Almost half of UK dog owners have been with their pets round-the-clock since the start of lockdown, new research reveals, triggering concerns about separation anxiety and distress behaviours.
The survey of 420 owners was commissioned by Forthglade Natural Pet Food in April. It found 29% of them had seen their dog become more needy since the start of the pandemic, with 22% reporting an increase in barking and 27% admitting concerns about having less time for walks and quality interaction once they return to work.
The company is now urging owners to begin preparations for the changes to come. With 61% of owners claiming to have forged happier and deeper connections with their pets since March, the focus now needs to be on a positive transition into life after lockdown, it said.
Certified animal behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson said: “Having this period at home has no doubt strengthened the bond with our beloved dogs; it’s been a great time to nourish relationships with our four-legged friends and enjoy more relaxed walks.
“It would be wonderful if dog owners held onto the positive traits developed during this unsettled time, ensuring this special connection with our pets and families is not lost.”
Dog walking during lockdown emerged from the survey as a powerful tool for mindfulness with 48% of owners enjoying longer, more fulfilling dog walks compared to their previous routines. 46% increased training and those polled had formed closer family bonds overall, owing to greater human-canine interaction.
The benefits of mindful downtime, interacting with nature, and more nourishing relationships with dogs were cited among the silver linings of prescribed time at home. 57% of dog owners cited their canine companion as a best friend, with 88% saying their dog supported their happiness and 60% saying their dog helped them to deal with stress and anxiety.
Gerard Lovell, joint MD of Forthglade and owner of Labrador Bo, said: “Our survey shows we have a renewed appreciation of our pets and what they bring to our lives, but it also highlights the amount of physical and mental stimulation they really need to stay happy and healthy.
“People who previously left their dogs alone all day have been prompted to rethink things, which is a positive. Slowly ‘future-proofing’ our dogs for a time when we aren’t going to be around 24/7 is essential for combatting distressed and destructive behaviours.”