Welfare of dogs: the need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals

Dogs are sociable animals that need, and enjoy, company. Consequently, most dogs do not like being left alone and may suffer if left without company, or with nothing to do for long periods of time.

Some dogs become distressed if left alone

Some dogs become distressed if they are left on their own, even for short periods. The length of time individual dogs can be left alone varies, depending on factors such as:

  • age
  • training
  • previous experience of being left alone
  • breed or type
  • lifestyle
  • housing conditions

However, no dog should routinely be left on its own for prolonged periods. If the time alone is excessive, you can expect behavioural problems that are distressing for both you and your dog.

Social behaviour and dogs

If dogs are treated well as puppies, they learn to see people as friends. Learning to get on with people, dogs and other animals is an essential part of social development for a puppy. Puppies that are deprived of opportunities to develop social behaviour can become withdrawn, anxious and aggressive as adults dogs.

However, if a dog has appropriate contact with other dogs early in its life it will be more sociable and this can enhance its quality of life. Dogs that have not had opportunities to develop socially, or which have bad experiences involving people or other animals, may be frightened or aggressive in normal social situations.

Frightened

Dogs which are frightened show characteristic signs such as flattening of the ears and lowering the tail or signs of stress such as:

  • excessive panting
  • licking lips
  • hiding
  • cowering
  • aggression

Dogs usually get on well with other dogs in the same household, but they may still need time to get to know each other when introduced. However, dogs will need to have their own space and places to get away from other dogs if they want to.

Dogs get to know the people they regularly interact with. They can become confused and distressed if the behaviour of those people is inconsistent and unpredictable.

It is never acceptable to frighten a dog, or encourage it to behave aggressively by tormenting it.

What you should do to ensure your dog is suitable housed

You should:

  • make sure your dog has opportunities to spend enough time with people and friendly dogs so that it is less likely to become lonely or bored
  • make sure that your dog is never left alone long enough for it to become distressed
  • encourage your dog to be friendly towards other dogs and allow it to interact with friendly dogs on a regular basis
  • give puppies regular opportunities to socialise with other dogs and people
  • always check health issues with your vet before allowing your puppy to mix with other dogs
  • keep dogs together for company if possible and if you have more than one - they will need to get on with each other, but will also need space to get away from each other when they want to
  • provide dogs which live together enough extra resources - such as toys, beds, food and water bowls and places where they feel safe - to stop them from becoming competitive and fighting with each other
  • avoid the situations that lead to your dog being fearful of, or aggressive towards, other dogs and seek advice from a vet or suitable qualified dog care specialist
  • seek professional help from a vet or other suitably qualified dog care specialist if social encounters distress or frighten your dog
  • ensure that dogs in your care are handled properly and are not stressed or endangered by other adults, children or animals, including people who look after your dog for you when you are away from home
  • be consistent in the way you, your family and friends, react to your dog and do not encourage aggressive or other anti-social behaviour
  • make sure your dog is properly cared for by a responsible person when you are away
  • ensure that if someone else is looking after your dog they understand its needs and any special requirements that it may have - they also have a legal responsibility to ensure its welfare
  • never leave your dog unsupervised with another animal or person who may deliberately or accidentally harm or frighten it

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