Sales of dogs have gone through the roof during lockdown with many owners buying on impulse with little or no research. The demand for “off the shelf” dogs means that most are inevitably bred illegally and with little or no regard to welfare.
The Royal Veterinary College are undertaking a study into “pandemic puppies”.
If you purchased a puppy in 2019 or 2020, please help the RVC researchers by completing their survey and help them to improve canine welfare.
What we now designate as the territories of China are one of the areas where dogs self-evolved at least 15,000 years ago giving the world Asiastic dogs such as the Chow Chow and Shar Pei. The Chinese are not the only people in the word to take a utilitarian approach to dogs and they have served as many purposes in China over millennia as they have elsewhere – including being a source of food.
However, China has been undergoing rapid social change in recent decades with a wealthier population that is far more open to influence from the rest of the world than ever before.
This has had an effect on companion dog ownership as in all other areas of life, but the attitudes of the authorities have not caught up with the desire for many Chinese dog owners to see their dogs as family members. As in the rest of the world, dog ownership is big business; one indication of changing attitudes to dogs.
Bejing mandated that keeping dogs as companions was forbidden as recently as the 1980s and the effects of the horrific Cultural Revolution meant that keeping animals as companions was regarded as unacceptably bourgeois. All this is changing and, although just 5.7% of households owned a dog in 2019 (10% of the comparable number in the USA), the number is rising and it amounts to approximately 1.36 million dogs. China is also responsible for 20% of the world’s feral dog population.
Tensions between authorities and owners are still evident and, although some areas are bringing in welfare regulations and compulsory microchipping, Yunnan province, notorious for its new annual dog meat festival, mandated on November 13th that dogs must be kept indoors at all times in order to “promote civilised dog-raising habits”. Shanghai, Qingdao and Chengdu have strict one-dog per household policies and Huangshi bans the breeding of dogs larger than 17″ high – that’s about the height of a terrier.
Dog owners, many young, single and female, are not taking this lying down in spite of the fact that the mandate states that, after fining the owner for two violations, dogs will be seized and euthanised if the rules are violated three times. Social media has helped to promote the backlash so let us hope that the emphasis will be on education and responsible dog ownership rather than on causing greater welfare problems and death for dogs.
From the next US leader’s dog to the current leader’s dog in Turkmenistan. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov unveiled a 19ft statue of a Central Asia Shepherd dog (Среднеазиатская овчарка; Алабай) the Alabai in the capital Ashgabat this week.
Much-derided for being kitsch and for the cost when much of the country lives in poverty, it nevertheless celebrates a national treasure, the base of the statue including an LED display recounting the history of the breed.
The Alabai is a local variant of similar livestock-guarding dogs of the central Asian steppes and is characterised by extremely flexible joints, false ribs and a powerful neck, the head set at a noticeable angle and possessing large flews. Turkmenistan is also home of the glorious Akhal-Teke horse – a lily that is already gilded. The horse’s coat has a golden, metallic sheen to which no statue could do justice.
Even Richard Nixon had a dog.
More than half the population of the USA has a dog and dogs have even united (albeit briefly), Democrats and Republicans when a loose dog was rescued from traffic by placard-waving demonstrators. “See?” one woman said as she walked from the scene. “All of America doesn’t hate each other.”
Well maybe not, but it took a little, scared dog to provoke the unity.
October 31st marks the start of Gundog Theft Awareness Week 2020. According to the Countryside Alliance, 3,500 dogs were reported as stolen during the shooting season in 2014, but it is not just a problem for working dog owners.
Some 50,000 dogs are reported to insurance companies as being lost every year and half of those reported as being stolen are gun dogs. Insurers Direct Line report that cocker spaniel thefts rose by 93% and crossbreed thefts by 42% in 2019.
The DogLost charity found that there has been a 65% increase in dog thefts during lockdown when compared to the same period last year.
Only 22% of dogs reported as stolen in 2019 were returned to their owners. There is no obligation on any authority to scan dogs, and dogs sold online and via fake “rescues” could be stolen, often to order to accommodate the latest fads and the massive demand for dogs. Fewer than 5% of cases of dog theft result in a conviction. Dogs are being stolen from kennels, gardens, cars, when left tied up in public and when they are out of sight of handlers in parks.
