DOG owners are being warned of the dangers of lockdown and separation anxiety as people begin to leave their pets at home as they return to work.

Described as "a ticking time bomb" by the Dogs Trust, there is a fear among dog trainers that our pawed friends will struggle to adapt to being alone after having owners at home throughout the lockdown.

One of those concerned is Dawn Wilkinson, 52, who runs Carlisle Dog Trainer.

“A lot of them experience anxiety being left home alone, it can be quite traumatic for dogs,” she said.

“A lot of dogs in my group seem to have clinged on to their owners, following them around a lot.

“To go suddenly to having no one at home, it can be challenging for them.”

Changing the routine of the dogs in such a dramatic way can have damaging consequences.

“It increases the stress levels,” explained Dawn.

“It can lead to fouling in the house, increased barking, chewing things around the house. All sorts of things come about because of anxiety.”

Dawn says without a smooth transition, lockdown anxiety can turn into a separation anxiety - a more serious and long-term state.

She offers the following tips to help:

n Try to emulate your pre-lockdown routine as much as possible.

n Spend time away from your dog but build this gradually, so start with five minutes, then build up to longer periods and vary the times so it doesn’t become predictable.

n Create a quiet space and provide activities there to help your dog relax.

n Be mindful of the messages you send as they will pick up on your anxiety, so when you leave them, be calm and relaxed, don’t make a fuss.

n If you’re worried, use a dog monitor so you can watch how they cope.