Buying lockdown dogs on a whim can lead to trouble, says RSPCA

The RSPCA’s dog welfare expert has warned that buying new dogs “on a whim” during lockdown could lead to preventable incidents with other animals.Dr Samantha Gaines was speaking after a dog attack caused the death of Freddie Mercury the Thames seal this week.

She said it has been difficult for new owners to train their new pets or expose them to the range of social and environment experiences necessary to ensure they grow up to be well rounded, happy and confident dogs.

“The pandemic and its various lockdown measures, has impacted on a lot of dog owners and especially those who bought puppies throughout the last year,” she said. “In a worst case scenario this can lead to dogs not receiving the proper training needed resulting in preventable incidents involving other animals.

“Sadly, we also know that as animals are so readily and easily available to buy online, it can be very easy for people to buy a new pet on a whim and that can mean that, within a few months, they quickly realise that they cannot cope with them,” she added.

Freddie the seal pup had to be put down this week after suffering severe wounds during a dog attack.
Cute rescue dogA well-trained rescue dog. As we come out of lockdown, new owners must expose their dogs slowly to new things, the RSPCA said. Photograph: Emily Bowden Photography
The 10-month-old seal pup was basking along the Thames towpath near Hammersmith Bridge on Sunday afternoon when he was attacked by a dog . Four people passing by, among them a vet, rushed over to over to try to prise the dog’s jaws off Freddie and pull the dog away.

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The seal was taken to the South Essex wildlife hospital in Tilbury where vets found that he had a broken bone, dislocation of a flipper and damage to joints, ligaments and nerves. The severity of his injuries meant that Freddie could not be saved and had to be put down.A witness, Duncan Phillips, described the attack, which he said lasted around two minutes, as “vicious”. “The dog just wasn’t letting go and it had its teeth in,” he said. “It was clamped on, which is the best way to describe it.”
Gaines said that as we come out of lockdown, it was “paramount” for new dog owners to slowly and carefully expose their dogs to new things.
Freddie the Thames seal put down by vets after dog attack

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“In some cases, there will be dogs that have had limited, if any, experience and training around other types of animals,” she said. “As we approach spring, dogs may increasingly encounter other animals and many will show an interest and, in some cases, their presence is enough to cause fear.”

Past research from the RSPCA in 2019 has shown that 24% of owners reported that their dogs chase livestock, wildlife and other animals. “Regardless of breed or type, or how confident you are in your dog’s recall, we strongly recommend that owners keep their dog on a lead when in areas where there is livestock and wildlife,” Gaines added.

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“We would also urge anyone who is concerned about their dog’s behaviour, whether this is general training or a problematic behaviour, to seek help,” she said. “More information can be found here.”