Dog depression timebomb as study pinpoints major Covid problem – new tips to help pets

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New research by 4lite reveals more than 80 percent of owners are now concerned and worried about leaving their dogs home alone. This comes as new data shows more dogs have started exhibiting concerning behaviours, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many dogs are struggling to adapt to life now that restrictions have eased and their owners are no longer always around, says Denise Nuttall, a dog behavioural expert.

The easing of Covid restrictions has meant changes to our daily routines, which has caused more dogs to develop behavioural issues and separation anxiety.

According to 4lite, 75 percent of owners said their dogs have started exhibiting negative behaviours when they are left home alone. This is even higher among first-time owners at 91 percent.

Whining, barking, pacing and appearing sad or dispirited are all common behaviours reported.

More extreme actions include destroying items in the home, urinating indoors, producing excessive saliva and vomiting.

Even more concerning, one in 30 first-time owners report their dogs self-mutilate, according to 4lite’s research.

Dog behavioural expert Denise Nuttall told Express.co.uk there has been “a massive, unprecedented increase in territorial aggression because the dogs are not used to people coming into their homes”.

Ms Nuttall added: “Suddenly they have strangers coming into their territory, which is upsetting and scary for them.”

This is why, she said, they are using aggression to try and keep people away.

According to the canine expert, the reason most dogs didn’t exhibit these behaviours before Covid is because they had been socialised from being puppies.

Because of the pandemic, the dogs have missed out, in some cases for two years, of a critical period in their “social and emotional development”, Denise said.

Kate Baker is a wellness adviser at 4lite which sells smart lights that aim to help ease loneliness in pets when home alone.

She told Express.co.uk: “With the nation spending more time at home, the pandemic created the perfect opportunity for people to bring home a pup. However, the consequence has seen pets get so used to constant company that when people do have to return to work, it’s a new experience which can cause problems.”

Denise said dogs will pick up on departure cues such as grabbing your keys or putting on a coat. These cues will be triggers to the pet and cause them to experience anxiety whenever you plan to leave the house.

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Moving the trigger objects regularly will help break the association between their anxiety and your leaving.

She also advised owners to build up their dog’s tolerance of being alone by leaving them for short periods of time and videoing them to check they have settled.

It can, however, take months for the pups to adapt but it should not be rushed as this could cause further anxiety and setbacks.

If owners can arrange for a friend or family member to visit while they are away, this will help break up the time the dog is left alone and help ease their anxiety.

For owners that have no option but to leave their dogs for long periods, Ms Nuttall suggested going to a vet who may prescribe anti-depressants or sedatives for pets exhibiting particularly extreme behaviours.

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