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Impact of the First COVID-19 Lockdown on Management of Pet Dogs in the UK
Article

More Attention than Usual”: A Thematic Analysis of Dog Ownership Experiences in the UK during the First COVID-19 Lockdown

Dogs Trust, London EC1V 7RQ, UK
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Animals 2021, 11(1), 240; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010240
Received: 18 November 2020 / Revised: 12 January 2021 / Accepted: 14 January 2021 / Published: 19 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of COVID-19 on Animal Management and Welfare)
On 23 March 2020, the UK Government introduced a nationwide lockdown as part of efforts to reduce the impact of COVID-19. Lockdown control measures led many dog owners to make changes to their daily routines. This study aimed to explore how the experience of dog ownership in the United Kingdom (UK) was impacted during this lockdown. Data for this research came from open-ended survey questions on the impact of COVID-19 on dog ownership, and electronic diary entries. Three key themes emerged from the data: spending time at home with dog(s), walking practices, and behaviour and training. Owners enjoyed spending more time than usual with their dog(s) but understood that spending increased time with them may lead to the dog(s) struggling in the future when left alone. However, very few owners gave their dog(s) “alone time” during the lockdown. Owners valued the opportunity to walk their dog(s) as part of their permitted daily exercise, but some felt that lockdown restrictions on exercise did not allow them to provide their dog(s) with sufficient exercise. They also worried that lockdown guidelines restricted opportunities for dogs to interact with other dogs. Additionally, some owners noticed new problematic behaviours in their dog(s). Using these findings, we make suggestions on how dog welfare organisations might help to best support dog welfare. These include supporting dog owners in teaching their dogs to cope with being alone, even if owners do not need to leave their dogs alone.
On 23 March 2020, the UK Government imposed a nationwide lockdown as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. This study aimed to explore how the experience of dog ownership in the UK was impacted during this lockdown. Data for this research came from open-ended survey questions and an electronic diary completed by members of the general public and participants involved in “Generation Pup”, an ongoing longitudinal cohort study of dogs. A total of 10,510 free-text entries were analysed. Three major themes emerged: spending time at home with dog(s), walking practices, and behaviour and training. Owners valued having more time than usual with their dog(s) but also recognised that spending extra time with their dog(s) may negatively impact on the dog’s future ability to cope when left alone. However, very few owners provided alone time for their dog(s) during the lockdown. The opportunity to walk their dog(s) as part of their permitted daily exercise was regarded positively, but walks under the lockdown guidelines were not always felt to be adequate with respect to providing sufficient exercise and opportunities for interaction with other dogs. Owners reported observing new undesirable behaviours in their dog(s) during the lockdown, including barking and dogs being “clingy” or vocalising when briefly left alone. Based on these findings, we suggest intervention strategies to best support dog welfare that include helping dog owners to teach dogs to cope with being alone, even if owners do not need to leave their dogs alone. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; companion animal; COVID-19; dogs; dog walking; pet owner; SARS-CoV-2; separation-related behaviour; qualitative research animal welfare; companion animal; COVID-19; dogs; dog walking; pet owner; SARS-CoV-2; separation-related behaviour; qualitative research
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MDPI and ACS Style

Holland, K.E.; Owczarczak-Garstecka, S.C.; Anderson, K.L.; Casey, R.A.; Christley, R.M.; Harris, L.; McMillan, K.M.; Mead, R.; Murray, J.K.; Samet, L.; Upjohn, M.M. “More Attention than Usual”: A Thematic Analysis of Dog Ownership Experiences in the UK during the First COVID-19 Lockdown. Animals 2021, 11, 240. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010240

AMA Style

Holland KE, Owczarczak-Garstecka SC, Anderson KL, Casey RA, Christley RM, Harris L, McMillan KM, Mead R, Murray JK, Samet L, Upjohn MM. “More Attention than Usual”: A Thematic Analysis of Dog Ownership Experiences in the UK during the First COVID-19 Lockdown. Animals. 2021; 11(1):240. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010240

Chicago/Turabian Style

Holland, Katrina E., Sara C. Owczarczak-Garstecka, Katharine L. Anderson, Rachel A. Casey, Robert M. Christley, Lauren Harris, Kirsten M. McMillan, Rebecca Mead, Jane K. Murray, Lauren Samet, and Melissa M. Upjohn 2021. "“More Attention than Usual”: A Thematic Analysis of Dog Ownership Experiences in the UK during the First COVID-19 Lockdown" Animals 11, no. 1: 240. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010240

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