Is your dog home alone too long? A new study says you could actually be risking your Fido’s health by leaving him home alone for more than five hours at a time.
By Stacy E. Smith
Most of you reading this have pets and many of you have dogs. I suspect many of you work a traditional 8-hour day as well. We certainly work more than eight hours each day (many, many more), but we are rarely away from our pets for more than a few hours at a time. We’re lucky… we office from home.
Nonetheless, here is a new bit of research that will make anyone with banker’s hours feel guilty.
A new U.K. study says five hours should be the maximum time dogs should be left home alone.
Animal welfare experts report that virtually one quarter of dogs are being left alone for such long periods of time that they’re at risk of loneliness, distress, depression, and separation anxiety.
Researchers found 23 percent of dog owners in the United Kingdom leave their dogs unattended for five hours or longer on a typical weekday—or they don’t bother to monitor the time at all. The U.K. report conducted by the research firm YouGov surveyed 11,261 pet owners—including 4,675 dog owners and veterinary professionals. Researchers found 52 percent of dog owners think a dog should be left alone a maximum of five hours a day. Seventeen percent consider six hours the ideal limit, and 15 percent say eight hours should be the limit. Four percent of respondents said a dog is fine on its own for upward of 10 hours.
The four to five hour limit is recommended by best-practices set forth by the United Kingdom’s Animal Welfare Act. In the U.S., however, the question of how long is too long to leave “Buddy” home alone remains a subject of fierce debate. Research studies on this topic have yet to be conducted, but there is research that shows different dogs tend to have different social needs. While hounds are extremely social animals and need lots of attention, working breeds and guard dogs are perfectly happy for 10 to 12 hours alone.
According to veterinary pharmaceutical companies, between 15 and 17 percent of dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone too long. They know this because they provide a number of prescription drugs that specifically target pets with these issues.
Some veterinarians believe one of the only ways to properly diagnose such a disorder is by videotaping the dog while it’s alone, watching for panting, pacing, barking, elimination and obvious distress.
To be honest, some dogs can’t cope with being alone for even 15 minutes, but others are perfectly fine being left for eight hours a day. It becomes part of their routine.
There are remedies for anxiety, both chemical and holistic as well as options like dog walkers and doggie daycare which give your dog both exercise and mental stimulation while you’re at work. There are also toys designed especially to keep your dog occupied while home alone, so all is not lost.
The parts of the study I saw also didn’t mention whether or not it made a difference for dogs that live in multiple-pet homes (with other dogs and/or cats). Would the anxiety-prone dog be at equal risk for some of these emotional disorders if they have another four legged pal at home? At this point we aren’t sure.
What do you think? Do you feel strongly one way or the other? Is an 8-hour day (or longer) too long for your pooch to be home alone or do you think this is much ado about nothing? We’d love to hear from you.
Thumbnail photo by mattieb (Flickr)