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Animal Welfare dogs

Shocking: Fifth of Dog Owners Believe It’s ‘OK’ to Leave Pets Alone 24 HOURS!

Shock survey findings as RSPCA campaign calls on public to be #DogKind this Christmas

The RSPCA is urging the dog-owning British public to be aware of separation anxiety as a survey reveals that a fifth of dog owners believe it’s acceptable to leave their dogs home alone for more than 24 hours. 

The charity is urging dog owners to ensure they have considered appropriate care for their pets as the busy Christmas season approaches.

As part of the RSPCA’s #DogKind campaign, a survey* revealed that 21% of dog owners felt it was acceptable to occasionally leave a dog alone for more than 24 hours – while 39% said their dog is home alone for seven or more hours on an average day.

RSPCA #DogKind campaign manager Daisy Hopson said: “The festive season is nearly upon us and we know that it’s a busy time of year for most families. As people prepare for office parties, long days out Christmas shopping and plan to go away for the holidays, it’s extremely important that dog owners consider their pets too.

“For those dogs who are happy being left home alone we recommend leaving them for no more than four hours at a time so if you’re going to be out more during the festive season, have you thought about how to help your dog? Perhaps you could as a friend or relative to pop in and give your pet some company? Or do you need to hire a dog walker? Can your pet come with you when you go away to visit family this Christmas Day? These are really important questions that you should be asking now.”

The RSPCA launched the #DogKind campaign in March in a bid to help millions of dogs in the UK who could be struggling to cope when they’re left home alone.

Daisy added: “We know that many dogs form very strong bonds with their owners and for some dogs being left alone can be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, many dogs don’t know how to cope when their owner isn’t at home and are unhappy when left alone.

“Research** has suggested that 85% of dogs may suffer from separation related anxiety, feeling frightened, lonely or sad whenever their owners head out to work or pop out for the evening.”

The charity found that owners are aware of separation related behaviour in dogs – with 53% saying they’ve heard of it and 44% saying it seriously impacts on dogs.

But many may find it difficult to recognise the problem, as up to 50% of dogs don’t show any obvious signs that they’re struggling with separation related behaviour so it’s easy for owners to miss. This is one of the reasons the RSPCA is urging people to check for hidden signs, such as pacing or excessive lip licking, by filming their dog when they’re out.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Some dogs who suffer when they’re left home alone may display quite obvious signs – such as barking, whining, toileting or destroying things. But others will simply sit there, suffering in silence, which means you may not know if there’s a problem.

“Thankfully, you can help your dog learn that it is okay to be left alone and there are things you can try at home to help your dog feel happier when you are out. We hope that #DogKind will highlight this problem and help owners ensure that their beloved pet is happy.”

Dr Gaines added: “If you’re concerned that your pet may be 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.”

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. 

* Survey conducted by Atomik Research on 2,002 dog owners, March 2019

** Research carried out for Channel 4’s ‘Dogs: Their Secret Lives – Sad Dogs’.