You might say that every man and his dog wanted a puppy during lockdown. According to The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Google searches for ‘buy a puppy’ increased by an incredible 120% during the first month of lockdown. Gothleed Labrador Retrievers, a breeder in Studham, confirms this interest, which, according to their spokesman, was ‘huge and unprecedented.’ ‘We breed a litter and then advertise it, but after March, we have been receiving 5 calls and emails a day, even if there is no litter available.’ Why the sudden desire for a furry, four-legged friend?

It is easy to imagine lonely people struggling with isolation in lockdown trawling the Internet for a puppy. According to The Office for National Statistics, depression rates nearly doubled in Britain over lockdown. People, especially those living alone, were isolated from their social circle. As noted on the Psychology Today website, loneliness can be very detrimental to health, both physically and mentally. It increases cortisol – our stress hormone – as well as the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and results in low self-esteem, a prevalent cause of depression. To someone suffering from loneliness, a puppy perhaps felt like the perfect solution. After all, a puppy desires company and affection all day, every day, and provides unlimited adoration.

Families with younger children especially struggled during lockdown. Younger children, who do not have personal devices or social media, were unable to communicate with their friends. Parents preoccupied with keeping their children entertained, struggled to get work done. Was a dog the answer? Well, the numbers certainly suggest so. Some parents may have hoped a puppy would keep their children entertained, as well as teach them responsibility.

Lockdown made life a lot less busy for people. The regular day-to-day activities such as going to work, running errands and ferrying children to school were all suddenly halted. Every child whose parents told them their family was ‘too busy for a dog’ likely had a brilliant argument as to why lockdown was the perfect time for a puppy purchase. With the sudden surge in free time, families had more time on their hands to invest in looking for the right dog and training a puppy. As Roshelle Gomes, parent of two children, 12 and 10 says, ‘before lockdown, my day was dominated with work and taking my daughters to activities. They both sing and dance a lot, so we had little free time during the week. With lockdown and no extra commitments, we suddenly had a freer schedule – enough time to train a puppy.’

But will all these dog owners keep their new pets? According to Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, there was an 84% increase between May and July in callers saying they want to hand over their dog. Does this mean that 2020 will see more dogs returned than rehomed?  Let's hope it was not just puppy love that fueled the dog craze.