Aftermath of the Pandemic Puppy trend presents troubles to many families, dogs, and animal shelters

Sharon Olkovsky, Features Editor

Over the past two years, as many remained home in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults and families felt it was an ideal time to seek an addition to the family. The Pandemic Puppy phenomenon occurred, in which the national average of dogs being adopted increased significantly due to many being in lockdown.

Since so many adults were stuck at home during the peak of the pandemic, working or not working, they had extra time and energy to put towards adopting and raising a dog. In fact, a recent poll showed that about 10 percent of adults in the United States have adopted a new pet in the last year and a half, according to a poll by the University of Michigan. Now, though, many are returning to in-person jobs and school, a number of dogs that were adopted during the pandemic are being neglected. Many of these dogs are experiencing severe separation anxiety, or, in extreme cases, being given away or taken to shelters. Animal shelters across the country are now facing issues of over-population and a lack of space, staff, and resources.

“Recovering from the pandemic is impacting animal shelters, as well. It’s impacting animal shelters in terms of their staffing and volunteer support, which – they’re heavily reliant on volunteers,” director of the Madison’s Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University Elizabeth Berliner said. 

The generation of young dogs that were born and adopted throughout the pandemic had very different experiences than those adopted prior to COVID-19. Having their owners home most of the time, many pandemic puppies were never forced to be house trained, as they were able to let their owners know they needed to go outside to use the bathroom during almost any hour of the day. Now that many owners are working full time from home or going on-site to work full eight hour work days, these dogs are not used to having to wait until their owner comes home and can take them outside.Overall, owners are now feeling the pressure of having to train a young dog.

Another aspect that proved to be very different for pandemic puppies, was being used to their owner’s presence. Now that many owners are at home less, whether it be for work or running errands since stores have been re-opening, these puppies display increased signs of separation anxiety when they are left at home alone or taken to dog daycares during the day.

“Separation anxiety in animals isn’t a made-up thing. It’s very real, especially for those that were adopted during the thick of the pandemic. The abrupt change in the owner’s schedule can trigger stress and anxiety because it’s a new thing that the animal now has to deal with,” animal behavioral therapy specialist Jill Goldman said.

The adoption of a dog served an array of benefits to adults and families during quarantine. Having an extra companion to pet, play with, and take care of proved to be a mental health booster for many that were struggling with the isolation of being in lockdown and the stress that came with it. Additionally, having a dog at home promoted physical activity among owners, many of whom needed a new source of activity as gyms were closed and the majority of working adults were no longer working on-site anymore at offices, schools, etc. 

“I got my dog in June of 2020, this was around the time when my parents realized that we are going to have much more freetime and that we were ready, especially since my mom’s job had conveniently switched to being fully remote. At first, during the beginning of the pandemic, [my dog] Rocco always wanted to be around us, so we had to focus time for him to learn how to be by himself. As things began to reopen, we started leaving him alone and Rocco began to adjust to staying at home for longer times and now he is fully trained to be able to take care of himself for around six hours,” junior Anita George said.

Properly transitioning into the current stage of the pandemic is something that should be taken seriously and considerately by new pet owners. Adopting a dog is a commitment that should not be taken lightly, and all new owners are encouraged to do what they can to ensure that their dogs will be taken care of and happy as changes are made to routines and lifestyles.