Social media fuelling misleading information for puppy owners

In response to the findings, leading science-based pet nutrition brand Royal Canin has launched its One in a Billion campaign, partnering with Dr, Sarah Heath FRCVS and dog lover Binky Felstead to offer a single source of credible information which recognises the unique needs of puppies.

According to new research revealed by science backed pet nutrition brand Royal Canin, Brits are a nation of devoted but sometimes confused dog lovers.

Half (52%) of new puppy owners seek help online to help see them through the puppy phase, with one in six (16%) new owners signing up to more than 10 puppy inspired TikTok accounts in the first weeks of their new puppy’s life.

However, a fifth (21%) of puppy owners find the volume of accounts overwhelming and 42% say they felt anxious a lot of the time during the first few months of puppy’s life.

In addition, an analysis of over 2,500 pieces of puppy related online content undertaken by Royal Canin across more than 20 websites and social media platforms, found one in five (19%) online images and videos returned when searching the term ‘puppy advice’ showed dogs displaying worried or anxious behaviours and body language.

This figure was highest of all on TikTok, with over a quarter (28%) of content related to ‘puppy advice’ featuring dogs showing signs consistent with being worried or anxious. One in seven (13%) videos returned on TikTok when analysing the #puppytraining search term were for social media challenges, with over a third (39%) of #puppychallenge results showing dogs looking anxious.

Despite two thirds (64%) valuing their dog as a family member and two in five (41%) saying their dog is their best friend, yet a fifth (20%) admit to participating in puppy related social media challenges such as the viral Cheese Tax.

With a wealth of online puppy related content also featuring puppies being treated to ‘human’ foods, new owners are getting increasingly adventurous with what they’re feeding their new pups. In fact, one in five (19%) admit to creating mini portions of the food they are eating to treat their much loved new family additions. This is problematic as these foods may contain harmful ingredients, such as garlic, onion or too much phosphorus, as well as being unbalanced in the nutrients puppies need to support growth.

However, if they had their time again over a third (36%) of puppy owners would do things differently. One in five (18%) would avoid following social media advice altogether, with 37% saying they would choose a single reputable source of information to follow.

In particular, 44% of puppy owners would value having more information on healthy puppy nutrition and almost half (45%) say that more information on which foods are toxic for puppies would be helpful.

In response to the research and findings, leading science-based pet food brand, Royal Canin, has developed a repository of advice for puppy owners on its website – providing a single source of accessible, expert advice to cut through the avalanche of information available online.

Leading veterinary specialist in behavioural medicine, Dr Sarah Heath FRCVS comments: “Royal Canin research suggests that engaging puppies in social media trends is being mistakenly portrayed as a legitimate way of training young dogs. Beneficial early puppy education and training should be about ensuring that dogs can lead happy, quality lives, living harmoniously with people. If puppies are overwhelmed by emotion, they are not able to learn effectively. Ensuring that puppies are calm and positively engaged with the world around them is the best way to help them to become confident and sociable adults”.

Dr Lauren Hayes BVetMed MRCVS, a veterinarian at Royal Canin, said: It’s always been an overwhelming moment when your new puppy arrives. But with tens of thousands of accounts to turn to now it’s no wonder that new owners are feeling more overwhelmed than ever, and some are unwittingly falling into damaging behaviours with their new puppies.

Alongside behaviour, pet nutrition is another area that is being flooded with misinformation online. Puppies have not yet developed their digestive systems and need adapted levels of nutrients to support their growth, for example, at peak growth, puppies actually need up to four times as many calories as an adult dog. To help new owners navigate the reams of puppy advice out there, we have launched the One in Billion campaign to offer owners a single source of credible information”.

Dog lover, Binky Felstead, added: “I could never have imagined how instantly and deeply I would fall in love with our dog Pedro. But I could also never have anticipated how challenging I would find some of the moments during his first few months with us. As a new puppy owner, you’re overloaded with advice – from social media, magazines, other dog owners and friends. Finding a source of information, you trust is so important and can be a real turning point. I would have really welcomed Royal Canin’s One in a Billion campaign as a new puppy owner.”

Royal Canin and Dr Sarah Heath’s 5 top tips for new and prospective puppy owners: 

1)  Always:  Seek out experts when it comes to puppy advice. Social media puppy content can seem fun to watch but doesn’t always consider what puppies really need.

2) Check:  the validity of any sources. For anything related to training and education for your puppy look for a suitably qualified Animal Training Instructor through the ABTC. If you have concerns about your puppy’s behaviour make sure you speak to your veterinary practice as unwanted behaviour can be a sign of physical or emotional illness.

3) Know:  the signs that your puppy might be feeling worried or distressed. Less obvious signs include avoiding eye contact or being very quiet and still. Puppies can also become overwhelmed with emotion, even engaging ones, and show signs such as excessive lip licking or yawning. These signal that your puppy needs some down time and to be protected from too much arousal.

4) Feed: a puppy specific diet designed to support growth, weighed in accordance with the instructions and fed across several smaller meals to support digestion

5) Stick: to the 10% rule. No more than 10% of your puppy’s food intake should come from sources other than its main daily food ration.

For clear, simple, expert advice on raising your puppy, visit the One in a Billion hub at http://www.royalcanin.com/uk/dogs/puppy/one-in-a-billion 

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