Don’t add to the statistics. Never leave your dog unattended when outdoors, secure kennels and add security measures such as CCTV and alarms and use a long line while you are training reliable recall.
Humans have enlisted the help of dog’s scenting ability in conservation for many years and now, a spaniel in the six counties of northern Ireland is searching for red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). In spite of their name, native red squirrels are no longer common in the UK, having been ousted by the American grey (Sciurus carolinensis) which was introduced as an exotic in the 19thC. Grey squirrels are not affected by the squirrelpox virus that is fatal to the red squirrel and they also outcompete the red squirrels for food, having a broader palate.
Rufus locates squirrels so that they can be examined for signs of pox, enabling the disease to be tracked. A 2018 study showed that improvements in pine marten populations have assisted the red squirrel population, not least because grey squirrels form part of the pine marten diet.
A few more dogs like Rufus in addition to a managed marten population could help the return of a much loved native breed.
Illegal and anti-social cycling has been an increasing problem as cyclists and cycling have been privileged by an influential cycling lobby and local authorities keen to be seen to be “doing something” about transport in towns and cities whilst simultaneously cutting mass public transport and making it less and less affordable.
This has only been exacerbated but cuts in policing and the restrictions imposed by Covid-19. For many pedestrians, life has becomes a misery of daily near-misses and worse. Dogs have not been exempt either, many becoming very fearful as a succession of illegal scooters, hoverboards, skateboards, roller skates and cyclists zooms past on pavements an so-called “shared” spaces. Four dogs were killed in one year by illegal cyclists in Kensington Gardens with two more being injured seriously.
Now, in nearby Acton Park, a cyclist, breaking park by-laws which prohibit cycling, has the audacity to sue the dog owner whose dog he hit. He is claiming £50,000 as reparation for hitting a dog that was playing with a ball in a park which he alleges was therefore not under control. It beggars belief.
Bicycles have been considered as road vehicles under law since the Taylor vs Goodwin judgement in 1879.
It’s high time that cyclists were solely confined to riding on roads and punished severely for breaking the law, enabling pedestrians and dog walkers to reclaim parks gardens, towpaths and other places that have become stressful and hazardous to use. Skateboards, hoverboards, scooters and such like should be returned to the playground where they belong and anyone who wishes to continue to play with them beyond childhood should do so away from the grown ups who simply want to be able to walk in peace and security.
DogsNet is frequently contacted by other organisations seeking to publicise their wares or opinions and mostly, they are inappropriate. So it was a pleasant surprise to be contacted by an American organisation that has created two databases of food and plants that are safe or toxic for dogs.
If you want to provide a safe treat or plan a garden, it is really good to have a comprehensive and reliable resource to check. Of course, if your dog has ingested something accidentally, don’t delay in getting advice from your vet and/or the Veterinary Poisons Information helpline.
Further progress is being made that may enable the world to return to some semblance of normality as sniffer dogs trained to alert on the SARS-Cov-2 virus work at Helsinki airport.
The dogs do not make direct contact with travellers but alert on wipes that have been used to swab their neck. The dogs take about 10 seconds to work their way through the scent options and travellers who’s sample is deemed positive are invited to take a free test.
Accuracy is extremely high. A pilot study showed that dogs alerted 94% correctly when presented with 1,102 random samples. They are also able to make accurate detection in people who are asymptomatic.
Of course, it is only properly regulated follow-up that will make this a game-changer for global travel, but once again, dogs really are man’s best friend.
Fatal dog attacks are very rare; they are also preventable. Three people died in the UK in 2019 as a result of an incident involving a dog, two more than in 2018. That is similar to the number of people killed by lightening in the UK.
Just as there are many precautions that can be taken to avoid being struck by lightening, there are many ways that the latest fatal dog attack should have been avoided.
Many people underestimate how much work is involved in rearing a puppy and trying to do so whilst dealing with a newborn baby (or indeed older children) at best leads to a lot of dogs being neglected and then re-homed and in the case of yesterday’s incident, the probable death of a dog through no fault of its own.
Again, we are unlikely to know exactly how this dog had been reared and handled, but it is not hard to guess, and yet again, the headlines will be forgotten and lessons unlearned until the next dog pays the price.