The RSPCA is urging dog owners to think about their dogs and ensure they’re happy being left home alone before returning to work.
The UK Government has announced that Covid 19 Plan B measures – introduced as a result of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant – will be lifted, including advice that people should work from home.
The RSPCA fears that dogs may struggle if this change in regulations prompts people to change their routine and return to the office.
RSPCA dog welfare expert Esme Wheeler said: “We’re urging dog owners to be #DogKind and make a plan to help their pets cope with the change and teach them that it’s okay to be left home alone.
“There are estimated to be up to 12 million dogs across the UK and research has suggested that around eight in 10 dogs struggle to cope when they’re left alone. As many families have taken dogs on during lockdown – some of which may have never been left alone – this could pose a major dog welfare crisis as life begins to return to normal again.
“Dogs are very social and can form strong bonds with us so some don’t like being left behind when their owners go out. If they haven’t been prepared in a slow and positive way and learnt that being by themselves can be a positive experience then they can find it really difficult, stressful and frightening.”
Five tips to help your dog when he’s home alone
- Encourage your dog to spend time on his bed with a toy or chew, and set up a safe space for him to have access to when you’re out;
- Get your dog used to your new routine, especially if it involves altering the time of meal times or exercise
- Pop out and leave your dog home alone for short periods of time, gradually increasing the time – never leave them suddenly for an extended period, use a dog-sitter to take care of him instead;
- Give them a licky mat, puzzle treat dispenser or frozen activity feeder to keep them occupied while you’re out;
- Use a camera to keep an eye on your dog and make sure he’s not struggling.
Some dogs who find being left home alone difficult may exhibit behaviours that are usually associated with distress, like barking, toileting in the house, or being destructive. But others may not give any clear signals that they’re struggling and can often suffer in silence. That’s why it’s so important to teach all dogs that it’s okay to be left home alone and that you will return home.
Remember that puppies require higher levels of care and cannot cope with extended periods of separation.
If you’re concerned your dog may be displaying signs of separation related behaviour there are some steps you can take to help them:
Speak to your employer; is there a way of splitting your time between home and the office to reduce the amount of time your dog is home alone?
Dog-friendly office; could you take your dog into work with you? Is it safe and would your dog enjoy the experience?
Friends and family; do you have a friend, relative or neighbour who could pop in to spend time with your pooch while you’re out?
Employ a professional; think about hiring a professional dog walker (remember to use our Dog Walking Guidelines to find a good dog walker) to take your pet out.
Doggy day care; enrol your pooch into doggy day care while you’re at work.
Seek help; film your dog when left alone and if you spot signs that your dog is struggling then it’s important to seek help promptly from a clinical animal behaviourist (find a good behaviourist here) and make a training plan to introduce being left gradually and positively.
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