Celebrating National Puppy Day - how our four-legged friends help us cope during 'ruff' times

The Kennel Club advises how owners can ‘paw it back’ and be their dog’s best friend

Three quarters (75 per cent) of dog owners spent more time with their puppy during the pandemic, research released ahead of National Puppy Day (23 March) has found, with 88 per cent agreeing that their new four-legged family member has helped them cope mentally and emotionally during the global crisis.

Data from The Kennel Club indicates that thousands of owners have been comforted by their puppy during Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns – with almost two in five (37 per cent) agreeing it was because they kept them active, and one in three (32 per cent) saying it was because their puppy provided a routine. 77 per cent agreed spending time with their puppy was the best thing about lockdown and over a third (37 per cent) said having a small, furry four-legged friend by their side kept loneliness at bay, and alleviated anxiety.

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club, said: “Dogs continue to be an important source of emotional support for their owners during the pandemic, reducing loneliness during lockdown and helping us cope mentally during the crisis. We’re celebrating puppy love, which includes their abundant energy, endless playfulness and even their cheeky habits, all of which have distracted from what’s going on in the world and brought comfort to many facing difficult times.

“It’s well-known that dogs are human’s best friend, but this National Puppy Day, we’re asking owners to ‘paw it back’ and be their dog’s best friend, making sure they are devotedly caring for them – just like they’ve been doing for us.”

To help new owners to be their dog’s best friend, and raise a healthy, happy puppy which will emerge from the pandemic confident and ready to explore the real world, The Kennel Club has released a three-step ‘paw it forward’ manifesto as part of its #BePuppywise campaign:
  1. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, many will be looking forward to returning to some normality, but this could mean a drastic change for a ‘pandemic puppy’ who is used to having you around. Be your dog’s best friend by:
    • Starting to prepare them for this now – practise leaving your dog alone in a cosy area where they feel secure while you’re still at home, and build up to longer periods and going out of the house, but very slowly. Create positive associations with your dog’s secure space through treats and toys
    • Recognising signs that your dog is distressed, such as whining, crying or barking, and pledging to always put their welfare first – seeking help from a dog trainer or behaviourist if you need to
    • Pledging to never leave your dog alone for more than four hours, much less for a puppy
  2. Due to the pandemic limiting opportunities for your dog to learn some life skills – including meeting other dogs, animals or people, as well as experiencing particular situations – you need make sure your pup is ready and confident to go out into the wide world. Be their best friend by:
    • Beginning and working on your training at home – taking baby steps – but giving your dog as many experiences as you can, including walking on a lead, coming back when called, and interacting and playing. This builds confidence and your relationship
    • Introducing more unusual sounds or situations by being creative – like playing animal or traffic sounds on your phone
    • Making sure your training and games are always fun and interesting. If your dog enjoys being with you, the rest of the world won't matter
  3. You might be one of many, but we all need to play our part as responsible dog owners. Be their best friend, and a good owner, by:
    • Understanding dog law and your responsibilities as an owner – such as cleaning up after your dog, exercising your dog and keeping your dog safe and healthy
    • Checking before you travel that anywhere from green spaces, beaches, beauty spots, or pubs, cafes and restaurants, are dog-friendly
    • Pledging to seek help from a vet, trainer or behaviouralist - like a Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme training club or a Kennel Club Accredited Instructor if your dog needs it
The Kennel Club’s resources to support puppies and their owners on their friendship journey, as well as tips on how to #BePuppywise during the pandemic and beyond, is available at on The Kennel Club website.