Owners leave 1.5 million dogs Home Alone
New research claims an estimated 1.5 million dogs in Britain are currently suffering from Separation Anxiety as a result of being left home alone.
The condition can leave dogs feeling as traumatised as a young child would be by the same experience.
In one study researchers placed video cameras in the home of 20 dog owners who previously believed their pets were happy to be left alone.
The footage actually showed many of the dogs pacing in circles, panting heavily and whining.
One dog was so distressed it had to be sent for a consultation with an animal psychologist, the researchers claimed.
In another study the scientists observed seven litters of Labrador retrievers and five sets of Border collie puppies.
More than half the Labradors and almost half the collies displayed signs of Separation Anxiety.
John Bradshaw, director of the Anthrozoology Institute at Bristol University., told the Daily Mail: “Such numbers suggest a real and ongoing crisis for dogs.”
Bradshaw, who has spent 25 years studying behavioural patterns of pets, has detailed the experiments in his book, In Defence of Dogs.
The book reveals how his own dog , black Labrador Bruno, also suffered from the condition. When left at home alone Bruno chewed up Bradshaw’s bed, furniture and the wallpaper.
Some dogs have been known to self-harm themselves. Often, owners make matters even worse when they return home to find the damage and punish their dog. The pet has no idea what this punishment is for because their associative memories are very short.
As Bradshaw explains dogs have a different kind of memory and are not good at thinking backwards and forwards in time. They can remember their litter mates years afterwards when they meet again, but they are not good at reasoning. They cannot think back and realise what they did an hour ago is the reason their owner is cross with them.
Nevertheless, Bradshaw insists dogs have a range of ‘settings’ for handling their owners that makes them better at understanding humans than any other species, including chimpanzees.
Dogs are capable of grieving and can identify those in the family who like them the best and offer them the most attention, he claims.
Victoria Stilwell, who has become an animal behaviour counsellor in America and even has her own television series, It’s Me or the Dog (see above), said: “We mustn’t devalue the capacity that animals have to feel. We should give them the benefit of the doubt.”