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Exploring unplanned dog ownership – What the Dog Science Says

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unplanned dog

New study published in the journal Animals explored the reasons behind unplanned dog ownership in a sample of people attending canine community events.

In the study, 142 dog owners were interviewed whilst attending dog health and welfare events run by The Dogs Trust across the UK. These events were targeted to areas with high numbers of stray dogs. Thus, the sample is not representative of the general population.

Of the 142 owners, 50% acquired their dog without planning to get one.

Taking in a friend’s or relative’s dog was the most common reason for getting a dog unexpectedly. This was the case for 54% of unplanned dogs. Events that led to this included illness, death, a new baby and a change in housing.

For 30% of people who acquired an unplanned dog, they happened across a dog in need. Some encountered abandoned dogs and others became aware of a dog being mistreated in their community.

Dogs were given as gifts for 10% of the people who got a dog without planning it. Most often dogs were gifted between family members to mark an occasion. For a few people, they ‘fell in love’ with a dog when accompanying a friend or relative to find their own dog.

Generally, people chose to keep the dogs because they viewed the dog as vulnerable and/or formed a close bond quickly.

This study provides useful information about why people get and keep dogs when they never planned to. Understanding this could help professionals and organisations better reach such owners so that they and their dogs can be supported.

Did you get your dog without planning to? What happened? Did it turn out well?

Paper: “Don’t Bring Me a Dog…I’ll Just Keep It”: Understanding Unplanned Dog Acquisitions Amongst a Sample of Dog Owners Attending Canine Health and Welfare Community Events in the United Kingdom – Animals Feb 2021

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