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6 Ways to make lonely dogs feel better now that summer is over

BY Orlagh McCarthy

3rd Oct 2023 Inspire

3 min read

6 Ways to make lonely dogs feel better now that summer is over
Now that summer is over, you might not be the only one missing long walks in the nice weather or plenty of time socialising with your loved ones, loneliness can also affect our pets, particularly our people-pleasing pooches. Here are six ways to make lonely dogs feel better now that summer is over 
With the September 23 officially the last day of summer, according to pet owners, millions of dogs have been left feeling lonely now the summer is over and parents have headed back in the office and children have returned to school.
A new poll, carried out for healthy pet food company Burns Pet Nutrition, found that six out of ten Brits think their dog feels lonely after they get so used to the whole family being around during the summer season.
Additionally, two-thirds (65 per cent) of pet owners believe that the kids returning to school or parents heading back to work after the summer break impacts their furry friends, and 15 per cent of people say it happens every time that their dog's routine is altered.
After spending time alone, owners say nearly three in five dogs (58 per cent) display anxious behaviours and one in ten exhibit these consistently.
When spending a chunk of time alone, owners say their furry friend can appear extra needy (59 per cent), cry or howl (40 per cent), destroy things (26 per cent), leave its food (24 per cent), go to the toilet indoors (18 per cent) and lick things (18 per cent).
"But it’s not a bad thing for dogs to be left alone for a reasonable period if they are generally happy and well adjusted"
Vet and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition, John Burns MBE, said: “It is natural for our furry friends to miss the family when they return to school or work after the holidays, as they will after any period where they’ve had more company than usual. But it’s not a bad thing for dogs to be left alone for a reasonable period if they are generally happy and well adjusted.
“Often, many pet owners encourage unwanted behaviour by inadvertently rewarding their pets with attention. The easiest way to train a dog to be on their own is by approaching the situation in a calm, under control manner.
It’s an issue that can’t be ignored, if a dog is showing signs of separation anxiety when left alone this is potentially quite serious and the owner should seek professional support from a dog trainer or animal behaviourist. They should be able to pinpoint the basis of the anxiety and formulate a training plan to move forward in a positive way.
"If a dog is showing signs of separation anxiety when left alone the owner should seek professional support"
“Without that support, you could make it your dog’s anxiety worse, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Orlagh McCarthy, dog trainer at Burns Pet Nutrition added: “There are often clear signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, including inappropriate toileting; persistent barking or howling; constant pacing or chewing, digging or destructive behaviour.
It’s important to speak to an expert who can assess your dog in their environment, as every dog is different and there could be several factors that are causing their anxiety, but there are a few things you can try that may help.”
Here are Orlagh’s top tips:

1. Identify the cause of their anxiety

anxious golden retriever hiding under a green blanket
All dogs are different. Establishing the cause of their anxiety is crucial in solving any separation issues they might have. Are they bored? Frustrated? Fearful? Spotting any signs as you get yourself ready to go, or even installing a camera to see what is triggering your pet’s anxiety, could really help you understand what is distressing them, helping you to help them cope whilst they’re alone.

2. Don’t make a fuss

When leaving the house or coming back in, dismiss your instinct to overly pet your dog. Slip out unnoticed (actively ignoring them beforehand) and however much they might be jumping for joy to see you on your return, give them a few minutes, ignore them if need be, until they calm down. Then, when they do settle, reward their behaviour, thereby avoiding re-enforcing any separation anxiety or needy behaviour.

3. Leave them contented

Happy dog
Before you leave, ensure your dog has been exercised and has had an opportunity to go to the toilet. Ensuring they get enough physical exercise plus opportunities to interact with other dogs will help reduce their energy levels and fulfil their exercise needs, leaving them altogether calmer and happier.

4. Desensitise them

Dogs are very good at picking up cues from us. Is there a sound your dog associates with you leaving? Is it when you pick up your keys or grab your coat? Best thing in this scenario is to keep making these noises when you aren’t going anywhere, allowing your dog to get used to the same sounds when they are relaxed and comfortable. Eventually they will start ignoring these previous triggers.

5. Keep them busy

Dog with a tug toy
Provide your dog with plenty of opportunities to forage for food and play throughout the day. Try them with a kong or some other puzzle treat or perhaps a tug toy attached to the wall with a carabiner and a sturdy hook. The toy must be safe—there should be no chance of the dog choking on it, becoming entangled in it, or shredding it.

6. Keep them calm

Try calming sprays or plug-ins, both have natural calming ingredients that can help soothe your pet. Keeping the radio on can also help them feel calmer and less lonely.
For more advice on pet separation anxiety, check out Burns separation anxiety blog
Banner credit: herreid
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