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The secret lives of dogs

Posted by: Sophie Berrisford  Date: 23/10/2013   Category: Latest News

Do you ever wonder what your beloved dogs get up to at home whilst you’re not around?
The channel 4 program this week, The Secret Lives of Dogs will investigate the issue that many dog owners have, leaving your dogs at home alone. Using hidden cameras 70 dogs are observed over a length of time revealing their habits and behaviour whilst their owners are out of the house. This has been the first study of its kind which has used thermal imaging to reveal the dog’s emotions and can confirm that the majority of the 70 dogs watched were stressed when left alone.
Many dog owners think their dogs are okay left alone all day whilst they are at work as they have never had complaints of barking and the dogs feel very relaxed when they return almost as if they have just slept the whole time. Unfortunately in most cases this isn’t true, the dogs lack of enthusiasm on the owners return is the first obvious sign that they haven’t enjoyed their time on their own.
Scientists also analysed saliva samples for Cortisol levels which is the hormone dogs produce when they are anxious. Eighty five percent of the dogs tested saw in increase in Cortisol levels showing that these dogs didn’t enjoy their time alone. Anxiety causes dogs to become fearful, wrecking furniture, chewing and getting up to mischief. Dogs have a different sense of time to humans, so whether you leave your dog for one hour or twelve they will still get upset at you leaving them and the anxiety will kick in.
Dogs can show their anxiety through both howling and barking and this is the noise that will upset your neighbours enough to report you. You could be fined up to £5,000 for this so it is essential to train your dog to enjoy time alone and welcome it with calm behaviour rather than barking.
Training a dog to enjoy their time alone is a difficult and long process however one that will benefit both you and your dog immensely. You must teach your dog that it can be fun to be alone and have quiet time and of course that you will always return ready to pet and play with your dog. If you are looking to train your dog there are several training guides available and many dog trainers who would be willing to help.
Until you make arrangements to begin training you should try to make their alone time as calm as possible to prevent anxiety. Ensure you walk your dog before leaving them as this releases endorphins and your dog will be in a happy mind frame. This will also release any built up energy which helps prevent them getting up to mischief for no reason. Be sure to leave them in their dog bed, dogs love their beds so what better place to put them before you leave. If they have a favourite dog toy or blanket, it is a good idea to leave this close to them also. Ensure they have water available and have been fed prior to leaving. Say goodbye to your dog in a friendly calming tone, this will help reassure your dog that you will be coming back. When you return allow ten minutes to your dog alone to pet and play with them, this will work as a reward and your dog will know this will happen the next time you have to go out.
There are no quick remedies to dog anxiety, but with a good training program and persistent work, you will help your dog in the long run.