Many new pet owners are facing a crisis of confidence, according to animal behaviourists and charities.
More than 3.2 million households welcomed a four-legged family member during the pandemic, but a survey of more than 2,000 pet owners by insurer Petplan found that nearly half (46%) of people aged 18 to 34 regret their decision to get a pet during lockdown, and a third (32%) of those aged 35 to 54 feel the same.
Even among those who aren't actively regretting their decision to get a new pet, many are struggling to know how to look after their new arrival, with Wood Green, The Animals Charity reporting 66% more calls each month to their free pet behaviour helpline compared to last year.
Other pet owners are heading online for information on how to keep their furry friends as healthy as possible.
The most common issues faced by new dog owners include how to handle gagging and possible dehydration, according to a recent study by VioVet.
The researchers looked into Google Search Data to see the doggy dilemmas that owners are faced with and found that searches for 'why does my dog keep gagging and not throwing up?' increased by 420%, and 'why is my dog drinking so much water?' also spiked.
With that in mind, Dr Nick Garside from VioVet has put together a comprehensive guide to solving some of the most common dog dilemmas.
Why do dogs eat their own poo?
One of the more icky discoveries of being a new pup owner.
Just, why? Given that they clean themselves with a regular body lick, why would a dog want to put something so unhygienic in their mouths?
While it is considered normal for dogs to eat poo from other animals (gross, right?) eating their own poo or that of another dog’s actually isn’t very common. But according to Dr Garside there are some reasons why a dog might eat its own poo, including thinking it is a game or trying to get your attention.
"Environmental stressors and triggers could making your dog feel anxious which could also explain this behavioural change," he adds.
More worryingly, it could potentially be a sign of illness. So if your dog never ate poo before but has suddenly started to do so, you should take it to the vet, as it could be a sign of disease, parasites, or nutritional deficiencies.
Are dogs colour blind?
Technically, yes, but this doesn’t mean that dogs see in black and white.
"Humans have three receptors (also known as cones) which means we can identify three colours, red, blue, and green. Combinations of these three primary colours produce all other colours," explains Dr Garside.
Dogs only have two, and research has suggested that these cones pick up yellow and blue. "Because of this, they can see variations of blues and yellows well, but not reds and greens. It is thought that reds and greens may look like browns and greys," he adds.
Why is my dog shaking?
If you're preparing to take your dog on a daily commute you'll want to get to the bottom of the reason your pooch is shaking.
"Some of the most common reasons for shaking are old age, excitement, pain, feeling cold, attention-seeking, or illness," explains Dr Garside.
If your dog is shaking, look out for other possible symptoms of illness like diarrhoea or vomiting, in which case, you should take them to the vet.
Watch: 3 must-have products for dog owners.
Do dogs have periods?
When you took on your pandemic pup you probably didn't expect to have to deal with pooch periods, but if you have a female dog who hasn't been spayed (the removal of the ovaries) they will have periods, of sorts.
"Although dogs don’t menstruate as humans do, they have their own cycle and behaviours," says Dr Garside.
"Puppies can start their period when they’re around six months old, but this can vary with breed. When dogs are in heat, which is when their ovaries release eggs, this can last for around two to four weeks. This happens every six months, however, it can take time for your dog to get into a regular estrus cycle (the dog equivalent of a menstrual cycle)".
Why is my dog drinking so much water?
New pooch owners will likely be wondering how much water is too much? As a general rule of thumb, Dr Garside says your dog should be drinking around an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight a day. If your dog is drinking excessive amounts of water, this could be a sign of dehydration.
"Dehydration can be dangerous in dogs, so it's important that you take your dog to the vet rather than let your dog try to hydrate by drinking lots of water," he explains. "If they drink too much when dehydrated, this can cause them to vomit, which causes further dehydration."
Can dog fleas live on humans?
The flea dilemma is something every new dog owner has concerns about. While dog fleas cannot live on humans, they can bite us.
"Fleas don't live on us because it is difficult for fleas to reproduce on our skin without being able to bury in the protection of fur or feathers," Dr Garside explains.
"When fleas do burrow into furry or feathered animals, they lay eggs, which can cause a flea infestation that must be treated."
Why does my dog keep gagging but not throwing up?
Dr Garside says this could be a sign of kennel cough, a respiratory infection.
"Gagging can also be a sign of laryngeal paralysis, which is where the larynx doesn't close properly. In extreme cases, gagging could be pneumonia," he explains.
Your dog gagging occasionally when swallowing something the wrong way or following a few coughs isn't a cause for concern, but if it lasts for a few days, you should take your dog to the vet. "If they seem distressed or are having trouble breathing, seek help immediately," Dr Garside adds.
Why does my dog hiccup so much?
Just like humans, hiccups in dogs aren’t anything to worry about.
"Hiccups are more common in puppies due to their excitement, energetic play, or eating and drinking too quickly and consequently swallowing air," Dr Garside explains.
If your dog is having aggressive hiccups, avoid giving them anything solid to eat, as this could result in choking.
"Massage their chest or take them for light exercise to distract or change their breathing pattern. In rare cases, if hiccups persist for a few hours, you might want to seek advice from your vet," Dr Garside adds.