Pet dogs are being surrendered over east in record numbers — reportedly due to separation anxiety and other behavioural issues as people return to offices. Overseas in the UK, it’s a similar story, with many blaming impulse-purchased and poorly socialised “pandemic puppies” for the surge. In WA, behavioural issues have always been among the top reasons for dog surrenders. And while the RSPCA is yet to see a spike locally, we’re wary of the impact high COVID case numbers, isolation and changing work arrangements could have on pets. A recent survey by Royal Canin has found that 52 per cent of Australian dogs are now suffering from post-lockdown separation anxiety. We’ve put together a list of ways you can help your furry friend be calmer and more comfortable. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF SEPARATION ANXIETY? Signs of anxiety include unexpected toileting in the house, destructiveness, excessive barking, digging or pacing and attempting to escape. WHAT CAN I DO? Does picking up your keys or putting on your shoes before heading out the door make your dog anxious? Try doing these activities but then sticking around for a while, ignoring your dog. This can help break the association and stop an anxious response. You can also build up the time you’re away in small increments. IF YOU NEED SUPPORT In some cases, separation anxiety can be severe. If you’re in need of some support, reach out to your vet, who may suggest a combination of training and medication to help you manage the issue. A MESSAGE FROM RSPCA WA INSPECTOR MANAGER KYLIE GREEN The main way the RSPCA is made aware of anxious pets is through complaints from neighbours about the dog barking or howling when owners aren’t home, and we work with rangers to address this. My first piece of advice would be to enlist the help of a dog behaviourist in these more serious cases. Your vet may offer training or be able to refer you to a reputable local trainer. The RSPCA encourages positive training methods. By setting your dog up for success with rewards, you’ll also be building a strong bond with your dog that will last a lifetime.