The question ‘Who let the dogs out?’ has finally been answered and it’s south west London dog borrowers.
Pia Tandon from Earlsfield has found it difficult over the last year having to spend more time inside.
In lockdown in her rented flat with two housemates and losing her job in hospitality due to Covid-19, Pia needed something to keep her mind and body active.
That’s where Humphrey, the one-year-old Cocker Spaniel came in.
Pia has been regularly borrowing Humphrey for walks from owner Meg, who lives nearby, via the website BorrowMyDoggy.
This initiative was set up in 2012 with the aim of connecting dog owners with local people who would love to look after their dog.
The idea was to help dog owners when they need it, give dogs more exercise and playtime, and to allow people without a dog to spend quality time with one.
The past few months have been a little ‘ruff’, so it’s no surprise that people have been turning to our furry-friends for some much-needed puppy love.
Pia said: “I would love to have a dog of my own, but only when I have my own place. After I lost my job, I looked for a dog to walk to keep me occupied and get me out of the house.
“I’m happiest when spending time exploring Wimbledon Common with Humphrey. It helped to have something to focus on and look forward to during such a difficult year.”
This comes amid recent news that many pandemic puppies haven’t been quite so lucky.
The Dogs Trust have raised concerns over the hundreds of dogs that were purchased in the pandemic that are being sold online or handed to rescue centres after owners found the commitment too much.
Research by the Kennel Club found that one in five people who bought a puppy during the pandemic had not fully considered the long-term responsibilities and these puppies had not been properly socialised; which can lead to behavioural issues.
Head of Health and Welfare at The Dogs Trust, Bill Lambert, called this a ‘potentially damaging lockdown legacy’ for puppies across the UK.
Against this backdrop, the dog-borrowers offer some much-needed paw-sitive news; helping to socialise dogs and preventing impulsive puppy-purchases.
And Pia isn’t the only one to have sniffed out a canine companion, every man and his dog have cottoned on.
BorrowMyDoggy said they have seen a steady flow of borrower sign-ups during the pandemic, as people look to help owners that may be in need, such as vulnerable people, key workers, or those shielding.
Katy from Battersea, who borrows Labrador Izzie, said: “This year has felt so isolating. I’ve found when I’m out for a walk with a dog, it’s a nice excuse to talk to people or say hello.
“It’s such a small thing but it goes a long way. It’s also nice to help owners who may be having a stressful time.”
Dr Carri Westgarth, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool said: “My research participants tell me that walking with a dog is so much better than walking without a dog.
“It enhances the experience, as we get so much joy from watching the dogs having a good time themselves. Dogs help us forget our wider concerns and be present with them in the moment, which is great for our stress relief.
“Therefore it doesn’t surprise me that in a time when we have learned to appreciate our outdoor walks so much because it’s one of the few things we have, companionship from a dog has become so desired.”
However, while dog borrowers may go some way to help owners out, they shouldn’t remove the huge responsibility that comes with owning a dog, said Dr Westgarth.
She added: “My main concern would be if dog walking by borrowers isn’t additional i.e the owners aren’t also walking the dog themselves. There is a responsibility in dog ownership.”
While it’s unclear what the ‘lockdown legacy’ for puppies will be, dog borrowers like Pia have been exploring the parks of south west London to the benefit of herself, Humphrey the Cocker Spaniel and his owner.
In an otherwise difficult year for many, dogs have given London residents a new leash of life.