RSPCA reminds owners to be #DogKind as England’s Freedom Day approaches

The RSPCA is urging dog owners in England to make a plan for their pets as they prepare to return to normal life after Freedom Day (19 July).

The UK Government has announced that all Covid lockdown rules will be lifted in England and the work from home order will end on Monday, dubbed Freedom Day. Workers are expected to return to the office but the RSPCA is urging all dog owners to make a plan to help their pets cope with the change in routine.

Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA pet welfare expert, said: “The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) released its annual pet population data earlier this year, revealing that 3.2 million households in the UK have taken on a new pet during the pandemic. There are now an estimated 12 million dogs across the UK and, sadly, research suggests that around eight in 10 dogs can struggle to cope when left alone. Many families have taken on a new dog during lockdown and some of them may have never experienced being home alone, so this could pose real challenges after ‘Freedom Day’ in England.

“When we pop out to the shops or head out to work our dogs can become very anxious or worried. Some dogs can struggle with nothing to do or be frightened by loud noises outside. But many dogs form close bonds with us and don’t like to be alone. If they haven’t learnt that being by themselves is a positive experience then it can be very difficult.

“It’s really important that we help them learn to cope with being left at home and gradually teach them to be alone in a positive way. We’re urging owners to think about this before they head back to the office and to come up with a plan to help their dogs cope with this change in routine.”

Make a paw-fect plan

The RSPCA has released a new video to help owners prepare their dogs and has also released a ‘text message exchange’ between a dog and his owner to highlight how dogs can feel when they’re left home alone.

The charity is urging owners to make a plan now before you head back into the office:

  • Speak to your employer; is there a way of splitting your time between home and the office to reduce the amount of time your dog is home alone?

  • Dog-friendly office; could you take your dog into work with you? Is it safe and would your dog enjoy the experience?

  • Friends and family; do you have a friend, relative or neighbour who could pop in to spend time with your pooch while you’re out?

  • Employ a professional; think about hiring a professional dog walker (remember to use our Dog Walking Guidelines to find a good dog walker) to take your pet out.

  • Doggy day care; enrol your pooch into doggy day care for a fun day out while you’re at work.

  • Seek help; film your dog when left alone and if you spot signs that your dog is struggling then it’s important to seek help from a clinical animal behaviourist (we can help you find a good behaviourist) and make a training plan to introduce being left gradually and positively.

Five steps to help your dog settle at home:

  1. Encourage your dog to go to their bed and stay

  2. Gradually move away

  3. Use lots of praise and reward

  4. Gradually increase the time and distance

  5. Repeat steps if your dog struggles

Dr Gaines added: “Sadly, the PFMA found that 11% of new owners have already given up a pet and we fear that this is just the beginning of what could become the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation. Behavioural problems are one of the key reasons why dogs are relinquished to rescue centres and we’re already starting to see ‘pandemic puppies’ coming into our care.

“Some dogs who find being left home alone difficult may exhibit behaviours that are usually associated with stress and anxiety, like barking, toileting in the house, or being destructive. But others may not give any clear signals that they’re struggling and can often suffer in silence.

“Many dogs can find changes in our routine very unsettling so it’s really important to introduce any changes gradually. Please be #DogKind, understand your pet’s needs, prepare now and help them to be happy and healthy in the long-term. If not, we fear the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation, and millions of dogs suffering everyday when their owners go out to work.”