One in five dog-owners regularly leave their pet on its own for more than five hours at a time, shocking new research has shown.
This is despite advice from experts that dogs should never be left alone for more than four hours.
And more than half of British dogs are left on their own at least once a day with the average length of time being three hours, a poll of 2,000 dog-owners has revealed.
The findings, commissioned by pet insurance firm animalfriends.co.uk, show that dog-owners leave their pets ‘home alone’ for a total of six weeks a year.
This can make dogs “severely anxious” according to Dr Roger Mugford, a dog behaviourist who has previously trained the Queen’s corgis.
“Dog loneliness can be a big problem – they are supremely sociable animals and if you put them in isolation they find it extremely distressing. Some dogs get severely anxious and will try to destroy the house and escape,” said Dr Mugford.
The survey found that 40 per cent of owners have noticed their dogs showing signs of distress when left alone, including barking, whimpering and destructive behaviour.
And one in five owners say they have had to rehome a dog because it cannot cope with being alone.
Dr Mugford advised owners to try to alleviate loneliness in their pets by asking neighbours to visit their dog, leaving the TV or radio on while they are out, and making sure the dog has access to the whole house.
“Ideally, dog owners should work from home or find a job where they can take the dog to work,” he said.
“If your lifestyle means you’re out all day and you can’t change that then you shouldn’t have a dog – maybe consider getting a cat instead. Whereas dogs get very upset when left alone, cats tend breathe a sigh of relief when their owner leaves!”
The survey also shows that more than 40% of dog owners attempt to make up for their absence by comforting their dog with cuddly toys, snacks and treats.
And it seems that many owners can’t bear to be apart from their pets for lengthy periods of time – with almost half saying they take their dog on holiday with them, and a further 45% saying they let their dogs share their bed.
Commenting on the survey, Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said: “Separation related behaviour and anxiety has the potential to be a significant welfare problem.
“It is a hidden issue as, by its very nature, it only happens when the owner is absent and unless the dogs is filmed when left alone, it can be difficult to know if your dog is struggling.
“Most dogs like human company and form strong bonds with their owners and other family members so can find it difficult being left alone, especially if they haven’t been taught that it is okay.”
- 37% of owners leave their dog on its own once a day, 13% leave their dog on its own multiple times a day, and 6% never leave their dog on its own.
- On average, dogs are left alone for 3 hours at a time, but 18% of owners typically leave their dog alone for over five hours.
- The average UK dog owner leaves their pet alone for a total of 981 hours a year (approximately 6 weeks)
- 75% of dogs don’t have access to outside space while alone.
- Resulting in 40% of dogs show signs of distress due to being left alone, including barking (16%) and destructive behaviour (11%).
- 5.5% of Brits have had to rehome a dog because it couldn’t cope with being left alone.
- 42% of owners who leave the radio or TV on for their dog when it’s left alone, 46% leave a cuddly dog toy, and 41% leave snacks and treats for their dog.
- 48% of owners say they take their dog on holiday with them.
- 46% of owners let dogs share their bed.