Pet owners are being warned their dogs could develop separation anxiety once the coronavirus lockdown ends, having become accustomed to extra attention while their owners are at home.

The warning comes from pet food company, Burns Pet Nutrition, who have warned dog owners that their pets are at risk of suffering from anxiety problems when they finally go back to work, unless steps are put in place to prepare them.

The company is urging owners to take action now to help pets get ready for the return to normality and prevent them from developing attachment issues post-lockdown.

Milford Mercury:

Advice to owners includes spending some time away from their dogs during the day, even while in the same house, to ensure they get used to time alone so that it won’t come as a shock once the lockdown is lifted.

Such measures will be particularly important for the pets bought or adopted during the pandemic, who may not yet have experience separation from their owners.

Ben Evans, dog trainer and owner of Dog Behaviour Wales and an advisor to Burns, said: “Many dog owners across the country will have been enjoying spending extra time with their pets over the lockdown, but while this newfound time together will have been a dream come true for dogs, it could cause problems down the line.

“After being used to having us around 24/7, it may be difficult for our dogs to cope when we go back to our regular routines and aren’t around all the time, especially for puppies who know no different.

"It’s imperative that owners take precautions to prevent pets from becoming unnecessarily distressed once the lockdown ends.”

Dogs with separation anxiety are generally distressed when left alone, experiencing symptoms including excessive barking and howling, urination and defecation, destructive behaviours, salivation and pacing.

Milford Mercury:

For dogs that appear to be suffering from separation anxiety, Burns recommends normalising being alone by leaving pets in a ‘puppy-proofed’ room for small increments during the day, increasing the time moved away and building this into their daily routine.

Ben added: “Owners need to normalise the fact that being alone is not a big deal by doing plenty of it in short bursts. Start off with just 10-15 seconds, gradually building this up to minutes and eventually a couple of hours. Leaving and returning should be relatively uneventful as animated greetings or goodbyes can build up anticipation or anxiety.

“It’s also important to desensitise dogs to any signs that indicate you are about to leave. Try picking up and putting down car keys throughout the day, opening and closing doors without leaving, picking up and moving shoes and bags, or putting on a coat and walking around with it before removing it. All these steps will help to prevent these possible triggers from causing anxiety.”

As well as ensuring dogs have controlled periods alone, they should be given something to do to help reduce their anxiety when left alone.