Dogs Trust: avoid causing your best friend needless anxiety

A ticking time bomb of separation anxiety could explode in our dog population when the coronavirus lockdown ends.

By Julie Currie
Friday, 24th April 2020, 12:30 pm
Food puzzles...are a good way to keep dogs occupied during alone time at home and will also help them cope better when life returns to normal.

So the Dogs Trust has issued advice to help dog owners avoid potential problems when life returns to normal.

Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at Dogs Trust, said: “For many of us it has been great to spend so much time with our dogs during lockdown and mostly our dogs love us being around too.

“But all this extra attention could potentially create a ticking time bomb of separation anxiety for our dogs.

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“If they expect us to be about all the time, it will be more difficult for them to cope once we go back to our normal lives and aren’t in the house 24 hours a day.

“Now is the time to act to avoid future problems and it’s easy to do.

“Just make sure you factor in time apart from your dog each day to help them cope when alone – this could be separated from you by a door or child gate for an hour or two while you’re working or home schooling the kids.

“By organising your dog’s day, with time apart, play times, exercise, other activity sessions – like giving them a food-filled toy – and quiet times, you can make sure that your dog maintains their ability to cope with the different aspects of ‘normal’ life when we get back to it.”

If your dog is used to being left alone, then try to make sure you continue to leave them for periods during the day so they don’t lose their ability to cope.

For puppies and dogs that are anxious when left, the Dog Trust advises using the following tips to help them combat being home alone:

* Make sure your dog has a comfy bed or den, where they can relax in peace;

* Give them something fun to occupy them, such as a long-lasting treat or puzzle toy;

* While your dog is enjoying their treat, take a couple of steps to the other side of the room. If your dog stays where they are, wait a moment, then go back and reward them with an extra treat;

* Increase the distance you move away and the time you wait before returning with the extra treat;

* You should soon be able to leave the room and close the door or gate;

* Progress to spending more time in a different room. Build this into your daily routine at home;

* It’s important that your dog remains relaxed. If they show signs of distress, leave them for a shorter period or don’t move as far away next time.

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and cares for 15,000 dogs across its network of 20 rehoming centres in the UK and Dublin.

The charity has a non-destruction policy and will never put a healthy dog to sleep.

It also focuses its efforts on understanding dogs and sharing that knowledge with the wider public to prevent problem behaviours that can result in abandonment. For more information, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk.