Dogs Trust warns of impending dog behaviour crisis

Over a quarter of owners (26%) said their dog has developed at least one new problem behaviour during lockdown, according to new research released by Dogs Trust.

The charity is issuing advice to owners to help them manage their dog’s behaviour and is asking them to act now, to help their dogs adjust to when they return to work.

The UK’s largest dog welfare charity has issued the first results from research investigating the impact of COVID-19 lockdown measures on dogs and their owners. The charity surveyed over 6,000 dog owners in May this year about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on their dog. Those who took part were asked about their dog’s routines, walks, enrichment and time spent alone during and before lockdown.

The majority of owners (55%) reported that their dog’s routine had changed a lot, including having less walks – as owners stuck to government guidance – and being less likely to be allowed to run off-lead. Worryingly over a quarter of dog owners (26%) reported that their dog showed at least one new problem behaviour during lockdown.

Owners were also asked about the occurrence of behaviours in different situations before and during the lockdown period. The findings showed there was an:

  • 82% increase in reports of dogs whining or barking when a household member was busy;
  • 20% increase in reports of dogs frequently seeking attention from their owner;
  • 54% rise in the number of people saying their dog has hidden or moved away when approached; and
  • 41% increase in reports of dogs being clingy or following people around the house during lockdown.

The single biggest reason why dogs are handed into Dogs Trust is because of behaviour-related issues.

Rachel Casey, director of canine behaviour and research at Dogs Trust, said: “These are challenging times as millions of us across the country have had our daily lives turned upside down. Whilst some dogs have been happy to have their human family at home more, others have been stressed by reduced exercise, inability to find a quiet place to rest or no contact with other dogs. Our research shows some early warning signs that lockdown is having a negative impact on some dogs’ behaviour.

“A big worry for us is what the long-term impact of lockdown will have on dogs’ ability to cope when left home alone. Dogs that had separation anxiety before the lockdown are likely to get worse when left again as owners head back to work – but we also expect to see new cases developing, because other dogs, and particularly puppies, have learnt to expect company all day. We could well see a rise in the number of dogs needing our help or being abandoned because of this.”

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