The way we live has changed a lot in recent years. Lots of us spend more time at work, we take more holidays and we’re connected – all the time – with technology. The question is – how is this affecting our dogs? We spoke to Animal Behaviourist Jackie Murphy to find out.
Just as modern life impacts our own health, it can in turn affect our dogs too. Spending more time at the office or working longer hours results in our dogs spending more time alone, which can lead to anxiety and boredom-related behaviours. We also take more (and longer) holidays which can also deprive them of human company and affect their physical and mental wellbeing.
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety often have an over-attachment to the owner and therefore working long hours at the office with no social contact can produce behaviours associated with this condition, from destructive behaviour within the home to self-inflicted trauma, inappropriate elimination and excessive vocalisation (generally whining, barking and howling).
Owners now not only walk the dog, but try and carry out several activities whilst walking the dog. This normally results in shorter walks where the dog is just walked around the block on a lead, or if the dog is taken to a park for exercise, owners may be pre-occupied with answering emails and/or phone calls and show little or no interaction with them. It is no wonder that our dogs can find modern life stressful.
With less time being exercised, dogs will soon become bored and this can produce behaviours such as bin raiding, a rise in hyperactivity and excitability when the owner is at home. When out walking and off-lead dogs can display excessive predatory and social play which in turn leads to play biting and rough play with other dogs.
How to help your dog
There are many ways in which we can help our dogs in modern society and prevent some of the behaviours mentioned above. Here are just some:
Exercise: daily walks are not only good for us but also for our dogs. Physical exercise relieves stress and helps to reduce some of the common behaviours such as excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity, plus it helps keep the dog’s weight under control.
Interaction: play and games are interactions which dogs love. From agility, flyball, scent games to interactive food games.
Dog walking groups: regularly meeting up with other dogs and people in different areas helps keep your dog stimulated and well socialised.
Training classes: these can be fun and give the dog some mental stimulation.
Dog holidays: there are many travel companies which offer different holidays with your dog. From cottages to caravans, there is something for everyone.