Dogs have struggled during lockdown with owners reporting an increase in barking and biting.Charity the Dogs Trust carried out a study to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Britain’s pooches, and have warned of an impending behaviour crisis in pets.
More than 25% of owners say their dog has developed at least one new problem since the start of lockdown.
This is combined with a staggering 82% of owners reporting an increase in barking, or whining when they are busy.
The study also found online searches for ‘dog bark’ increased by around 48% – and searches for ‘dog bite’ increased by around 40%.Rachel Casey, from the charity, said: ‘These are challenging times as millions of us across the country have had our daily lives turned upside down.
‘While some dogs have been happy to have their human family at home more, others have been stressed by reduced exercise, inability to find a quiet place to rest or no contact with other dogs.
‘Our research shows some early warning signs that lockdown is having a negative impact on some dogs’ behaviour.
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‘A big worry for us is what the long-term impact of lockdown will have on dogs’ ability to cope when left home alone.
‘Dogs that had separation anxiety before the lockdown are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work – but we also expect to see new cases developing, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learnt to expect company all day.’
People have also seen a 20% increase in their dogs frequently seeking attention, and there has been a 54% rise in the number of people saying their dog has hidden or moved away when approached.
The Dogs Trust said it is now worries that if these behavioural problems aren’t identified and treated early on that the country could see an increase in dog abandonment in the future – or even euthanasia.
The charity, which said the single biggest reason why dogs are abandoned is because of behaviour-related issues, predicts that up to 40,000 dogs could be at risk of abandonment as a result of the pandemic.
And it added a rise in problematic behaviours due to lockdown measures could compound this issue still further if families find these behaviours difficult to manage, and have no other option but to give up their dog.
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The Dogs Trust is now encouraging owners to take steps now to change the tale and ensure problems don’t develop when things return towards normal.
The risk of dogs developing separation anxiety is another urgent concern raised by the charity.
This is particularly the case for puppies, who may never have had experience of being left home alone during the lockdown.
Suddenly leaving the young dogs alone once people go back to their ‘new normal’ lives is very likely to lead to separation anxiety.
Rachel added: ‘We could well see a rise in the number of dogs needing our help or being abandoned because of this.
‘Together, with the support of the public, we can change the tale.‘It is much easier to prevent problems that treat them, and we would urge people to visit our website or Dog School videos on YouTube for advice and support to help prevent these problem behaviours from developing.
‘We understand that some may not be able to cope with dogs that have developed problem behaviours and will offer support to those who need to hand over a dog, for whatever reason.’
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Where dogs are already showing signs of separation anxiety, owners should seek help from their vet in the first instance, the charity advised.
And it urged owners to avoid looking for ‘quick fix’ solutions like anti-bark collars, or punishing a dog on return.
The Dogs Trust said these approaches will exacerbate the problem and result in more serious and difficult to treat problems in the long run.
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