others increased
(chasing games, trick training, searching or ‘find it’ games, scent work)
(Figure 22). However, most changes were small: the largest changes
relative to pre-lockdown levels were the percentage of dogs taking
part in agility training, which fell by 25%, and in owners doing scent
work with their dogs which increased by 6% during lockdown.
Scent work (asking [dog] to
find things using his/her
nose) *
Training to do tricks *
Searching or find−it games *
Chasing games (person chases
[dog] or [dog] chases the
person
Fetch or retrieve
Wrestling/rough and tumble
games
Tug−of−war or ragger *
Obedience training (e.g. sit/
stay/walking to heel) *
Agility training *
0 20 40 60
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 22: Enrichment, games and training undertaken before and
during lockdown. *indicates that the difference was statistically significant
(McNemar’s Chi Square test). Activities are ranked according to relative
change between time points, with those at the top having the greatest
decrease during lockdown and those at the bottom the greatest relative
increase during lockdown.
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Toys
Although more than half of owners gave their dogs toys to play with
more than once a day before and during lockdown, this behaviour
was significantly more common during lockdown (Chi Square test
for trend, p=0.03) (Figure 23). Approximately 6% of the population
weren’t given a toy to play with in either an average week before
lockdown or in the 7-days during lockdown.
Not given a toy
Less than once a week
Once or twice a week
3−4 times/week
5−6 times/week
Once a day
More than once a day
0 20 40
Percent
Before lockdown During lockdown
Figure 23: Frequency that owners gave their dogs toys to play with, before
and during lockdown
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Dogs Trust
Puppies: socialisation/habituation
176 owners responded that their dog was a puppy, 6 months of age
or younger. We asked these owners about their puppies’ experiences
during the previous 7-days of lockdown.
90% of puppies had been outside in public on the ground and 16%
had been outside in people’s arms during the previous 7 days of
lockdown (Figure 24). During the same time period, more than one
quarter of puppies had not met/heard the postman/woman, and only
32% of puppies had encountered livestock. Approximately one quarter
of puppies (28%) had not been in a moving car. Many puppies (61%)
had heard loud noises (such as bangs or fireworks), but one quarter
had not (and 12% of owners reported that they were not sure). Most
puppies (83%) had been near light traffic, but only 42% had been
near heavy traffic and the majority of puppies had encountered a
person riding a bicycle (79%) or jogging (79%). However, presumably
due to lockdown restrictions, only 4% of puppies had visited a house
other than the one they lived in, only one-third of puppies had met
someone who came to the door, and only 14% met someone who
came into their house. One experience that is likely to be a relatively
new phenomenon is that 42% of puppies had seen someone with
their face covered, or partially covered.
Figure 24: Experiences of puppies during lockdown. The percentages to the left and right of the figure indicate the combined percent of respondents that
indicated their puppy definitely did or did not encounter each experience, respectively. The percent undecided is given along the centre line.
84%
10%
24%
68%
31%
28%
26%
18%
51%
19%
19%
96%
86%
66%
19%
30%
5%
31%
42%
16%
90%
71%
32%
69%
72%
61%
82%
42%
79%
79%
4%
14%
34%
81%
70%
95%
53%
42%
0%
0%
5%
0%
0%
0%
12%
0%
7%
2%
2%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
16%
16%
Being out in public in my arms
Being out in public on the ground
Meeting/hearing the postman/woman
Encountering livestock
Being put in a stationary car or other vehicle
Travelling in a moving car or other vehicle
Hearing loud noises (e.g. bangs, fireworks etc.)
Being near light traffic (e.g. cars passing,
quiet road), except when inside a vehicle
Being near heavy traffic (e.g. trucks passing,
busy road), except when inside a vehicle
Encountering a person riding a bicycle
Encountering a person out jogging
Visiting other houses than the one he/she lives
in
Meeting someone who came into the house
Meeting someone who came to the door
Having a collar put on
Having a harness put on
Having a lead put on
Encountering a person in a
high−visibility/fluorescent jacket or backpack
Seeing someone with their face covered/partially
covered (e.g. motorcycle helmet or surgical mask)
100 50 0 50 100
Percentage
No Unsure Ye s
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Conclusions
Overall, the findings in this report describe someof the many and varied
ways in which dogs’ lives have been impacted by the initial UK COVID-19
lockdown (23rd March-12th May 2020) and highlights the strong bond
between dog and owner, and the role this bond has played for owners
during the pandemic. The findings can be used to inform strategies to
manage the welfare implications of COVID-19 lockdowns for dogs,
as well as for the health and well-being of dog owners themselves.
