Dogs are left at home on their own for six weeks a year by UK pet owners, according to new research.
A poll conducted by AnimalFriends.co.uk revealed that animals are left alone for an average of 981 hours each year and 37 percent of dog owners leave their pet alone for an average of three hours every day. 75 percent of those dogs do not have access to outside space when left to their own devices. The stats also showed that over 40 percent of untended dogs show signs of distress including barking (15.9 percent), whimpering (13 percent) or destroying furniture (10.6 percent).
This leaves many dogs “severely anxious” according to Dr Roger Mugford, a dog behaviourist who has previously trained the Queen’s corgis. “Dog loneliness can be a big problem – they are supremely sociable animals and if you put them in isolation they find it extremely distressing. Some dogs get severely anxious and will try to destroy the house and escape,” said Dr Mugford.
Two thirds claimed to have a neighbour or relative on call that they could contact if they were unable to get home to let their dog out and a third regularly pay up to £100 per month for dog sitters to mind their furry companions. Over 40 percent of respondents admitted to leaving the TV on or leaving toys and snacks out to comfort their dogs.
“Ideally, dog owners should work from home or find a job where they can take the dog to work,” he said. “If your lifestyle means you’re out all day and you can’t change that then you shouldn’t have a dog – maybe consider getting a cat instead. Whilst dogs get very upset when left alone, cats tend to breathe a sigh of relief when their owner leaves!”
5.5 percent of Brits have even resorted to rehoming their pets because they couldn’t cope with being left by themselves, while 6 percent of owners never go on holiday for fear of leaving their pet.
Commenting on the survey, Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said: “Separation related behaviour and anxiety has the potential to be a significant welfare problem.“It is a hidden issue as, by its very nature, it only happens when the owner is absent and unless the dogs is filmed when left alone, it can be difficult to know if your dog is struggling. “Most dogs like human company and form strong bonds with their owners and other family members so can find it difficult being left alone, especially if they haven’t been taught that it is okay.”