People: Claire Brand, Rowena Packer, Dan O'Neill

Vet Compass Project Type: Dog

RVC Pandemic Puppies logo

What is the RVC Pandemic Puppies study?

In 2020 we launched the RVC Pandemic Puppies study to investigate how, why and by whom puppies were purchased during the COVID pandemic in the UK and compared this with puppies purchased in 2019. We also investigated the early life of Pandemic Puppies, including their health and behaviour.  

We are now extending this into longitudinal study of the original 2020 Pandemic Puppies cohort to follow their health, behaviour and welfare over time. In addition, aspects of the dog-owner bond along with COVID-19 impacts will be examined to better understand any potential relinquishment risks for these dogs. It is hoped that this study will inform canine welfare professionals to better support owners of Pandemic Puppies to minimise any deficits the dogs may have experienced in early life.

Pandemic Puppies: The Next Generation

In addition, we have now launched Pandemic Puppies: The Next Generation, a cross-sectional survey of owners who acquired puppies during 2021. This survey will remain open until 27 March 2022. For more information and to take part, please click here.

Who is co-ordinating this research?

Dr. Rowena Packer, Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare Science, and Dr. Dan O’Neill, RVC Associate Professor in Companion Animal Epidemiology are leading the project alongside Dr. Claire Brand, Dr. Zoe Belshaw, Dr. Camilla PegramDr. Fiona Dale and Dr Kim Stevens.

The Pandemic Puppy study outputs to date

We are delighted to share that…..

Two peer-reviewed papers*,** from this study have been published. These papers are in an ‘open access journal’ so that everyone sharing information on their dogs as well as the wider world can access them for free). This first paper explores the behaviour and motivations of owners who bought a puppy during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, whilst the second paper examines the impact of the pandemic on the early lives of puppies purchased during 2020.   

Please click here to see our infographic summarising some of the main findings from paper one and click here to see our infographic summarising some of the main findings from paper two. You can also read our first and second newsletters.

A copy of the two papers can be found via the links below.

*Packer, R. M. A., Brand, C. L., Belshaw, Z., Pegram, C. L., Stevens, K. B. and O’Neill, D. G. (2021) Pandemic Puppies: Characterising motivations and behaviours of UK owners who purchased puppies during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Animals. 11(9), 2500  

**Brand, C. L., O’Neill, D. G[BC1] ., Belshaw, Z., Pegram, C. L., Stevens, K. B. and Packer, R. M. A. (2022) Pandemic Puppies: Demographic characteristics, health and early life experiences of puppies acquired during the 2020 phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Animals. 12(5), 629

Who was eligible to participate in the first survey?

Dog owners who met ALL of the following four criteria:

  • Over 18 years of age.
  • Resident in the United Kingdom.
  • Bought a puppy of any breed or crossbreed home aged under 16 weeks during 2019 or 2020.
  • Purchased a puppy from a private seller (i.e., did not breed them themselves, paid for the puppy AND did not obtain them from a formal rescue organisation, as we are interested in the process of buying a puppy).

The eligibility criteria for Pandemic Puppies: The Next Generation remain the same, bar it only being open to owners who purchased a puppy during 2021.

How is the study being done?

We conducted an initial online survey with eligible dog owners (eligibility details below). The survey was open from 10 November to 31 December 2020. Owners of Pandemic Puppies who consented to take part in further research are now being contacted to fill in further surveys as their dogs reach 21, 24 and 27 months of age. In addition, we are recruiting owners of 2021 puppies to take part in the Pandemic Puppies: The Next Generation survey.

Why is this study being conducted?

There are concerns for the short- and longer-term welfare of puppies purchased during the early part of the Covid pandemic. We want to investigate a variety of factors in the puppy buying process and early lives of these puppies which may influence dog welfare. The information collected will help us provide support to owners regarding their dogs’ future welfare and will inform future educational messaging on how best to buy a puppy to promote dog welfare.

Our research is ongoing and we would still like your help.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the first survey in 2020 – we are delighted to report that we had 7545 responses. As mentioned above, we would now like to invite UK-based owners who purchased a puppy during 2021 to take part in and/or share our new study, Pandemic Puppies: The Next Generation, a cross-sectional survey of owners who acquired puppies during 2021. For more information and to take part, please click here.

RVC media coverage about Pandemic Puppies 

We had considerable coverage in the media about the survey and the initial findings including an interview on ITV news:

https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2021-10-15/experts-warn-of-pending-crisis-after-pandemic-puppy-purchases

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