The World Health Organisation says: “While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.” This is good news for gundog owners but COVID-19 has thrown up all sorts of other questions around gundogs and puppies.
Here’s some guidance on gundog puppies and COVID-19 during lockdown. It is only guidance so depending on your situation, you should contact the Kennel Club or your local vet who will have definitive advice.
- Viewing of a potential puppy and its litter mates should be done electronically. If you have ordered a puppy then ask for updates by phone, e mail, video calls and photographs. You cannot visit the breeder and they cannot visit you.
- Because of the government travel limitations the breeder must take the puppy to its new home. The puppy buyer cannot collect the puppy.
- When the puppy is handed over social distancing rules must be followed.
- The Kennel Club advises that: “The puppy or kitten should be wiped over with a pet safe damp disposable cloth prior to handover and no equipment such as a basket should be given by the breeder to the purchaser. Doors and gates should only be opened and closed by householder. Time in the property should be kept to the absolute minimum.”
- Only puppies from the same litter can be transported in the same journey to a new home.
- The new owner should be given advice on puppy care (vaccinations, feeding etc) by phone before the breeder drops the puppy off and not during handover.
- Paperwork and documents should be completed before handover as far as possible.
- Registered gundog breeders are allowed by Government regulations to leave their home to travel for work as long as they stick to social distancing and hygiene guidance so they are able to deliver purchased puppies.
- If the puppy breeder is not considered as a business but keeping the puppies longer than planned is affecting their welfare then this could be deemed a reasonable excuse to leave the house to deliver the puppies to their new home.
- The Kennel Club advises that customers use their online facility to register new puppies. Alternatively you can apply by post but should be aware that this may be delayed.
- If you are planning a litter of puppies consider that you may need to keep the puppies for longer than eight weeks. Times are uncertain so will you be in a position to care for the litter? In addition, socialising puppies will be harder than usual.
- Vets are ‘key workers’ and can undertake primary vaccinations for puppies and year 1 boosters for dogs as these are an essential service. Ask your vet what they recommend and what procedures they can carry out. Microchipping may be able to be carried out when the puppy has its vaccinations.
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What do the professional gundog breeders say?
I spoke to professional gundog breeder and trainer David Templar of Countryways Gundogs and asked him how he is managing the COVID-19 situation. He replied: “Now everything is being done remotely, we have an initial consultation on the phone and all the information is sent to customers by video link or What’s App. I have a video that clients get access to with a password once they have paid a deposit.”
“People get the puppy’s paperwork before it is delivered. We’re continuing to breed our dogs; a lot of our clients have already had two or three dogs from us over the years and lockdown has made them say ‘well, we’ll get another dog now’ rather than waiting a couple more years.”
David also thinks that the working practices created by the coronavirus pandemic will create more dog ownership. “A lot of people are going to be working from home forever now, a lot of companies have set it up and are finding it works. Life will change and a lot of people will be encouraged to get a dog.”
Jeremy Hunt, of Fenway Labradors and Shooting Times contributor said: “Due to COVID we are sending our puppies to their new homes by courier. It’s not ideal but we know the courier very well, we have used them regularly to take puppies to airports. Normally purchasers would come to us, we are very strict about who we sell to.”
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On that note Jeremy warned that there is currently a boom in the market due to COVID. He advised those who are expecting a litter of puppies: “Be very discerning with whom you sell to. It’s a seller’s market so you pick and choose your buyer for your sake and your puppy’s sake. You will sell a puppy quickly but make sure you are selling to the right person. Be strict and ask awkward questions, like what sort of life the dog will have, how large the garden is, who will be at home …”
Finally Jeremy added: “We had a puppy booked to go to Switzerland on 7 March, before lockdown started. The new owners were getting a bit concerned about COVID and how it would affect the puppy’s arrival so they chartered a private jet, flew over from Switzerland, came to us, picked up the puppy and flew home with it the same day. They wanted to make 100% sure they got their puppy in time.”