Published: 27 Apr 2023 | Last Updated: 27 Apr 2023 13:18:53

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has launched a new study, ‘Pandemic Pals’, to explore how the ownership of dogs during the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the mental health and wellbeing of children. This study explores relationships between dogs and their owners – focussing on children’s unique experiences and challenges during the pandemic. It is hoped that this research will support organisations to provide better support for households with children and dogs across the UK.

Previously, the RVC’s ‘Pandemic Puppies’ research series looked at owners’ puppy-buying behaviours and the impact of the pandemic on dogs. This new study will examine the impact of these puppies on the mental wellbeing of families who currently have children aged between eight and 17 years living in their household.

This new research, funded by the Society of Companion Animal Studies, involves online surveys: - an adult-specific survey and (depending on the number of children within the house) a child-specific survey.

The research team, led by Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the RVC, is calling on more families to participate by the deadline of 9th May 2023.

Eligible families must be UK residents and have bought a dog of any breed or crossbreed aged under 16 weeks between 1st January 2019 to 31st and December 2021. Eligible dogs must have been bought from a private seller (as opposed to being rescue dogs). Dog owners must also be the parent/caregiver of a child/children aged between eight-17 years inclusive.

Dr Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science at the RVC, said:

“Over the past three years, the RVC Pandemic Puppies Research Programme has revealed a complex network of impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic upon both how and why puppies are acquired in the UK, and their early lives with their owners. Within this, the deeply recognisable human story of a desire to improve mental health via the companionship of dogs has endured, particularly for those households concerned by the impact of the Pandemic upon their children.

“With generous funding from the Society for Companion Animal Studies, we are excited to expand our body of work to explore the important relationships between children and dogs in households during the pandemic, including the highs and lows of these relationships, and whether expectations were met by reality. We strongly encourage households who acquired a puppy from January 2019 onwards to get involved in this vital study.”

Dr Claire Brand, Research Technician in Canine Welfare Science at the RVC, said:

"There is strong evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the mental health of children in the UK, as a result of social restrictions imposed during 2020 and 2021 to restrict the spread of the virus. Our previous research highlighted that many puppy acquisitions during this time were driven by the hope of this new family member supporting household mental health, including that of children, during this challenging period.

“We are motivated to understand if and how dogs, both newly acquired puppies during the pandemic, and those already living in the household during this time, impacted the wellbeing of children during the pandemic. “We invite anyone from the UK who brought home a puppy home under the age of 16 weeks between January 2019-December 2021 and who has children currently aged 8-17 years in their household to take part in this novel and important study.”

For those interested in participating, please visit

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About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.

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