A new documentary will delve into the minds of pet dogs to assess how separation anxiety is affecting man’s best friend.
The one-hour film for Channel 4, Dogs: Their Secret Lives, looks at the prevalence of separation behavioural anxiety in dogs, the way to prevent it, how to treat it and also how science can allow us to better understand our canine companions.
Our lives have radically changed in the last 50 years and so have those of our dogs, which spend more time home alone than ever before.
Veterinary behaviourist Professor Daniel Mills, from the University of Lincoln, UK, features in the programme which airs at 8pm on Monday, 14th October.
Prof Mills talks about his work, which focuses on the neuroscience underpinning our evaluation of dogs’ emotional systems, explaining how science can tell us more about the anxiety they feel when left home alone and how to best treat it.
Prof Mills, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Separation related problems have been identified as one of the main welfare threats to dogs in the UK. The dogs we see in the clinic tend to be those who show their distress at being left alone in a very overt way, for example by being destructive, but we are concerned that there may be another population who are perhaps equally distressed but much more passive about it. The dog that curls up in its bed when left may be quite happy, but it might also be quite depressed. We have been working for some time to develop tools which will give us better insight into their emotional responses, so we can answer this type of problem. We will showcase one of these methods, which uses thermal imagery, on the programme for the first time. We believe the method has enormous potential but it does require further research.”
Through hidden cameras the programme will reveal what our dogs get up to while we are out with footage from dozens of homes showing sleepy, active, howling and fretful dogs.
Thermal imagery cameras reveal what is happening inside Bruno the Boxer/Rottweiler cross’s head, while a dog vocalisation expert analyses Max the Alsatian’s howling to understand what he is trying to communicate.
Presenter Mark Evans, former Chief Vet at the RSPCA, investigates what it all means for the 21st Century dog owner and discovers whether new technology, such as allowing dogs to make phone calls and watch TV, holds the answer to keeping our canine companions happy in the modern British home.
For more information and video from the research project go to www.channel4.com/dogs and follow the programme using #DogsAlone on Twitter.