Lessons for lockdown puppies

When do you start training a puppy? Where’s the best place to go for puppy training classes? How do you go about socialising a puppy during lockdown? When it comes to helping out the UK’s growing band of new puppy owners, canine charities are coming to the rescue…
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16th October 2020

When do you start training a puppy? Where’s the best place to go for puppy training classes? How do you go about socialising a puppy during lockdown? When it comes to helping out the UK’s growing band of new puppy owners, canine charities are coming to the rescue...

Lockdown resulted in a dramatic rise in pet purchases, with puppies being the number one choice. Now, these growing young dogs and their owners are in need of some expert support. 

“With millions working from home or furloughed from their jobs, many have clearly considered the numerous benefits of pet ownership,” says Nicole Paley, Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) Deputy Chief Executive. “Now, more than ever, we know that the companionship and joy pets can bring to people’s lives shouldn’t be under-estimated. However, we’re keen to highlight the long-term responsibilities of bringing a pet into your life.”

Tracking the recent surge in pet ownership

  • 35% of young adults (age 24-35) have become new pet owners or are planning to add a pet to their families

  • 2.1million (19%) collected a new pet in lockdown

  • 1.8million (16%) are planning to add a pet to their household

  • Dogs are the most popular pet (57%)

  • Cats are a close second (38%)

  • Small furries come in third place (8%)

Source: PFMA’s Covid-19 Pet Survey

Training problems

Leading animal charity Battersea recently surveyed 2,000 dog and cat owners, including many who got a new pet during lockdown. Of those new pet owners, almost half said they ‘sometimes regret’ their decision – with 73% of them saying their misgivings were due to training problems.

Training and dog behaviour is an issue that’s also been identified by Dogs Trust, which has found that more than a quarter of owners (26%) say their dog has developed at least one new problem behaviour during lockdown. The charity’s research discovered:

  • 82% increase in reports of dogs whining or barking when a household member was busy
  • 20% increase in reports of dogs frequently seeking attention from their owner 
  • 54% rise in the number of people saying their dog has hidden or moved away when approached
  • 41% increase in reports of dogs being clingy or following people around the house during lockdown

With various restrictions in place during lockdown, it has been difficult for owners to ensure that their puppy gets the same start in life as their pre-pandemic peers. Face-to-face classes have been far less frequent and social distancing has made socialising with other dogs far trickier.

To help out new owners and their pets, Battersea has launched a new virtual training programme, especially designed for lockdown puppies to ensure this new generation isn’t missing out on vital socialisation and skills.

Classes for complete beginners

Battersea’s Canine Behaviour and Training Manager, Nathalie Ingham, says: “Thousands of people across the UK have welcomed new puppies during lockdown and we want them to know Battersea is here to support them. Training virtually is a great option for many people as lockdown continues. Our classes are designed for complete beginners and we’ll go at the pace of each individual dog so every pup gets the most from their training.”

The Puppy Programme is a six-week course of weekly classes held by Battersea’s trainers over Zoom. Topics include basics such as learning to come when called, to settle, and to walk on a lead sensibly. There’s a limit of five puppies per class to ensure the trainer can focus on the needs of each dog and all dogs should be aged five months or under, as this is a foundation level programme.

Nathalie adds: “One of the great things about training virtually is that anyone can take part no matter where in the world they are. We’re encouraging everyone living with their puppy to join in with the training, including children. It’s such a great way to bond with your dog and hopefully a fun group activity, not just during our classes, but for the weeks and months ahead when you can continue teaching your dog new tricks and skills.”

  • The next available courses are scheduled to start on 26 October and 10 November, with both a morning and afternoon class on each day. Classes are limited to five puppies per session and spaces are expected to book up fast.
  • Any owners considering taking part in the programme can find out more, book a place or register their interest for future classes on the Battersea website.

Battersea is keen to stress that it continues to help dogs of all ages, so, if you have any questions regarding your dog’s behaviour, call Battersea’s dedicated pet behaviour advice line on 0203 887 8347 or visit the pet advice section of Battersea’s website for lots of tips and techniques.

Early warning signs

Dogs Trust also has a wealth of resources available. Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust, says: "These are challenging times as millions of us across the country have had our daily lives turned upside down. Whilst some dogs have been happy to have their human family at home more, others have been stressed by reduced exercise, inability to find a quiet place to rest or no contact with other dogs. Our research shows some early warning signs that lockdown is having a negative impact on some dogs’ behaviour. A big worry for us is what the long-term impact of lockdown will have on dogs’ ability to cope when left home alone. Dogs that had separation anxiety before the lockdown are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work – but we also expect to see new cases developing, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learnt to expect company all day.”

For information on how to prevent and mange problem behaviours, visit Dogs Trust Change the Tale. You can also find lots of advice and training videos through Dogs Trust YouTube Channel. 


ALWAYS seek help for behavioural problems from your vet who will be able to offer practical tips and, if required, refer you to a qualified pet behaviourist.

NEVER look for ‘quick fix’ solutions such as anti-bark collars or punishing a dog. These approaches will exacerbate the problem and result in more serious and more difficult to treat problems in the long run.

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