Do Dogs Get Lonely?
February 28, 2022 | 3 min read
Updated February 28, 2022
By Sarah Milton
Published: February 28, 2022
Updated: May 12, 2023
Summary: In this blog, we learn whether dogs experience loneliness. We’ll discuss how long dogs should and can be left alone, what the implications of loneliness can be for a dog, and how to help alleviate their feeling lonely…
Does your pup look forlorn when you prepare to leave the house without them? Do you wonder if perhaps you may be leaving them for too long during the day and they’re getting bored and fed up at home alone?
Sometimes it’s necessary to leave our pup’s behind at home. We have to work, it’s too hot to take them with us, or where we’re going isn’t suitable for them. It’s a fact of life and most doggies, thankfully, learn to cope very well at home for a few hours once they’ve learned that you, or someone they know or trust, always come home to them.
However, some pups can have a tougher time of it and really struggle to be apart from their owners and families. This, in turn, can diminish their wellbeing and result in a very upset pooch.
But, how can you tell if your dog is experiencing loneliness, rather than stress, at you being gone?
Is My Dog Lonely?
Every dog has a unique personality, which can make it harder to determine what they’re actually feeling. Some dogs thrive on attention, so when it’s taken away they can be a little dramatic about it but some dogs are more introverted and thus less obviously affected by time spent alone.
It is thought that for an average, healthy adult dog, six hours is the maximum they should be left and only if this isn’t an everyday occurrence. Six hours is a long time for a dog, and just because they can survive this, doesn’t mean they won’t get lonely.
For puppies and senior dogs who have less patient bladders, they should be left for a significantly less period of time than the average adult canine.
If you’re concerned your dog is lonely when you’re gone, there are signs to look for. Here at PetLab Co., we’d advise setting up a “puppy cam” that connects to your phone so you can monitor their behavior when you’re not around, to spot further indicators of their wellbeing when you’re gone too.
Signs a dog is experiencing loneliness can include:
- Panting or vocalizing when you go to leave
- Shadowing you around the house when they sense you’re going to leave
- Physical shaking or pacing when you go to leave
- Howling or barking when you’re not there (perhaps your neighbors have even told you!)
- Peeing/pooping in the house when you’re not there, despite it being a short period of time
- Destroying furniture or shoes when you’re not there
- Sleeping by the door all day while you’re out
- Sleeping for long stretches of time
- Digging at the door after you’ve gone
- Won’t eat treats or food while you’re out
How To Help A Lonely Dog
If you think your dog is lonely or bored when you’re gone, here’s some things you can do to help.
Play some music, or leave the radio or TV on low whilst you’re gone; this can help your dog feel like there’s someone around or something going on and help distract them from any worry. Some people play their pups classical music, others swear by cartoons. Play whatever you think your dog will respond best to.
Leave an item of your worn clothing in their bed or crate; this will help your dog think you’re closer to them than perhaps you are. Your scent can be very comforting for them and help them think you’ve been gone for less time too!
Try enrichment toys; if your dog can be trusted with food and toys without supervision, you can try an enrichment toy like a Lick Mat to help distract and entertain them while you’re out. Try loading a lick mat with xylitol-free peanut butter (xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs) or pureed vegetables, and pop it in the freezer. Then, when you’re about to depart, place the lick mat down on the ground and your dog will lick away whilst you’re gone. Being left alone won’t feel so daunting to your pup if they’re guaranteed something fun to do when you go!
Spend less time away from home; If there’s an option to work from home more often so you’re not spending every day in an office or think you can spend less time away from your dog, try to do so.
Invest in company; If spending less time away from home is impossible for you, invest in a reputable, trusted sitter or, if that’s too expensive, ask friends, family, or neighbors to come by and check in on your pooch during the day and offer them some attention and play or a walk.
Work on desensitization; gradually teach your pet that you’re always going to come home and build up to how long you want to leave them for. This may just start off as you being away from the house for just a couple of minutes, and you can gradually increase the time spent apart. Be mindful though, this learning process can take some particularly worried doggies a few months to learn!
Try calming aids; PetLab Co.’s Calming Chew for dogs can help support a calm, relaxed disposition without drowsiness or personality change and help maintain your dog’s emotional balance while you’re out. Our tasty, soft chew supplement, contains a uniquely composed formula that helps dogs remain calm and able to cope with stressful situations - like you needing to be away from them and the home.
Exercise them appropriately; make sure your dog is receiving the physical stimulation their size and breed requires. This will greatly reduce their stress levels and help preserve their physical and mental health. If you’re unsure how much walking per day your dog needs, use our handy PetLab Co. guide below and consult with your veterinarian.
Seek out professional support; if you’re concerned your dog is experiencing more than just a touch of loneliness or boredom, talk to your vet and possibly a professional, ethical, and reputable canine behaviorist about your dog’s issues and get advice on how to best support them.
Author Taffer, Marissa “Is Your Dog Lonely? How You Can Tell” Dog Eared by My Ollie, Jan 14. 2022 https://blog.myollie.com/is-my-dog-lonely/
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!