COVID-19 lockdowns are currently on-going at a local level (August
2020), and could continue over the coming months as efforts are made
to reduce transmission of the virus.
Lockdown restrictions led to changes in routine and management for
most dogs across the UK whose owners took part in this survey. This
typically manifested itself in household members (adults and children)
spending much more time at home, with dogs very suddenly not left
alone anymore, or left for much shorter periods than usual. Many dogs
were walked less frequently than usual, with 1 in 2 dogs walked just
once a day and a small proportion of dogs not walked at all. The type of
exercise dogs received also differed, with dogs less likely to be walked off
lead and less likely to be taken to places where they would be allowed to
play with other dogs, as owners tended to avoid walking in places where
there would be other dogs and people.
Approximately 6% of dogs weren’t given toys to play with both before
and during lockdown, but the percentage of dogs who were given toys
to play with multiple times a day increased slightly during lockdown.
This may be an artefact of owners being home with their dogs more, so
having more opportunity to play with their dogs, but the change was
small. There were small increases in the number of owners who played
searching or ‘find-it’ games with their dogs during lockdown, as well as
doing scent-work with their dogs, but other aspects of play and training
(such as agility work, basic obedience training, ‘tug-of-war’ play and
fetch) generally decreased slightly during lockdown. However, there was
an increase in how often people reported they played with or trained
their dogs during lockdown, particularly for owners answering, ‘More
than once a day’, which increased from 38% before lockdown to 48%
during lockdown.
Dog owners reported a number of changes in their dog’s behaviour
during the lockdown period. Unsurprisingly perhaps, with dogs not left
alone as much or for as long, the number of dogs reported to exhibit
separation-related behaviour decreased dramatically during lockdown.
Other large-scale changes included owners being much more likely to
describe their dogs as ‘clingy’ during lockdown, and large increases in
owners reporting their dogs showing attention-seeking behaviour and
increased vocalisation (whining or barking) when household members
were busy. These changes are thought to be linked to the increased
amount of time people were spending at home.
Owners also reported small increases in behaviours commonly considered
as problematic, such as jumping up on people when excited, snapping or
nipping during play and growling, snapping or nipping when handled by
children. Dogs were also reported to be significantly more likely to hide
or move away when approached during lockdown than in February.
However, it must be noted that the overall number of dogs displaying
these behaviours amongst the study population remained very low,
despite the large relative increase when compared to pre-lockdown
levels. Given the increase in time household members spent with their
dogs during lockdown, it is possible this increase in observed behaviour
was due to more opportunities to observe/interact with the dog.
Alternatively, it is possible that for some dogs, the extended presence
of their human household, combined perhaps with the reduced number
of trips outside of the household, led to increased frustration or stress.
Either way, it is reassuring that these behaviours remained low within
the overall population.
Some additional findings of relevance to the continuing pandemic
emerged from the questions around the dog-human bond. One of the
emerging themes across all such questions was the value dog owners
placed on their dog’s companionship during lockdown, with many
owners enjoying their time spent walking their dogs. One in three dog
owners reported feeling closer to their dogs during lockdown, and
almost all were happy to have their dog’s company at this time. More
than half of owners felt they were more relaxed when in their dog’s
company, and many mentioned how their dog improved their mood. A
small proportion of dog owners felt unease about walking their dogs,
as walks had become busier, particularly for owners of dogs with pre-
existing behavioural issues. Many owners were concerned about the
reduced opportunities to socialise their dogs, and some puppy owners
expressed difficulties in habituating their dogs around car travel and
traffic. One in twenty owners were worried about changes in their dog’s
behaviour, and many cited concerns about the potential development
of separation-anxiety. One in three dog owners were concerned about
access to veterinary care should their dog need it, particularly if their dog
was elderly or had pre-existing conditions.
Of relevance to human healthcare was the finding that almost two-
thirds of owners indicated that they would delay hospital treatment to
care for their dog, if needed. Potentially exacerbating this issue was the
finding that 13% and 7% of dog owners, respectively, indicated that
no-one was available (or able) to help walk or look after their dog’s
other needs if required. In some cases, this was because the dog had
behaviour issues that meant they couldn’t easily be walked or cared for
by other people.
