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UK Pet Dog Population Project (UKPDPP)

Project Lead: Dr Kirsten McMillan

Project overview

The high demand for dogs and the associated financial benefits for those selling puppies, has led to a number of practices that have a negative impact on dog welfare. These include the large scale breeding and sale of puppies in environments that are unsuitable in terms of health and behavioural development, and the transportation of puppies from other countries with associated welfare and disease transmission risks.

In order to determine the most effective interventions to address these important welfare concerns, it is important to first reliably quantify the UK pet dog population and demographics.

The first stage of research
The first stage of our research aims to evaluate existing datasets, and collect new data, in order to better understand the characteristics of the UK dog population. Establishing a population baseline will provide significant analytical benefits to canine welfare, providing a greater understanding of the dog population, including demographic dynamics and annual trends, and allowing for the development of network analyses and evaluation of targeted strategies.

The second stage of research
The second stage is to examine in detail the factors that influence members of the public when making the decision to acquire a dog, using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods. Finally, the third stage will be to model the impacts of different intervention strategies on the movement and availability of puppies in the UK using the data collected. The outcome for the research will be to evaluate how different interventions may impact on the availability and movement of puppies, with the particular aim of identifying those strategies which minimise the welfare implications to dogs of effectively being a ‘commodity’ in a high demand market.

Project objectives

  • To gather data from a wide range of stakeholders (including insurance companies, veterinary groups, local authorities, university led projects, online platforms and other canine welfare charities) regarding the number, breed, geographic spread and density of pet dogs within the UK, and combine them to create a robust estimate of the UK pet dog population.  
  • To use this population estimate as a baseline number in future analysis (both internally and externally). For example, informing projects looking to assess potential future intervention strategies affecting supply of dogs from different sources (i.e. puppy smuggling).   
  • Using the model to estimate the impact of several intervention strategies on the supply of dogs, including an intervention to ban third party sales, using advanced statistical techniques.  


A poster describing the methodology for the Dogs Trust UK Pet Dog Population Project (UKPDPP) which aims to estimate the United Kingdom’s dog population using data sourced from multiple stakeholders.

The poster was presented at the Genetics of Health in Dogs meeting in Edinburgh in May 2018.  

UK Pet Dog Population Project Poster PDF 464 KB