I’m intrigued: what are you designing that could prevent abandonment and rehoming?
The reason dogs are abandoned (despite my rant in the other thread), are about as varied as the number and types of dog breeds themselves. It’s not all because of lack of research and an “I want a dog and I want one now!” mentality.
Right now is a classic example: the cost of living crisis means people are struggling to feed themselves - never mind their pets. Many are relying on food/clothes/baby banks, and we see pet food banks popping up around the country.
Likewise, energy costs. We can turn the heating down, shove a coat/top on the dog, cover them with a blanket, and try to keep them warm, but if they insist on wriggling out of that coat or jumper (here’s looking at you, Honey!) or sleeping on top of the blanket instead of under it (and you, Milly!) there’s not much owners can do.
And what about vet treatment? There are charities of course, but their criteria can mean that people who are already on their knees financially, still don’t qualify for free or low cost vet treatment.
Rehoming charities such as the RSPCA are running campaigns and doing what they can to keep dogs with their owners, but not all dogs are surrendered because of the cost of living crisis or owner impatience.
A change in working hours can be mitigated by dog walkers/family/friends/neighbours taking the dog out while their owners are at work, or they can go to day care (which can lead to behavioural problems). But not everyone has those options, and even if they do, if the dog has separation anxiety or is high energy and destructive when bored, then being rehomed to someone who is around most of the day, isn’t the worst outcome for the dog.
And then there are other owner circumstances beyond their control: The owner can die/go into care/suffer with chronic mental or physical illness or disability, which renders the surrendering of the dog unavoidable. Or the owner has more than one dog and the dogs take a dislike to each other (worst if it’s two bitches), or the owner also has a cat and the dog has high prey drive, then for safety’s sake, rehoming a/the dog might be the only genuine solution.
Of course, impatient/clueless/band-wagon-jumpers (owners who wanted puppies because they were short sighted and wanted a dog so they can go for walks during the lockdowns, not thinking of the consequences for the dogs when they returned to work, as well as the celebrity culture or “I saw this or that breed/“designer crossbreed and want one”) do still make up the majority of pet owners surrendering their pets, though, so as I said at the beginning, I am intrigued as to how you hope to mitigate that.
As a User experience designer I focus on the very human interactions between digital and physical products that we use to help cater, learn, and develop our knowledge of. Understanding experiences and interfaces of digital products are often, if not, the majority of what dictates root causes to problems. When someone does not want to use something there is an issue, when there is an issue but the solution does not work I intervene to look for design opportunity.
To address what you have stated:
- Of course the reasons to dog abandonment are varied, I have already conducted secondary research to understand how complex the issue is at hand(this included interviews with members of senior staff at local shelters and I have participants that own a dog sitting company and one whom is a vet), however as a digital experience designer I cannot focus on multiple things within a soon to be 4 week time frame. I have to focus on one specific element and that would be guided by the participants and the most common issues as it stand lays within lifestyle (which is a narrow topic just with a lot of information).
- I looked at the financial route in terms of the influence COVID has had on dog owners and wanted to pursue this route, but I can not go and defy the data that I have as much as it is one of the most influential reasons to recent abandoning and rehoming of dogs.
- Circumstances that are beyond their control is always going to be one sub-factor which creates the anomaly in the data collected, however when the higher percentile overrules it then it does not need to be looked at in-depth as much.
- The first thing I would like to say is that it would be totally egotistical for me to assume that I would be able to 'fix' the problem completely. What I am trying to fix is the issues users have with digital products on pre-purchase research of a dog, whether that be a new digital website or app or guide that looks to introduce better equipped methods before purchasing/rescuing a dog. A way of making research easier or perhaps a specific element of the research - like breeder to owner responsibilities much greater in terms of standards.
Thus as you can tell from the broadness of the design solutions above I can not just design anything. It has to be meaningful by the guidance of the participants and what they deem to be the biggest issue. As stated above, my data as it stands looks primarily at the lifestyle of breeds and understanding the information instead of buying based of an impulse, however my next stages is to understand the main DIGITAL ISSUES within the websites, apps, and guides.
Creating a solution will never solve the problem but assist in helping the issue at hand. Hence why I am looking at the pre-purchase research phase to better understand what users would want in an attempt to create an alternative or new system that will help to mitigate the larger dog abandoning and rehoming issue at hand. Thus yours and many other peoples participation is so valued, to understand what I can design as I can not just say I will design something without meaning nor functionality.
I do already have 4 participants with reputable positions, however I am intrigued by your responses and others within the Dog Forum because we are all passionate about dogs in some form or another. I appreciate all your responses. That is why I was curious to see if you would like to be part of the participants to better grasp your perspective and guidance in the same way you have ambitiously interrogated my inquiry.
I appreciate the responses and look forward to know if you would like to help.