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Impact of Changes in Time Left Alone on Separation-Related Behaviour in UK Pet Dogs

By Naomi D. Harvey, Robert M. Christley, Kassandra Giragosian, Rebecca Mead, Jane K. Murray, Lauren Samet, Melissa M. Upjohn, Rachel A. Casey

Category Journal Articles

Separation-related behaviours (SRBs), including but not limited to vocalisation, pacing, destruction and toileting, occur in the absence of human company. As well as being problematic for the dogs’ owners, such behaviours indicate that the dogs’ emotional state is compromised. As part of the COVID-19 pandemic, time spent alone decreased considerably for many pet dogs, leading to concerns about the development of SRBs when dogs are left alone more again. The main aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that dogs whose time left alone decreased most (compared to a February 2020 pre-COVID baseline) would be at greatest risk of developing new signs of SRB when time left alone increased again. To achieve this aim, we utilised survey data gathered from dog owners between 4th May and 3rd July 2020, during the first COVID-19 ‘lockdown’ period in the United Kingdom (UK), and a follow-up survey of the same dog-owner cohort, completed when restrictions had eased between 10th October and 2nd November 2020. Individual dogs fluctuated considerably in whether they showed signs of SRB or not across the study period (n = 1807). Overall, the prevalence of SRB in the population decreased from 22.1% to 17.2%, as did the time dogs were left alone for between February and October 2020. However, 9.9% of dogs had developed new signs of SRB by the follow-up survey in October 2020, with dogs whose leaving hours decreased most during lockdown restrictions being at increased risk of developing SRBs. These findings have implications for our understanding of the etiology of SRB, by showing a link between changes in owner routine and SRB risk.

Publication Title Animals
Volume 12
Issue 4
Pages 482
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani12040482
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Covid-19
  3. Dogs
  4. open access
  5. risk factors
  6. Separation anxiety
  7. Separation Reactions
  1. open access