Healthy Happy Hound

Dog Happiness Index Revealed

As a dog’s life continues to evolve in modern Britain, our new report reveals that 1 in 4 dogs are actually unhappy according to their owners.

We have found this surprising fact in the UK’s first Healthy Happy Hound Report. The study of 2,000 UK dog owners was carried out to assess the well-being of our canine companions and to discover how we can make them happy.

Key findings include:

–          22% of dogs sleep in their owners bed or bedroom

–          10% of dogs never socialise with other dogs

–          25% of UK dogs have never eaten a bone

–          32% of owners don’t know how much their dog weighs

–          50% of dogs get less than half an hour of exercise a day

While an encouraging 76% of British dogs are happy, and a fantastic 28% are the happiest they could be, a worrying 24% are classified by owners as unhappy and a shocking 1% as depressed!

Clare Scallon from Butcher’s Pet Care commented: “Our dogs are an integral part of our lives and they certainly make us smile, but how happy are they? To answer this question we have undertaken a temperature check of their happiness to uncover what we need to do to make them healthy, happy hounds!

“Our study has identified three core foundations of a dog’s life which have the biggest impact on them; from modern pack life, to nutrition and diet, and finally play and exercise.”

Modern Pack Life

Dogs are naturally social animals used to spending the majority of their time in packs.  Encouragingly, while they no longer roam with other dogs, the study shows they see their modern day pack made up of the humans in their family. And although most spend some time alone every day, the average is only three hours without company.

Alongside this, our report also uncovered further evidence of modern pack behaviour with 22% of dogs sleeping in their owner’s bed or bedroom, 14% being taken to work and 37% also having a cat as part of the pack. However, this has had some negative impact on the natural behaviour of dogs with a worrying 1 in 10 never having any contact with other canines.

Clare Scallon further commented: “Dogs are part of the family and in turn we form their new ‘pack’, so we should fulfil their social needs. If we all embraced this very natural behaviour by spending extra time with our dogs then their happiness will surely rocket!”

Nutrition & Diet

The second foundation is the importance of a balanced diet.   Our report investigates today’s dog’s natural needs and confirms, like their ancestors, they are carnivores therefore meat should be an important part of a dog’s diet. Their body is made for meat; they have a short digestive tract not suitable to digesting a high carbohydrate diet; a strong acidic stomach to help break meat down and their sharp teeth and strong jaws are designed for ripping and shredding not grinding grains and vegetation.

Our study shows that only 14% of dogs are being given a solus meaty dog food diet on a daily basis, while twice as many owners (29%) say they actually think their dog prefers it.

Scallon commented: “The conclusion here is simply that dogs naturally need meat as part of a balanced diet and the fact that they prefer it speaks volumes.  Perhaps we should listen to them more closely and feed them what they really want.”

As well as the type of food, the biggest threat to our dogs’ health is the quantity we feed them.  We asked owners how much their dog weighs, a surprising 32% didn’t know, and a further 37% had no idea how much they should weigh.  It’s not surprising then, that just 3% of the same owners think their dog is overweight which is in stark contrast to the PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) national statistics report which states 35% of dogs are actually overweight.

Scallon commented: “One of the biggest threats to the health and happiness of our dogs is obesity.  When a dog is overweight and unhealthy it impacts on every part of its life.  We believe at the very heart of the problem is a significant knowledge gap, once addressed the number of overweight dogs in the UK will start to decrease.

“We should all try to understand how much our dogs actually weigh and how heavy they ideally should be.  This will help us choose what type of food we should feed them and how much they are given to live healthily & happily.”

Play & Exercise

Our dogs need regular exercise and play.  In the wild, they would spend an average of 4.5 hours exercising daily, but our research uncovers that the current average is only 33 minutes a day.  Added to this, 44% of dogs only get ‘on the lead’ exercise, rather than giving them the freedom to run free, keep fit and explore their natural instincts to sniff out adventure.  Our report also highlights that an encouraging 36% of owners take their dogs to the park, beach or countryside every day, but 2% admit never taking their dogs to open spaces at all.

Scallon commented: “The pressures of modern life mean it’s difficult to exercise and play with our dogs as much as we would like.  But the reality is that they need this energetic and active time to run free, chase squirrels and other dogs, and roll in muddy puddles – to do what dogs are supposed to do!”

“We commissioned the Healthy Happy Hound Report to find out what makes our dogs truly happy?  We wanted to understand how far we have moved from a dog’s natural behaviour, but more importantly what we can do now to maintain a healthy balance between our modern lives and their natural instincts.  We believe we have uncovered some fundamental truths which will help all of us to better understand our dogs, and ultimately to make them and us happier.”

Download the full Happy Healthy Hound report