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Dog home alone?

What does your dog do while you are away? Now we have a scientific-based answer! Researchers from Family Dog Project analyzed videos from dog owners, who recorded their dogs while being home alone. What was the most interesting?

  • Most dogs showed low vocal and physical activity, independent of the amount of time being alone at home.

  • Physical activity was higher in multi-dog households, primarily in the first hour of separation.

  • Male dogs in multi-dog households showed higher vocal activity than in single-dog households.

  • Male dogs are more prone to stay at the exit-door.

  • No better coping prophylaxis for dogs under multi-dog condition.

Abstract Many dogs are left alone at home by their owners for several hours on a daily basis. This practice is known to be a possible source of complication in dog keeping. Behaviourists and veterinarians are frequently consulted due to excessive vocalisations, destructive behaviour and house-soiling of dogs left alone by their owners. These observations are thought to be symptoms of a disorder which most authors refer to as separation anxiety or separation related behaviour. Little is known about dogs, which showed mostly inconspicuous behaviour during separation, and possible effects of the presence of conspecifics in multi-dog households, which may help coping with separation. Therefore, we videotaped 32 dogs in single-dog and 45 dogs in multi-dog households left home alone as part of their usual routine. We performed a continuous sampling of location, posture, vocalization, and various other behaviours. Calculating and comparing percentages of observation time we tested possible effects of familiar conspecifics, and investigated the effects of sex and neuter status, variables that are discussed to have an influence on the onset of separation anxiety. In general, our dogs showed low physical activity as well as a low vocal activity, independent from the time being alone. Male dogs in multi-dog households showed a significantly higher vocal activity. A further sex related difference was that male dogs were more prone to stay at the exit-door. This bias may be due to sex-specific motivations but seems to get stronger with increasing duration of separation. Dogs in multi-dog households showed a significant higher activity (single dog: 15.3 ± 14.3, multi-dog: 27.5 ± 26.1 mean ± SD). The major difference in activity was found in the first hour of being alone and interactions with other pets played only a marginal role even in multi-dog households (0.24 ± 0.6). Whining was not reduced by the presence of familiar conspecifics. Further research is needed to see if familiar conspecifics facilitate coping with separation from humans in this context. Our data suggest rather the opposite. You can read the full text here


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