Understanding and reducing stress in dogs left home alone

01 May 2012
13 mins read
Volume 3 · Issue 3


As stress is a physiological response to what is occurring in the surroundings, it is likely that every pet in the world experiences stress each day. Acute stress is essential for survival, enabling an animal to deal with the initiating stressors in a manner that will enhance the animal's chances of survival. However, many animals experience chronic stress — regular and/or continuous exposure to stressors at levels and proximities that the animal is unable to control or alter. Such stressors can lead to physiological and emotional distress and impaired welfare. The dog that is left alone in the home can become trapped in an environment for which it has no coping strategies or, due to circumstances outside its control, may have lost its previous coping strategies. Such dogs suffer daily impairments in welfare.

One of the most endearing features of the dog is its apparent innate sociability with humans (Hart, 1999), a sociability that can lead to immediate interest in new human social contacts and to strong and long-lasting attachment relationships with owners (Sands, 2010). Millions of dogs cope with owner absence and the emotional strain of loneliness; but for some the presence of a human becomes part of the dog's coping strategy for dealing with the complexity of the human world (Heath, 2002). The dog's social requirements and expectations may lead to the dog experiencing distress when a human companion cannot be present, and understanding of the intensity of the human–dog bond may sometimes lead to veterinary staff jumping to the wrong conclusion when they hear of dogs experiencing distress, or becoming destructive, during owner absence (Flannigan and Dodman, 2001).

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting The Veterinary Nurse and reading some of our peer-reviewed content for veterinary professionals. To continue reading this article, please register today.