Dogs in London: are city dogs happy?

Nine percent of Londoners have a dog, but is city living fulfilling for our dogs?

Dog ownership has changed so much over the past ten years, with Doga (yoga with your dog), dedicated dog cafes, designer accessories and companies who create ‘mini-me’ outfits for you and your pooch.

Owners take their pets on ‘Sausage’, ‘Corgi’, ‘Doodle’ meet ups and end their ‘perfect’ day with a pup cup – whipped cream with a Bonio on the top – the new 99.  

Does this lifestyle make our dogs happy?

Dog trainer and behaviourist Max Randall said: “The average dog who lives in the city is probably not a happy dog.

“The city is as hard as it gets for dogs and humans. Pet life for a dog is hard. When you make a dog a pet you take away their enrichment and they no longer have the jobs we bred them to do for thousands of years.

“When you then live in a city the walks are predominantly parks and pavements so there is more frustration for dogs.

“Stress is common in dogs. People have a misconception that dogs must live terrible lives to develop chronic stress. But the most cause of chronic stress in dogs and humans is the lack of exercise, mental stimulation and sleep.”

Max and his two dogs Darcy and Enzo Credit: Max Randall

Symptoms of stress in a dog include excessive licking, chewing of themselves and furniture and hyperactivity.

Behaviours could include wide eyes, dilated pupils, loose stools and only toileting at home or developing a physical illness, for example diabetes.

Randall has started MK9Plus, an online platform dedicated to educating owners about mental health in their pet dogs.

Randall believes in giving dogs outlets in the form of enrichment and mental stimulation to fulfil a dog’s breed behaviours, for example sniffing which relieves frustration by allowing dogs to practice behaviours they have been bred for.

There are an estimated 13 million pet dogs in the UK and 9% of Londoners have a dog, but are they the right dog?

Randall recommends retrieving breeds if you live in a city, such as labradors, poodles and spaniel-crosses.

He does not suggest sighthounds who are bred to hunt and energetic herding breeds, like collies.

He added: “People buy cockapoos and expect them to be cute family pets for their children.

“They are deceived by curls and think they are just cute little teddies. What they don’t realise is they are a cross of the second-smartest breed of dog in the world, with one of the hardest working dogs in the world.

“They are workhorses, and they go crazy because people treat them as pets. They are retrieving dogs who need a lot of work.

“I don’t think there is a dog who can’t be in a city, but there are dogs who it is going to be harder for you to give them the life they need in a city.

“Let every single second out on a walk be for the dog. Let them sniff every bin, every car tyre. Take one hour to walk two miles instead of one hour to walk four.

“Change up your walks as often as you can, as doing different walks is good.”

Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive for the Kennel Club Bill Lambert said: “Choosing the right dog for your lifestyle is paramount.

“This includes making sure you have the time and resources to give your dog all the care and attention they need, from exercising, grooming, feeding, training and socialising, as well as ensuring that the dog you choose will not only suit your lifestyle, but that they will be comfortable in your environment.

“For example, herding breeds will be much less suited to a busy city centre, where they have less opportunities to exhibit natural behaviours, potentially leading to frustration and behavioural problems.

“When choosing a pedigree breed from a responsible breeder, you are more able to predict its needs in terms of space, exercise and environment.

“If choosing a rescue, you will also need to ensure you understand the breed (if known), the individual dog and its past situation.

“Throughout their life, and especially in their formative years, dogs need companionship, regular exercise, socialisation, training and mental stimulation, with plenty of opportunities to use their senses.

“All of these are vital factors in making sure your dog is happy, healthy and well-trained.”

Research from The Kennel Club’s Puppywise campaign in 2022 shows that 33% of puppy buyers who didn’t meet the puppy in real life before purchasing found their dog had behavioural issues, or a different temperament to what they were expecting, compared 17% percent of those who did.

Randall concluded: “It’s simple, you either love having that dog, or you truly do love the dog and you do everything they need.

“Don’t de-dog your dog”.

Featured Image Credit: Hannah-Maria Ward

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