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Animal behaviour expert works with MoreThan insurance to investigate impact of lockdown on dogs

We are absolutely inundated at the moment, with people asking for our help with their adolescent pups, writes animal behaviour expert Karen Wild

The effects of lockdown didn’t just affect us humans. We have had a number of false starts about returns to work, who can come to the house and so on. Now we have a new normal and hopefully it will continue! Is it any wonder though, that our dogs are really affected by this?

I worked on a project with MoreThan insurance last week, helping owners to guide their dogs through these new changes. MoreThan found in a survey that four in 10 dog owners asked, have noticed increased anxiety in their dogs due to lockdown easing. This rose to 57 per cent when the owners were new dog owners. Hardly surprising in some ways, but here’s the reality. We need to take care of this with plans in place. Otherwise our dogs will spend their days feeling anxious and potentially, defensive.

Karen Wild
Karen Wild

It’s not just being left alone when we go back to work, however. Owners report that visitors coming to the home are causing problems. I am certainly hearing this from my case load in clinical behaviour. Dogs weren’t able to socialise like they normally would have, and those that were used to visitors beforehand have had a long time with this ‘not’ being a thing.

Imagine how we feel already, with the added total lack of explanation! At least we can watch the news or read things on government websites about what is happening. Dogs don’t have this information.

What do we do? Take into account that our dogs will be affected. Some, a lot more than others. Don’t just wait until your dog is growling or running from visitors. These are signs that your dog is too upset, so let them leave and give them time. Whatever you do, don’t tell them off or force them into a ‘meet and ‘greet’.

Dogs love food and toys (usually) so you can always pair these with new visitors, or give them exciting treat containing toys for times when they are alone. Make sure whatever you leave them with is designed to be chewed and solid enough not to be consumed.

If you are planning to leave your dog when you go back to work, remember that the recommended maximum per day is no longer than four hours. Please don’t leave your dog for any longer than this. Dogs are social creatures and to leave them longer, even if you promise you’ll come back at lunch time, is way too long. Get a dog walker or use doggy day care instead.

Let’s plan ahead, for them too - they have been great friends during these stressful times, so let’s look after our best chums.

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