Ahead of the country’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on 19 July, the RSPCA has issued an urgent warning to all dog owners.
As next Monday sees the final step in the government’s roadmap to lifting lockdown commence, with the rules on the wearing of face coverings, social distancing measures, and mass gatherings all set to change, it signals a return to the workplace for many.
But after what may have been nearly 16 months at home for some, it’s not just us who will have to adapt to an altered way of life.
Pointing out that millions of people have welcomed new four-legged friends into their lives over the course of lockdown, the UK’s leading animal welfare charity has offered a reminder that all dog owners will have to put some plans in place for their pets as life returns to something resembling normality.
Most notably, the RSPCA has suggested that dog owners split their time between the office and home, take their dog to work occasionally where possible, or ask friends to help mind the dog when they are out.
Animal welfare experts at the charity have pointed out that dogs can become extremely anxious when left alone, even for relatively short periods of time.
“There are now an estimated 12 million dogs across the UK,” Dr Samantha Gaines, Pet Welfare Expert at the RSPCA, told the Liverpool Echo.
“Sadly, research suggests that around eight in 10 dogs can struggle to cope when left alone [and given that] many families have taken on a new dog during lockdown and some of them may have never experienced being home alone, this could pose real challenges after ‘Freedom Day’ in England.”
Offering advice on how best to approach the situation, Dr Gaines added: “When we pop out to the shops or head out to work, our dogs can become very anxious or worried.
“Some dogs can struggle with nothing to do or be frightened by loud noises outside, but many dogs form close bonds with us and don’t like to be alone [and] if they haven’t learnt that being by themselves is a positive experience, then it can be very difficult.
“It’s really important that we help them learn to cope with being left at home and gradually teach them to be alone in a positive way [and] we’re urging owners to think about this before they head back to the office and to come up with a plan to help their dogs cope with this change in routine.
“Some dogs who find being left home alone difficult may exhibit behaviours that are usually associated with stress and anxiety, 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.”
Fearing that this is just the beginning of what could become “the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation”, with behavioural problems said to be one of the key reasons why dogs are relinquished to RSPCA rescue centres, Dr Gaines is encouraging owners to be “dog kind” and “understand your pet’s needs”.
“Many dogs can find changes in our routine very unsettling, so it’s really important to introduce any changes gradually.” she continued.
“Prepare now and help them to be happy and healthy in the long-term, [because] if not, we fear the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation, and millions of dogs suffering everyday when their owners go out to work.”
Featured Image – Pixabay (MarlyneArt)