Dogs have had a good year. With many people homeworking or on furlough, they have grown used to having their owners around all the time, with all the attention, mental stimulation and exercise that they can squeeze into the day. But as adults return to workplaces and children and students return to schools and colleges, it’s inevitable that many dogs, and other pets, will now be facing longer spells home alone, waiting for owners to return – and they will need to adjust.
The rise in dog ownership in the UK during the pandemic has been astounding. In a recent survey, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) found that over three million people collected a new pet during the lockdowns, with 11 per cent of households taking on new animals. The number of pet dogs, meanwhile, is estimated to have risen by two million to 12 million.
While many workplaces now have “Take Your Dog to Work” days, it’s unlikely that most companies will be that receptive to employees’ pets popping in more often. Indeed, just 15 per cent of respondents to the PFMA’s
survey said that their office was pet-friendly. “This is an unprecedented period with unusual working conditions,” says Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of the PFMA.
“New owners need to seriously think about future possible obstacles that could make life with a pet more challenging. Owners need to consider their pet when thinking about return-to-work plans, less time available and the possibility of separation anxiety for their pet.”
Graeme Hall is a professional dog trainer best known for his work on the Channel 5 programme Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly. He believes that the issue of canine separation anxiety in a post-pandemic world might be self-perpetuating, with dogs picking up on their owners’ own anxiety about leaving them alone.
“As we entered the first lockdown, there was speculation as to how dogs would cope with being cooped up with the family all day, every day, but I suspect that dogs would be thinking: ‘Well, this is excellent! I’ve got them all to myself!’” Hall says.