Puppy Problems: How the COVID-19 pandemic affected pet adoption


Adorable puppy on a couch. Source: Rawpixel

Welcome To The Family Fido, reads the caption. You are scrolling through Facebook when another post comes up of your friend’s smiling family holding a little puppy. This is not the first pet-adoption post that you’ve seen this year, and it is definitely not the last either. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it seems as though everybody you know has rushed to the nearest pet store or an animal shelter in hopes of adopting a furry friend. But why now? You may be thinking. And you’re not the only one who’s been questioning this rather abrupt demand for pets. 

In fact, this increase in animal adoption during quarantine has been dubbed as the “Pandemic Pets Boom.” After months of being stuck at home, hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer, the idea of a loyal companion can seem very appealing. 

Since the COVID-19 lockdown, which began in March of 2020, around 13 million households throughout the USA (mine included) have adopted a furry friend, mainly for one important reason: to combat loneliness and boredom. 

Stella Kear’s Havanese Dog “Carlton”

It isn’t much of a shock that dogs have been an especially popular pet to adopt, even pre-pandemic. An article published by THE WEEK states, “They’re good company, and easy to love. Studies show that pets lower humans’ blood pressure and reduce feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Humans have lived with dogs for 40,000 years — a relationship that through breeding and natural selection has shaped dogs to be people pleasers. In the modern era, that bond has grown much more intimate, with people giving their dogs and cats clothes, Instagram accounts, and a spot on the bed.” 

They aren’t called “Man’s best friend” for nothing. From blockbuster movies including Daniel Petrie’s 1994 “Lassie” and Robert Stevenson’s 1957 “Old Yeller” to annual Dog Shows, we can see that Americans love dogs, and for obvious reasons. Not only can dogs help ease anxiety and stress, but also stay by your side during tough times. However, looks and personality aren’t the only aspects of having a dog.

Dogs are living animals that require extensive care and consistency throughout the course of their lives. Unfortunately, some individuals tend to overlook the important factors of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for their dogs. They can be thought of as more of an object than an actual living beings. Dogs need food, water, grooming, exercise, and training, which are the basics. But there is another extremely important thing that all dogs require in order to thrive. It also happens to be the basic human need, which many have lacked during quarantine: Socialization. 

Months of isolation and little to no outside time have created problems not just for humans, but for playful pets as well. Dogs must be desensitized to life in the outside world. Think about it: After spending months lounging around the house with only your doting owners, you are taken out one day and are suddenly faced with cars honking, people, unfamiliar noises, and other unsocialized pets. What would you do?

“Fearfulness often masquerades aggression, so even though it might seem like a reactive dog is in an aggressive attack-mode, it’s possible that the display is based in fear,” states an article published by PETMD.  “Under-socialized dogs often don’t have the coping skills to appropriately respond to stressful scenarios, so they react defensively in an effort to maintain a buffer from the “scary” stimulus, whether it’s a person, another dog, a bike or an umbrella.” However, lack of socialization is not the only root cause of bad behavior in dogs. 

They are bred to be loyal companions who stick by the sides of their expecting owners. For a species that is so close to humans, getting to be around them for hours every day was an amazing scenario. 

Unfortunately for those pets though, people have gradually been returning back to work, school, or even going out with friends. It can be confusing to these social animals when noticing how their once house-bound people are now leaving for the day. As a result of this, chaos. 

Incessant barking, destroying furniture, garbage raiding, and even accidents are only a few examples of misbehavior that has been common among many Covid canines. “Some people shouldn’t be adopting pets unless they are ready,” believes iSchool English teacher, Ms. Coughlin. “It’s a huge adjustment for the animal, to just be left alone. Pandemic pets probably agree with Ms. Coughlin on this one. An article published by Scientific American states, “A cadre of dogs have become accustomed to having their humans around 24/7. Many of these dogs have been or will soon be expected to deal with sudden extended periods of isolation. We can anticipate (and are already seeing) skyrocketing rates of behavioral problems in pet dogs.” 

Well, what can be done about this increasing behavioral issue? 

Many exhausted owners have been reaching out to trainers and specialists in the hope of getting this reckless behavior under control. While training has been an effective solution for a large number of families, it has also posed an issue for specialists around the nation. 

At Schuchat’s company, calls for training help with adolescent dogs are up an unprecedented 100 percent, she says,” states an article from the Washington Post by Kim Kavin. “Even with 65 classes a week being offered across six locations, there aren’t enough spots for all the dog owners who call needing help.”

Mr. Mulroy’s Dog “Spike”

It can seem overwhelming or intimidating to have an out-of-control pooch, but listen to our tips before you abandon all hope of adopting one. Many pandemic-caused behavioral issues such as separation anxiety and negative reactions to unfamiliar things can be helped. There is lots of information and tips available on how you can work with your dog to end these problems. Believe it or not, even just practicing commands with a treat your dog likes and repetition can really make an impact. But sometimes, the owners need some training on how they can help.

Some key things to keep in mind when working with a pup include patience – dogs can react to our emotions and act on them. For instance, frustration can make them reluctant to follow an order. So make an effort to hold your temper when your pooch doesn’t do exactly what you tell them too. Consistency – You have to put in the time and effort to help your dog. Keep a routine regarding when, how, what, and where you can work on the problem. Kindness – Dogs respond better to positive emotions and words. Be supportive of your pet and show them that they can trust you. Determination – Training isn’t always a walk in the park. Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned. But remember what your goals are and what you want to achieve with your dog. To really work on getting to a good place, be persistent. 

