Winston Churchill famously called it the black dog – the depression that plagued the wartime prime minister throughout his life.
Dogs deeply care about their human owners – they likely even dream of us as they snooze. But most dog lovers have no idea how their animals cope once they have been left alone.
Pet dogs are said to be suffering from depression of their own, caused by the stress of being left alone by busy owners.
Depression in dogs
Picture the scene. You’ve said bye to them, you walk out the door, and you’re gone. The reality of the situation dawns on your pet, and it begins to experience considerable amounts of stress.
Whether you’re going out for a day or just popping off to the toilet, it’s more likely than not that your dog will look at you like you’re leaving forever. Their eyes will widen, they will begin to whimper, and they appear to be thinking that that’s it – they’re alone forever.
The first few minutes of isolation are the most stressful for a dog, according to the researchers.
“When stress levels increase – a dog’s heart rate, respiratory functions, and levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol – are also likely to rise,” say scientists. “The first 30 minutes after being left alone is usually the most stressful time for the majority of dogs,” they note.
The most common behavioural signs of seperation-related behaviour are destructive behaviour often targeted at the door the owner leaves through, various types of vocalisations (howling, barking and whining), defecating and urinating.Pacing and excessive salivation are also often markers of acute stress. They likely urinate on the floor as a way of relieving stress. For some pets, the torment lasts for hours.
Dogs are social animals, they’re just incredibly needy creatures. Some may not be fearful but merely bored without you providing them with entertainment.
Just like their owners, some are just better at dealing with stress than others. On the extreme end of the spectrum, dogs can develop separation anxiety and depression if they are left alone long enough without any good coping mechanisms.
However,some dog individuals or breeds are better able to cope with stress when they have another dog to share the troublesome experience with – although this very much depends on the idiosyncrasies of the dogs themselves.
So,if you have a dog, the best time to train it to accept brief periods of isolation is when they’re a wee little puppy. Just, you know, try not to think of them shaking in utter terror, or them becoming infused with sorrow and doubt, as you close the front door on them for the very first time. It’s probably best to look forward to the cacophonous reception that invariably awaits you as you get back home.
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A dog owner recorded his heartbroken pet’s reaction when he left the house – and the result might make you never want to leave your pooch home alone again.
Video: Youtube.com: Mike The Intern