How lockdown puppies led to the rise of doggy day care - BBC News

By Amy Woodfield BBC News, East Midlands

Peachimage sourceAliss Bonython

image captionPeach's time in day care has proved "invaluable", Aliss said

A rise in puppy-purchasing during the pandemic has led to a leap in demand for providers of doggy day care, as owners return to work or seek ways for their pets to make new pals. BBC News meets the canine customers - and their owners.

Aliss Bonython and her fiancé Brandon had been talking about getting a puppy for quite some time.

The outbreak of the pandemic, however, inspired the pair to make their dream a reality.

Aliss, a social media marketing specialist from Nottingham, was planning to move in with Brandon in Nashville, Tennessee, next year, but she needed some company in the meanwhile.

"[We] were both thinking - maybe get [a dog] now and bring her over with you?" "[We] had this] time apart from each other and being in a house alone, so maybe get [a dog] now and bring her over with you?" she stated

She began looking for a puppy in January and "fell in love" with a cockapoo named Peach in February.

Despite the fact that Aliss works from home, she chose to enlist the help of a dog day care agency to assist her in caring for Peach.

"However, there wasn't much available," she explained.

"In my experience, a lot of individuals have decided to get pups in the last two years, possibly because we were spending so much time at home."

She eventually discovered a service in Nottingham, which she described as "invaluable."

"When I'm extremely busy or have a lot of filming to do - or if I'm out of Nottingham for the day," she explained, "[Peach] goes to day care and she simply gets attention and affection 24/7."

"Some days I just have so much on and I don't want her to miss out on having a nice big walk or having enrichment."

Lisa Cobley-Wood and George

image captionLisa Cobley-Wood said the pandemic was the right time for her to get George the French bulldog

Aliss is one of many pet owners looking for assistance in caring for their new best pals.

Last summer, Lisa Cobley-Wood and her husband got their new puppy George while they were both working from home.

"We've always wanted a dog," she continued, "and we've always wanted a French bulldog."

"We decided it was the right time during lockdown.

"Our lifestyle had changed; we weren't taking as many holidays as we used to, and we weren't doing as many cruises as we used to, so it worked for us."


image captionGeorge goes to day care while his owner Lisa goes to work

To begin with she was with George all day, every day, but, after becoming concerned about his lack of social time she booked him into The Paddocks Daycare, in South Leicestershire.

She said she has now come to depend on the service since she returned to the office.

"It leaves me time to go to work," she said.

Camilla Smith

image captionCamilla Smith has a waiting list for The Paddocks Daycare

Camilla Smith, who owns The Paddocks Daycare, said many of her customers are in similar situations.

Since the pandemic, she said she has been overwhelmed with demand.

"We're really busy. We're fully booked every day and we've got waiting lists for most days," she said.

"Pre-pandemic we were busy, but it was sort of a slow, gradual process from opening.

"Since coming back, we're stacked. We've had to open additional days to accommodate everybody."


image captionDogs have supervised play with other canines

Many canine care services run along similar lines.

Dogs can run around together, climb through play equipment and chase after balls under the supervision of staff.

There are also "chill out" areas with sofas for some down time.

In hot weather, there are paddling pools to cool the dogs down and Mrs Smith has even bought in a trampoline for dogs to play on.

Dogs at day care

image captionDay care services say they help isolated animals to socialise

The Paddocks is far from the only service experiencing high demand.

Another Leicestershire provider - Dogtastic Daycare - was set up by Adele Moore in October, initially to support key workers.

Since then, she has welcomed lots of lockdown puppies.

"The demand for services is growing as everyone goes back to work," she said.

"For the first time we currently have short waiting list for new doggies coming to day care."

Kerri Nash, who runs Poochies Daycare and Boarding in Nottingham, added: "I have always had waiting lists but nothing like I have now."

A total of 3.2 million households in the UK acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, research by the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association released in March suggested.


image captionMany lockdown puppies did not get a chance to socialise, charities say

Dog ownership was believed by the animal charity The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) to be at an all-time high in the UK in 2020, with 10.1 million dogs in the UK, although that has dropped to 9.6 million.

The charity has raised concerns about behavioural problems that are impacting the welfare of pets "many of which may be associated with a lack of socialisation and positive life experience".

Other animal charities, such as the RSPCA, expressed concern about the effects on pets of being left alone as people return to work.

Mrs Smith said day care isn't just about giving owners a guilt-free day at the office but it can give dogs important social skills.

"A lot of the lockdown puppies that we've got unfortunately just haven't had the time to socialise," she said.

"People are finding that they've maybe got various issues.

"We've had so many dogs that have changed since coming to us."

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