The RSPCA has launched a campaign aimed at helping millions of dogs in the UK who could be struggling to cope when they’re left home alone.
The UK’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity is today (6 March) launching a nationwide campaign to help millions of dogs suffering in silence.
The RSPCA has launched #DogKind to help the 7m dogs who find being away from their owners difficult – a large number of which suffer in silence, without showing any clear signs that they’re struggling to cope, meaning owners don’t often realise there’s a problem. #DogKind aims to raise awareness of this often hidden issue and help owners ensure their dogs are the happiest pooch on the block
#DogKind campaign manager Daisy Hopson said: “We know that the love between owners and their dogs is unconditional – the centre of each other’s lives. So, when you leave your dog for any period of time, it can be incredibly difficult for them. It’s nothing to do with their age, breed or where they have come from, it’s because many dogs don’t know how to cope when their owner isn’t at home and are unhappy when left alone.
“Pioneering research suggested that 85% of dogs may be struggling to cope when left alone and with an estimated 9 million dogs in the UK and 26% of households** with a pet dog, it’s shocking to think that more than 7 million of our four-legged friends could be feeling frightened, lonely or sad when home alone. More worrying is the fact that many dogs won’t show signs that they are struggling (50% of dogs in the 2016 study showed no signs) so it’s easy for owners to miss. In fact, many owners may have no idea as 75% were unaware that their dogs were finding it hard to cope when on their own.”
A survey conducted by the RSPCA to coincide with the Chinese Year of the Dog (2018), found that 22% of owners left their dogs for four or more hours a day and 53% of dogs were left shut inside the house when their owners were out***
RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Some dogs who find it difficult to cope when on their own bark or destroy things to show their feelings, others will simply sit there suffering in silence – like people, dogs express their emotions in different ways, which means you may not always know if there is a problem.
“The good news is that you can help your dog learn that it is okay to be left alone; there are things to help your dog to feel calmer and happier when you are out. Even if you are unsure whether your dog is struggling, #DogKind will guide you through steps you can take to help discover if your dog is finding it difficult to cope and what you can do help.
“It’s a really important part of any dog’s training to teach them that being left alone isn’t scary, and so we also have lots of advice on how to teach your puppy or new dog that being on their own is not a bad thing..”
The RSPCA’s research also discovered:
- 87% of respondents agree or strongly agree that ‘dogs need and enjoy the company of people and dogs and don’t like being on their own’;
- 20% of people reported signs associated with separation related behaviour – but 45% of these people didn’t seek help, with 20% saying it was because ‘the behaviour doesn’t really bother me or my family’;
- Only 62% of people think dogs can experience worry while 63% believe dogs can experience sadness;
- But 74% think dogs can experience boredom;
- 25% of people agreed that ‘working hours make it difficult to care for my dog as I’d like’
Dr Gaines added: “There are lots of ways we can help our dogs if they’re struggling being home alone. If they need something to occupy them then it can be a great opportunity to provide enrichment and stimulation such as toys stuffed with treats or puzzle games.
“If your dog struggles without company or you are out for longer periods of time then you could ask a neighbour, friend or relative to spend time with your dog or take them out for a walk. If relying on friends and family isn’t an option, there are services like DogBuddy which help you find a dog sitter near you for boarding, day care or walking.
“However, if you’re concerned that your pet is displaying signs of separation related behaviour then we would strongly recommend speaking to your vet or a clinical animal behaviourist for some specialist advice tailored to his or her needs.”
One RSPCA rescue dog who has struggled with an extreme case of separation related behaviour is 12-year-old bearded collie cross, Tug.
He was rescued by RSPCA inspectors in September in a poor condition and taken in by the charity’s Coventry, Nuneaton & District branch. He was rehomed before Christmas but sadly returned to the centre when his new owners struggled to cope with his separation related behaviour
He loves being with people so much that he was really worried when he was left on his own so staff are now looking for owners who can work with him to help him with his anxiety.
The aim of the #DogKind campaign is to help owners better understand their dogs’ emotional needs and raise awareness of separation related behaviour, especially the fact that it is preventable and treatable. This is so dogs like Tug can stay in their home, rather than be put up for adoption, as their owners discover how to help their dog overcome these issues in the comfort of their own home
Whether you think your dog is struggling or not, we’d love all owners to try at least one of our #DogKind methods and see if they can improve their dog’s experience of being home alone.