pandemic pups struggle to be left alone as dog ownership soars

By Christine Emelone
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 11:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 11:52 am

More than 80% of pandemic-pup owners are worried about leaving their dogs home alone, reveals new research.  Leaving the TV, radio and lights on are the most common techniques used by owners to comfort their dogs when they are left alone.

The research, by smart lighting brand 4lite, discovered that nearly half of dog owners (44%) bought a new dog during the pandemic with a quarter (26%) becoming dog owners for the first time. However, those who took advantage of the pandemic to welcome their first dog are struggling more to adapt to leaving their pups home alone.

Top negative behaviours by first-time dog owners:

  1. Whining 50%
  2. Watching for owners return all day 39%
  3. Appearing sad 24%
  4. Barking or howling 25%
  5. Pacing around the home 17%
  6. Destroying items at home 14%
  7. Urinating 11%
  8. Finding it hard to settle 9%
  9. Trying to escape 6%
  10. Excess saliva 6%
  11. Vomiting 5%
  12. Self-mutilation 3%

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    To coincide with the launch of the new research, 4lite has partnered with clinical animal behaviourist and trainer Hanne Grice, founder of Hanne Grice Pet Training & Behaviour, to provide some top tips for owners when leaving their dog home.

    1. Act now: Isolation distress is a common issue as dogs are social creatures. Never just leave your dog without training and expect them to deal with it; learning this behaviour takes time, patience and consistency. As many are working from home at the moment, now is the time to start this in advance of returning to the office.
    take steps to care for your dog in good time
    1. Planned departure training: Encourage your dog to settle in their bed while you work from home. Initially you might need to put their bed by your feet but gradually move it further away and reward them for staying in it. Eventually, the bed can be positioned the other side of a baby gate and then a closed door.
    1. Triggers: Your dog will learn your routine whether it’s picking up keys or putting on your coat. Moving these trigger objects regularly will help break the association between your departure cues and their fear. Repetition and consistency are key.
    Your dog will pick up the routine gradually and adjust
    1. Gesture leaving: Spend time in another room or outside away from your dog for very short periods of time, videoing to check whether they settle. If they can’t, you’ll need to help them get used to you disappearing for just a few seconds and build this time up very slowly over weeks and months. Rushing this process can create setbacks.
    1. Alone time: Help your dog get used to not being your constant shadow by using a baby gate and shutting this momentarily if you get up to make a cuppa or leave the room, enabling them to build confidence.
    1. Lighting: Consider lighting which can be calming for dogs particularly if they’ve associated the dark with your absence. Keep lighting natural with soft daylight hues by day, transitioning to warmer hues in the evening. Dim light is best and helps promotes relaxation.
    use soft lighting to calm your pup (photo: 4lite)
    1. Be mindful: Most modern lighting fluctuates or flickers but avoid lights with a high-frequency or intensity flicker which can have a detrimental effect on pets. Try not to cast shadows or reflections on surfaces. These could elicit unwanted behaviours such as fear or shadow chasing which may be more prevalent in particular breeds such as Border Collies and Spaniels.
    1. Distraction: If you can, aim to leave your dog on their own every day. You can place an old t-shirt you’ve worn into your dog’s bed and try giving them a toy filled with treats they have to work at to get into, enabling you to slip out quietly.

                   9.  Getting it right: There isn’t a quick fix to leaving your dog alone. Treat these tips as little                           nuggets which can all help but be aware of other factors that can contribute to distress. 

    Use each tip as a valuable guide to looking after your dog in the right way

    Wilko welcomes pets in-store for the first time

    The rollout to over two thirds of the home and garden retailer’s stores follows a successful pilot at two locations. Furry friends will be able to browse all areas of the participating stores except for food aisles.

    The brand expects most of the pet customers will be either dogs or cats, and these four-legged shoppers are likely to find many products instore that get their tails wagging.

    Wilko stocks everything from pet food to treats, bedding to toys, cleaning supplies to healthy pet essentials and even presents, costumes and accessories during key seasonal celebrations such as Christmas. For other animal family members, the retailer is also home to reptile, bird and fish pet supplies.

    To find your nearest wilko store, please click here.