It’s been a difficult year for many people with social, work, and travel restrictions. Pets (as always) have helped us cope with our emotions and especially so during lockdowns around the world due to the pandemic and COVID-19.
While undoubtedly a tough year for us, has it also been a tough year for pets?
Overall, people appear to have received benefits from having a pet at home during the pandemic. In part, this may be due to dogs being a catalyst to get out of the house and (safely) interact with other people. Loneliness and social isolation being some of the most impactful negative influences on human emotions and wellbeing.
How are dogs coping?
Studies suggest that the pandemic has affected pets. Behavioural changes – notably, increased barking and vocalisations are most often reported from survey responders. Researchers are also considering the long term effects on pets. Especially regarding mood, adverse health changes not picked up due to fewer veterinary checks and other more significant behavioural issues.
The increased time spent together between human and pet helps keep each other happier and relaxed. Unanswered questions remain about what this means when people go back to work. Anxiety around separation and clinginess may increase at that time. Current pandemic habits may be setting up for future problems.
As the pandemic is still far from over, no one really knows yet what the long term effects will be. This is an ongoing area of interest for researchers.
The Australian experience of lockdown and dogs
In Australia, even during the lockdown, it was generally still ok to enjoy outside exercise. Households with dogs were thankfully able to use this time to keep up exercise for their dog and themselves.
There have been fears of relinquishment of dogs due to an inability to provide care or to cover financial costs. So far, this doesn’t appear to be widespread thankfully. Perhaps the economic stimulus packages provided in Australia have helped delay or prevent this for now.
As around the world, Australia saw reports of people rushing out to buy pets. A healthy concern exists that hopefully, people haven’t rushed into this decision. Bringing a dog into your home should be well-thought-out action and a lifelong commitment.
Links to further reading and references of studies are thoughtfully provided over at Companion Animal Psychology as the original inspiration for this summary update.
I hope your family and pets remain safe during these difficult times.