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Britain's dogs have put on an average of 3.3kg each – almost half a stone – since the pandemic began, a study has found.
With an estimated 10.1 million dog owners in the UK, this adds up to a whopping 33.3 million kilograms of extra weight, equivalent to 100 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.
The survey of 1,500 dog owners found 33% believe their pets' lockdown lard is due to them dipping into the treat tin more often while home working.
A quarter have taken their dog on fewer walks thanks to longer working hours and a lack of routine at home.
Another 8% used to rely on a professional dog walker to get the mileage in when they were working from the office, and 25% blamed a fear of their dog being stolen for taking their pet out less during Covid.
The research, commissioned by Guide Dogs ahead of its annual 'Walk Your Socks Off' fundraising challenge, shows when it comes to doggy exercise, 24% aren't totally sure how much exercise their dog needs each day.
And nearly one in five (18%) didn't know a lack of exercise can cause behavioural problems, such as over-grooming or chewing things.
There are also concerns that dogs have had less socialising during lockdown, with 19% of owners admitting they don't let their pet play with others on walks due to social distancing measures.
But 16 per cent worry that this had led to their dog feeling lonely and isolated.
Tragic dog's swollen snout leaves it unable to eat or drink as appeal launched
With almost half (49%) of homeworkers saying their own snacking has increased, it's clear this has also extended to their dogs.
Reasons for giving extra pet treats include trying to keep pets quiet during important conferencing calls (12%) and to curb incessant barking when home deliveries arrive (11%).
Nearly a quarter put extra snacking down the fact they are spending more time with their dogs (23%), whereas one in five just can't resist their puppy eyes.
Dr Helen Whiteside, head of research at Guide Dogs, said: "Our research has shown that lockdown has had a significant impact on many dogs' health and wellbeing.
Golden retriever steals reporter's microphone and runs off with it live on air
"And while a little weight gain is not the end of the world, it is important that owners address it as soon as possible, to prevent medical issues like heart disease, diabetes and joint problems later down the line.
"A healthier dog is a happier dog, so owners should prioritise daily walks, consider healthy treat swaps and check their weight on a regular basis."
The Walk Your Socks Off challenge takes place throughout May. To register, visit the website.
Guide Dogs' Head of Research Dr Helen Whiteside has shared her top tips on preventing – and banishing – the dreaded lockdown lard.
- Get a vet check to get an accurate weight and ask for a body condition score. We use a 9-point body condition score at Guide Dogs, with a dog ideally sitting in the middle at a '4' or '5'. If your dog is out of shape, ask your vet's advice before stepping up their exercise.
- Weigh your dog's food allowance on digital scales, following the guidelines from the food's manufacturer. It's very easy to over or underfeed using a cup measure or going by eye.
- Exercise! Make sure your dog gets active. Did you know adult dogs need at least an hour a day? This means running around or walking at a fast pace, but be sure to avoid going out in hot weather and be mindful of their fitness level – if they are out of shape, gradually build them up to longer walks. The Walk Your Socks Off challenge is a great way to start a daily routine and fundraise for Guide Dogs.
- Use interactive feeders over just a bowl. Stuffable toys and puzzle feeders are a great way to make your dog's meal last longer and can help them avoid gulping food, which can cause stomach problems. They are also mentally stimulating and a great workout for your dog's brain.
- Make healthy swaps for treats. We love to spoil our pets, but some moderation and clever choices can make a big difference. Try carrots instead of dental chews for instance, as these are often surprisingly high in calories. Make sure to adjust your dog's daily food allowance to allow for these treats.
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