Although the nationwide lockdown of Spring 2020 was (hopefully) a
one-time event, the findings described in this report have impacts for
managing the canine welfare implications of future lockdowns, many of
which are currently (August 2020) on-going at local or regional levels, as
well as for the health and well-being of dog owners themselves. Of most
concern moving forwards is the impact that any sudden increase in the
number of hours dogs are left alone may have in relation to separation-
related behaviour. For dog owners, there is the worry of potential delay
in seeking hospital treatment for COVID-19 if no-one is available or able
to help care for their dog(s). Another aspect of concern in relation to the
lockdown period is the future behaviour of puppies purchased during
lockdown, who will not have had the opportunities they usually would
for appropriate socialisation and habituation. The long-term impacts of
lockdown on canine behaviour and welfare will be investigated in follow-
up surveys completed over time, and using the data collected here to
help understand the role that owner management and experiences of
dogs has had during this time.
20
Dogs Trust
Future work
A more in depth analysis of data summarised within this report will
be conducted, and additional Phase 2 data (collected as lockdown
restrictions were variably changed in the UK nations, between 13th
May and 3rd July 2020) will be analysed and reported, together with
results from follow-up surveys of respondents to investigate long-term
changes stemming from the COVID-19 lockdown.
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Appendix
Methods
A cross-sectional study design was used to investigate factors
related to dog ownership during the UK lockdown phase of the
COVID-19 pandemic.
Data collection
Data were collected by a self-administered online survey created
using SmartSurveyTM software. The survey was piloted and refined as
necessary before the final version was created.6 Questions included
dog and owner demographic information, owner reports of dog
behaviour, management/environment of the dog and household data
relating to household composition. Many questions required owners
to describe the dog’s behaviour/management during the last seven
days (i.e. during the first phase of lockdown), and also during early/
mid-February 2020 (i.e. before social distancing measures had been
introduced/before owners started changing behaviour prior to official
lockdown).The majority of questions were optional.
Most questions required respondents to select one or more pre-defined
responses, sometimes with the option to add in free text ‘other’
responses if required. The survey was estimated to take approximately
25 minutes to complete.
Inclusion criteria
Study participants were required to be at least 18 years of age, to live
in the United Kingdom (UK) and to either currently own a dog, or to
have owned a dog when the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were
introduced on 23rd March 2020. 
Owners were instructed to complete the survey for the dog that had
joined the household most recently, and if more than one had joined
at the same time, then the dog whose name was first alphabetically. 
6 Preview version of the survey available at: smartsurvey.co.uk/s/preview/C19-survey/ECA9F252A67F27164BE9D3BD8523C9 - note that responses are not
collected when using this version.
Recruitment
The survey URL was live from 4th May 2020 and advertising of the survey
commenced on 5th May 2020. The survey was advertised through social
media including paid Facebook advertisements, a Dogs Trust e-newsletter,
New Scientist magazine, and emails to dog owners participating in the
Generation Pup study (generationpup.ac.uk) or the Dogs Trust Post
Adoption study. Participants in a previous survey administered by the
Dogs Trust research team who had consented to be contacted about
further research opportunities were also invited to participate.
Data presented here were collected between 4th and 12th May 2020,
after which Government guidelines around exercise limitations began
to be relaxed across the four nations of the UK.
Data analysis
Descriptive statistics (frequency and percentage) are reported, together
with the percentage change in frequency (where applicable) for
data reported for both pre-lockdown (early/mid-February 2020) and
lockdown (‘the last seven days’) periods. Most questions were optional,
and percentages presented are based on available responses. The
McNemar’s Chi square test was used to assess changes between data
reported before and during lockdown, with statistical significance set
at P<0.05.
Free-text comments were imported into NVivo (v.12) software. Analysis
began by open-coding the data, with codes applied to sentences, or
sometimes individual words, to denote their meaning. In the second
stage, these initial codes were combined and grouped into more general
categories. From this catalogue of codes, several general themes were
identified that help to understand dog ownership during lockdown.
Ethical review
The study was approved by the Dogs Trust Ethical Review Board
(ERB036).
22
Dogs Trust
Contacts
For enquires related to the research conducted for this study: research@dogstrust.org.uk
For press related enquiries: pressoffice@dogstrust.org.uk
This report was prepared by the Dogs Trust Research Team
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