You’ve done it! After months of effort, you and your family have finally settled in to your new life as expats – well done.
Wait a minute – how about your much-loved dog who may have recently joined you or is about to be released from quarantine into your care?
Why your dog’s day matters
Dogs are fundamentally social animals and love to be with you and your family. Unfortunately, your busy daily routine means that your dog may be home alone for extended periods, sometimes more than 8 hours at a time.
Combine these long periods being on their own with unfamiliar surroundings or apartment living without an outside area and it won’t be long before you are dealing with an anxious dog who is disturbing neighbours, damaging your home or even themselves.
These environmental conditions have become commonplace for many dogs and contribute to what vet behaviourists call ‘separation anxiety’. Over extended periods, dogs begin to howl and bark, act out by chewing and ripping up cushions and soft furnishings, defecate and even self-harm.
An exaggeration? Recently the BBC commissioned a documentary team to film several dogs who were home alone for long periods through a hidden camera and found all these behaviours being displayed as well as many others that show how anxiety manifests for these dogs.
Strategies to help your dog have a better expat experience
Clearly your dog’s quality of life will improve if this situation is addressed sooner rather than later, not to mention you feeling better that a much-loved member of your family is enjoying living in another country.
The good news is there are things that you can put in place to help both your dog and you feel more comfortable when they are at home for long periods.
Home alone enrichment toys
Dogs are smart and, like humans, if they spend too much time thinking about where you are they can become bored. Home alone toys are specifically designed to engage dogs who are home for long periods. Most have food treats inserted which the dogs need to extract by chewing. However, most of these toys only last a short time before the dog extracts the treats or gets bored.
To overcome these shortcomings, a new toy to hit the market called the DOY is designed to engage your dog for longer by feeding your dog throughout the day. To date, the DOY has been successfully used with expat dogs living all over the world, from Singapore to Chicago. Vet behaviourist Dr Kate Lindsey recommends the DOY as one of the key environmental enrichments she suggests to her clients.
Another helpful strategy if you are short on time is to engage a dog walker to take your dog out for a walk on a regular basis so they can use their senses to sniff out their surroundings and meet other dogs, such as at the park. Dog walkers operate in every major city and can be found through colleagues or an internet search.
Dr Mark Glazebrook is a passionate dog owner who has travelled the world for business and understands the unique challenges faced by expat families trying to make their relocation as seamless as possible for all family members. Mark designed and invented the DOY out of personal necessity because, like many people who work long hours, he found his own dog suffering separation anxiety and couldn’t find anything suitable to help his dog on the market.