Leading UK charity Dogs for Good has issued guidance to dog owners to prevent ‘separation anxiety’ as lockdown eases and people begin returning to work.
This comes after a recent survey conducted by the charity reveals that over half of dog owners in the UK are worried their pet will be anxious when they return to work.
During lockdown, we’ve been spending more time than ever with our pets. Dogs especially have been loving having their people at home more and all the extra attention and affection they’ve been getting.
And now, as the nation’s thoughts turn to returning to a ‘new normal’, Dogs for Good, has conducted a survey which asks dog owners what they are most concerned about as the lockdown eases and how this might affect their dog.
Dogs for Good provides highly trained assistance dogs to people physical disabilities and families who have children with autism. The charity also supports people with learning disabilities and dementia to help them lead more independent life with the help of a trained dog.
They also have a Family Dog service which offers training, guidance and ongoing support to parents of children on the autism spectrum enabling the whole family to benefit from the unique support a well-trained dog can bring.
A total of 54 per cent of dog owners said they are worried about ‘separation anxiety’ when they return to work.
More than half respondents (53.2 per cent) say they haven’t started to reintroduce their dog back into a normal routine, such as leaving them at home for a short period of time to minimise their anxiety when lockdown ends.
Over half (54.8 per cent) have been walking their dog more during lockdown, while 58.5 per cent admit to giving their dogs more treats during lockdown.
Dogs for Good’s Operations Manager, Chris Muldoon, said: “You’ve been in lockdown, perhaps even isolating, for over two months and as a result, you’ve been way more interactive with your dog than ever before.
“Thus, some will get confused and upset by the fact that they’re not going to have as much time with you as they’ve recently enjoyed.
“Dogs are social animals and they thrive on routine. Six weeks ago, the rules for them changed dramatically and what they don’t know is that it’s all going to change again.
“Fortunately, because we’ll likely see a phased return to work, school runs, socialising etc. we really do have time to help our dogs and build their ability to cope.”
He added: “You could start by picking up your keys/bag/coat etc. saying your usual ‘goodbye’ to your dog and then leaving the house for a short amount of time – five or ten minutes.
“You can then build this up gradually over two to three days to an absence of half an hour and continue from there.”
Paula Czarnecki (59) from Grantham, Lincolnshire, has a six-year-old Cockerpoo called Lucy and has attended Dogs for Good Family Dog workshops in the past. She is very worried that Lucy may get separation anxiety when she, her husband and 19-year-old grandson Josh, who lives with them and has autism, return to work and education.
Paula said: “I’m very worried that Lucy will start howling when we start going out more because we’re all hers at the moment.
“We haven’t left her at all during lockdown, she’s been getting exercise in our garden as it’s very large.
“Lucy’s very timid and it took us a long time to be able to leave her in the first place before lockdown, so I’m worried that we’ll be back at square one as the rules relax.”
Hannah Beal, (pictured above) Dogs for Good Family Dog instructor, said: “Paula won’t be alone in her fears and that’s why we’ll be offering people like her advice and support during the coming weeks. Preparation will be the key to preventing separation anxiety.
“Dogs will not only have to get used to people not being around as much, they may also have to cope with added stress in the house.
“If the children aren’t coping well this obviously has an impact on the dog.
“People are worried about getting back into a routine and we have to pre-empt that there may be problems and put preparations in place before they come up.
“For example, many of our clients have already been practising leaving their dog alone, making sure they aren’t visible by going upstairs, and gradually building up the length of time they are away.”
Dogs for Good top tips include:
1. Bring back the old routine gradually.
2. Start talking to your colleagues/managers about how to manage your dog responsibilities when you return to work, for example ask if it would be ok to check on your dog regularly in the first few weeks/months of returning.
3. Take a note of your dog’s behaviour and think about how this may change when you’re out of the house and away from them.
4. Your dog might bark more when you’re not at home to reassure them as much, consider letting your postman know you’re going back to work and your dog may bark at them.
5. Reintroduce old routines, such as not leaving food on counters, to prevent scavenging when you are out.
6. Re-install baby gates that may have been taken away during lockdown and make sure doors are closed when you go out.
For more information about Dogs for Good, visit: www.dogsforgood.org