Working from home sucks. It’s impossible to be truly productive, the coffee is never as good as what you’d get from a cafe, and you fritter away hours on Kafkaesque Zoom calls that are 50% looking up your boss’ nostrils while your internet’s slower than the check-out queue at Bunnings. I hate lockdown.
My dog is loving it, though. She’s around all her favourite people, she’s getting multiple walks a day, she can stay inside where it’s warm… The only upside of these crazy times is getting to spend time with my little princess (yeah she’s my princess, what of it??)
I’m not the only one discovering the joys of a furry coronavirus companion. Friends I’ve known for years who always swore they’d never get a pet are suddenly posting pictures of chocolate Labs all over social media.
It’s not just my friend circle, either. Kieran Watson from RSPCA NSW reports there’s been more than a 30% increase in pet adoptions since February.
“And that’s just completed adoptions,” Watson explains.
“The demand’s actually even greater than that, with a huge surge in adoption inquiries as well as demand for foster placements too.”
The RSPCA has also noted that pet surrender rates are down, meaning that there’s a net increase in pet ownership since the start of The Pandemic.
So why are people suddenly so obsessed with getting four-legged friends? Don’t get me wrong, I see the allure of a lockdown distraction – I bought a cheap Ford Probe with 300,000kms on the odometer to tool away on in the absence of going to the pub. But surely there are better ways to cope with the boredom than buying a Cavoodle?
It’s simple – this spike in dog ownership is not just a result of people being bored. The Black Dog Institute estimates that up to a third of Australians feel high levels of anxiety during any pandemic, and people with underlying mental health concerns are likely to be struggling even more right now. The companionship of a pet is a really obvious and effective stress relief if you’re having a tough time – especially dogs.
“Unlike cats, who seem like they’re often quite happy to see the backs of us, dogs offer unconditional love and support. Their tails are always wagging,” Watson relates.
Dogs are particularly good pets because they motivate you to exercise. Goldfish are fine, but having that physical outlet from walking or playing with your dog every day does wonders for your physical as well as your mental health.
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But getting a dog shouldn’t be a substitute for your social life. Yes, you’ve got the time right now to look after an animal, and yes, a dog can help your anxiety. But a puppy isn’t just for the pandemic… Dogs can relieve stress but can also be a source of stress, especially if you’re not used to caring for an animal. If you’re not physically, emotionally or financially ready to bring a dog into your life, don’t.
“All pets are long-term commitments,” Watson warns.
“We’re hoping not to see an increase in surrender rates once restrictions ease. Take the time during lockdown while everyone’s around to talk with all members of your household and decide whether getting a pet is the right thing for all of you.”
And if you’re going to get a dog, adopt. Find a nice Collie or Staffy or something. Just please don’t buy a Chihuahua.