Two-fifths of pandemic dog owners experiencing “pet regret”

A new survey carried out by the pet experts at YuMOVE, has revealed that 78% of dogs have suffered behavioural changes upon their owners’ return to the workplace.

As more of us return to our regular working environments, the study highlights how the sudden change in routine is negatively impacting our pets.

Findings unveil that almost four in five dogs (78%) are showing physical signs of separation anxiety when their owners leave and return from work. Although lockdown may have seemed like the perfect time to find a canine companion, the lifting of lockdown restrictions has brought with it many new problems for owners and dogs alike.

How has the behaviour of our dogs changed since returning to the workplace?

Since returning to their usual workplaces, dog owners have reported both physical and emotional changes within their dog’s behaviour, indicating signs of separation anxiety and loneliness.

The most common behavioural change, revealed by YuMOVE’s survey, is an increase in vocal signs of distress. A third (30%) of so-called “lockdown dogs” exhibit such behaviour, (e.g. barking, whining or crying) when their owners leave for work. By contrast, this figure is halved (15%) for dogs that were part of the family prior to the pandemic.

In addition, 26% of lockdown dog owners reported that their dogs become increasingly fearful upon their owners leaving for work. This figure decreases to 21% for pre-pandemic dogs — further emphasising that dogs brought home during the pandemic are more likely to struggle with separation anxiety when left alone.

Dog owners should also be aware that some pups are causing unwanted damage in the home. One in six (15%) lockdown dogs have shown an increase in destructive behaviours when left alone. Such tendencies include biting or chewing household items, as well as rise in toileting within the home. One in ten dog pre-pandemic dog owners have also noticed an increase in such behaviour.

After spending many months working from home with our dogs by our sides, it is perhaps no surprise that this new routine is taking such an emotional toll.

Bearing all these behavioural changes in mind, 72% of dog owners believe that their dogs would be happier if they did not have to return to the workplace.

How are dog owners feeling about returning to the workplace?

The return to the workplace has affected owners just as much as dogs. The survey highlighted that a large number of owners have had conflicting feelings about returning to work, due to concerns regarding their dogs. Almost half of lockdown dog owners (48%) have reduced the amount of hours they spend working away from home.

Although many of us were eager to return to a sense of normality, for those with new dogs the reality is quite different. In fact, 40% of new dog owners have continued to work from home, to ensure that their dogs are not left alone.

Watching our beloved pets display signs of separation anxiety can be extremely difficult. Destructive behaviour, unwanted toileting, vomiting and excessive barking, all caused by anxiety, cause concern for owners when forced to leave their dogs alone. To help protect both their dogs and our homes, one quarter of dog owners (25%) have paid for pet sitters to give their dog some company.

Attitudes towards working away from home have also changed for pre-pandemic dog owners. Prior to the pandemic, more than one in six dog owners (16%) would leave their dog for more than six hours a day. This figure has dropped sharply to just 3% — a decrease of 80%. On average, most owners would only be happy to leave their dog unaccompanied at home for just two to four hours, which is shorter than the average working day.

How are new dog owners reacting?

The RSPCA has warned of a ‘major dog welfare crisis’ as new owners struggle to cope with post-lockdown life. While many enjoyed the company of a dog during lockdown, some owners have admitted that they didn’t consider how their dogs would cope, once restrictions were eased.

A concerning figure of 42% of new dog owners admitted that they were not happy with the decision they made to bring home a dog, in such circumstances. In hindsight, one in five felt they weren’t actually prepared for the responsibility of owning a dog. Even more worryingly, one in eight owners frequently wonder if getting a dog was the right decision at all.