Charity Dogs Trust is issuing advice to dog owners following concerns over a “ticking time bomb” of separation anxiety among dogs post lockdown.
The news comes as Burns Pet Nutrition also warned dog owners that their pets are at risk of suffering from anxiety problems when they finally go back to work unless steps are put in place to prepare them.
Dogs Trust has offered tips to help dogs cope alone, it said: “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’ the ability to cope.”
The tips include making sure the dog has a comfy bed or den where they can relax in peace, giving them something fun to occupy them, such as a long-lasting treat or puzzle toy.
The charity also said “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”.
Other tips include increasing the distance owners move away and the time they wait before returning with the extra treat, progress to spending more time in a different room, Dogs Trust said to “build this into the daily routine”.
The charity added that it is “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.
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. 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 24/7.”
She added: “Now is the time to act to avoid future problems – and it’s easy to do. Just make sure that you factor in time apart from your dog each day to help them be able to cope when alone – this could be separated from you by a door or child gate for an hour or two whilst you’re working or homeschooling the kids.
“By organising your dog’s day, with time apart, playtimes, 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.”