The puppy premium

There’s no denying that dogs can make a delightful and dependable addition to any home. But after a surge in pandemic pet ownership, and an apparent rise in puppies for rehoming, are too many of us unaware of the true cost of buying a dog?

The pandemic dog phenomenon

There have been many stories of people buying pets during lockdown, and the numbers don’t lie. According to the Pet Food Manufactuers' Association, 3.2 million households in the UK have bought a pet since the start of the pandemic.

Many of these new pet owners have been young adults. Our own study – Putting Off Parenthood – suggests that more than half (52%) of 16-24-year-olds bought a ‘pandemic dog’.

On the face of it, it may be good news that more people want to give a rescue dog a home. But cute puppies come at a price.

The cost of canines

It seems that many new dog owners are feeling the pinch after getting a pooch. Almost a quarter of dog owners who bought a ‘pandemic puppy’ fear they won’t be able to provide a suitable home for their dog in the future, according to The Kennel Club.

This may not be surprising, when you consider that the money you spend on a dog can include everything from initial costs, like beds, toys and water bowls, to ongoing costs like veterinary bills and pet insurance. In fact, the lifetime cost of a dog can be anywhere between £4,600 and £30,800, claims animal welfare charity PDSA.

Whichever way you look at it, buying a puppy, whether during lockdown or at any other time, is not cheap.

The rise in puppies for rehoming

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many responsible dog owners have welcomed their new canine friends into their home. But unfortunately, more and more people appear to be giving away a dog that they’re unable to look after.

Research by Battersea, the world-famous dogs and cats' home, forecasts that the UK will experience a 27% rise in abandones or left to stray dogs over the next five years.

There has also been criminal activity associated with this pent-up demand for ‘pandemic dogs’. The Kennel Club made a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to police forces around the country, and discovered there were 2,355 cases of dog theft in 2020 – a 7% increase from the previous year. Moreover, since the first COVID-19 lockdown, Dogs Trust estimates it has rescued £80,000 worth of smuggled puppies. Unfortunately, the demand for dogs during the pandemic has come at a cost in more ways than one.

Pooches versus parenthood

A lack of awareness about the costs of getting a dog may be causing people to delay other life plans – like having children. Our Putting Off Parenthood survey examined some of the reasons why people have delayed (or considered delaying) having kids since March 2020. We found that 40% of respondents got a dog during lockdown, and 71% of this figure did so as an alternative to having a baby.

But given that UK households are four times more likely to insure their pet than their income, are we over-spending on pets but under-spending on people? Life Insurance to protect a family may not sound as exciting as the pitter patter of puppy paws, but it may cost less than you think. In fact, you can get Life Insurance through Legal & General from as little as £6 a month, depending on your needs and circumstances. While according to the ABI (Association of British Insurers), the average pet insurance premium is £271 per year, which works out at approximately £22.58 per month.

And of course, if you have the financial means, there is nothing to stop you from protecting all your loved ones – whether they’re cute puppies or adorable babies.