'Puppy love' was a key factor in helping dog owners stay sane during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. More than 80 per cent of Aussie dog owners surveyed by Guide Dogs Australia said their fury friends helped them stay positive in lockdown.
But the research also revealed some dog owners weren't really returning the favour, with many failing to take their pals out for enough exercise.
The survey of 1000 dog owners found four out of five Aussies turned to 'puppy-love' for 'emotional support' and a 'positive frame of mind' during the height of the pandemic. But surprisingly, the love wasn't reciprocated when it came to going for enough 'walkies'.
Before COVID-19 restrictions, more than 70 per cent of owners weren't finding the time to walk their dog at least once a day.
According to Guide Dogs Australia's survey, this hardly changed during COVID-19, and many owners admitted to walking their dogs for shorter distances over shorter periods than they usually would. While 10 per cent didn't walk their pooches at all.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO, Dale Cleaver said the study was conducted as part of Pawgust, a campaign in its third year that is inviting the public to give back to their dogs who have helped them through COVID-19 by committing to a 30-minute walk together for 30 days in August. That's roughly 2km a day and 60km in total - no small feat in the middle of winter.
"The lockdown period highlighted an interesting change in dynamic for Aussies and their pets, with many people able to spend quality time with their dog, but also confined to their homes for large parts of their day - something that our pet dogs are all too familiar with," Mr Cleaver said.
"To reward their furry friends' companionship in the most valuable way, we're encouraging dog owners to get out and enjoy a walk together every day in August."
The research from Guide Dogs also revealed that if they weren't man's best friend before COVID-19 restrictions, they certainly are now, with 70 per cent of respondents reporting feeling closer to their dog as a result of restrictions, and half worried that returning to work might emotionally impact their dogs.
Dog ownership also spiked with 63 per cent of dog owners saying they know someone who got a new dog during restrictions, and 18 per cent knowing five or more.
More than half (53%) said they chatted more with other dog owners while walking during restrictions, and 40 per cent increased their dog-related social media activity.
Dog owners around the country can now give back by signing up to Pawgust. By getting friends and family to sponsor them, they will also contribute to raising and training Guide Dogs, which costs roughly $50,000 per dog but provides years of independence and companionship to someone with blindness or low vision.
"At Guide Dogs we are always grateful to our dogs, and Pawgust is about encouraging Australians to join us by getting the steps in with their four-legged friend while raising money to help us raise and train more Guide Dogs at the same time," Mr Cleaver said.
Australians can sign up for Pawgust or donate by visiting https://www.pawgust.com.au/pawsitive