Does your dog feel anxious when you go out?

Does your dog feel anxious when you go out?

As many as seven million dogs in the UK may be suffering from separation anxiety, according to the RSPCA.

To your dog, you're the centre of their world and when you're away from them, they can feel frightened, lonely or sad, the animal welfare charity explains.

Research suggests that more than eight in ten dogs find it hard to cope when left alone -- and while some may show visible signs of distress such as barking or destroying things, others will simply sit quietly, feeling worried. As a result, it can be easy for owners to miss.

The animal welfare charity has launched a campaign, #DogKind, to help owners better understand their dog's emotional needs and raise awareness of separation-related behaviour.

#DogKind campaign manager Daisy Hopson said: "We know that owners are the centre of their dog's life. 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've come from. Many dogs don't know how to cope when their owner isn't at home and so are often unhappy when left alone."

 

To help your dog feel happier when you go out, the RSPCA suggests a range of steps including:

 

Leave a 'special' toy

When you go out, give your dog something mentally stimulating to occupy their time such as a stuffed 'kong' toy, a meat flavoured chew or a treat ball or cube. Whatever you choose, it should be a 'special' toy that they only get when you're not there. Remember to put away this toy when you return and also to take any food treats out of your pet's daily food allowance to avoid overfeeding.

 

Encourage your dog to relax

Try to take your dog for a walk before you are due to go out so that they have the opportunity to go to the toilet and exercise. Return half an hour before you plan to leave and feed them a small meal -- your dog will be much more inclined to relax!

 

Minimise disturbances

Some dogs will bark at the sight of other people or dogs passing by their window or in response to noises outside the home. Closing the curtains to reduce what your dog can see outside, leaving them in a quieter room or putting the radio on to muffle outside noise can prevent your dog from being disturbed and barking.

Other measures that can help include using a dog sitter or dog walker, and making sure you don't physically punish or shout at your dog if they misbehave while you're out because this could end up increasing their anxiety and making the behaviour worse.

If this advice doesn't ease the separation-related behaviour, talk to your vet who knows you and your dog. They may refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist, who can help identify the underlying cause of the problem and develop a treatment plan that works for you and your dog.

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