Unfortunately, while there is a good amount of owners who have worked to better their relationship with their pandemic pets, this problem has not gone away entirely. Now some pet owners have chosen a different route in solving their animal’s issues. And while (despite the separation anxiety) having a pandemic pet may have fun in the beginning, the time has passed and some of the results aren’t good. 

Pandemic pets are being abandoned and kicked to the curb simply because their owners jumped into a responsibility they can no longer handle. As people start to go back to work, school, and overall just their lives, this issue is increasing and awareness needs to be spread. According to Kim Kavan,  “Sweet pandemic puppies, deprived of the socialization and experiences they need to learn good behavior, have grown into unruly teenagers. Owners are calling for help, and obedience classes are filling up across the country. Trainers are worried that overwhelmed owners won’t stick with the necessary classes — and will turn over their dogs to shelters.” 

If you want to only look at pandemic pets alone rather than just animal abuse as a whole, think 

about the stress the animals go through. As people transition slowly back into their lives, it can be stressful for humans. We know that transitioning back in person and being in a new school was definitely hard for us, however, people don’t always look at how it affected the animals that were adopted as distractions. 

Maila’s Cats “Stella” and “Luna”

According to Monique Feyrecilde, “Separation distress, or separation anxiety, means the pet experiences a feeling of anxiety or even panic when they are separated from preferred people.” This becomes a problem and can harm the animals later on. “One prediction we can make though, is that as we return to work and life outside the home after this period of constant connection, our pets may be at risk for developing or displaying signs of separation distress.” These pets are dealing with some of the problems humans are and no one is taking that into account when adopting pandemic animals. When a human for example deals with anxiety during the pandemic or the feeling of fear when transitioning back to normal, animals are also experiencing this as well but it is more common to be overlooked.

Not only are these animals dealing with distress, but it will affect their behavior indefinitely. If a pet grows up around 3 people and then all of a sudden those people aren’t home 24/7 like they used to be, the animal is now only comfortable around these people. So when outside people start to come into the house, including friends, family, and other animals, the pet can become hostile around these people. 

According to Monique Feyrecidle, “Developing a routine that includes a plan for meeting the needs of companion animals on a daily basis is so important. Routines build predictability which helps life to feel more stable and less uncertain.” when their routine is disrupted, they can feel less safe in new situations. 

Regardless of the fact that this is unsafe for the animals, according to Judy Endo,  “Lifestyle changes: People losing their job, getting a divorce, having a new baby, or encountering difficulties with their health are also common reasons that dogs and cats end up in shelters. A person may become overwhelmed by a dog or cat when they have a new baby, or may be unable to attend to them if they are unhealthy themselves.” So anytime an animal is acting out, they have a higher chance of being abandoned and a lot of people don’t realize that it is also the owner’s responsibility to raise them in a safe and stable environment.

Teachers and students agree, and only a handful of students in the iSchool have even heard of pandemic pets. Teachers Ms. Coughlin and Mr. Mulroy shared their input on this matter. In fact, Mr. Mulroy has a pandemic puppy, himself! And although Mr. Mulroy was able to love his dog, he says “I barely hear about animal cruelty.” Unfortunately, not as many puppies are lucky enough to be wanted, not just to fill a void, or get rid of boredom, but to be a part of a family. Ms. Coughlin says, “I never hear about it unless it’s breaking news.” If not normalized the animals can’t get the help they need. And although 65% of the animals being abandoned are dogs, this is a worry for any household pet. 

I myself have a pandemic kitten, and in our family’s case, we were able to make this decision knowing that we could care for our cat even after the pandemic. This year as school began to be in person again and my parents were going back to work rather than just zooms, regardless of our love for our cat, it was still an adjustment. If one cat gets so attached to a family and despite still being taken care of has to go through an adjustment period like this, imagine the millions of animals that were just kicked to the curb when it got too difficult for their owners. The animals that are put down for no good reason, or the ones who have to sit alone in a shelter go from playing in a backyard to sitting in a cage. That’s why we want to spread awareness. For the animals that are not acknowledged. 

If you want to spread awareness yourself, start by ensuring that you are educated fully on the topic. Here are some facts that Aleksander Hrubenja

 Share with us that will help you know more about the issue. One big thing is that 10 million animals die due to abuse in the US alone. And it’s not much of a shock that 97% of all of the animals being abused and killed are farm animals. Although some might argue meat is a good source of protein, Animals Australia is telling us how scientists are proving that “clean meat” is a safer healthier alternative than eating meat, and causes less harm to animals. 

Animals Australia isn’t saying that you need to necessarily change your whole lifestyle, and it would be hypocritical for me to say so, but with a little bit of research, we strongly believe that the percentage of animals abused each year can and should decrease by a big amount. And if you can, do as much as you possibly can to put an end to it to the best of your ability. 

Although it’s sad, unfortunately, the abuse these animals are going through seems to be brushed off and almost normalized. It’s no surprise when you hear this news. Think about it, you wouldn’t adopt a child simply because you’re bored, so you should not think any differently about a household pet. Senior Kiran Aliah says, “It’s horrible, but not that surprising.”