Can Dogs Feel Lonely?

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It's always hard to leave your dog for the day when you have to go to work, or run an errand, or go on vacation. We all love our pups, and want to take them everywhere we go. What's worse is seeing those puppy-dog eyes when you close the door behind you. Some doggos will even try to block the door with their noses so you can't leave! Regardless of what your dog does, it's usually pretty obvious that they love you, and don't want you to leave. 

But what happens after we leave? Many people wonder if, when their dog is alone during the day, they ever get lonely. Unfortunately, guilty-dog-owners out there, our puppers can feel lonely. Dogs are capable of feeling a number of emotions, and loneliness is one of them. Luckily though, you don't have to feel bad for too long! There are a ton of things we can do to be good owners to our fur-children, even if we do have to leave them for extended periods of time.

Signs Your Dog May Be Lonely

While we all wish we could tell our dogs that we're sorry we have to leave, our doggos don't entirely understand why we have to leave every day, or if we're even coming back! That can make your dog do several things that show that they're feeling lonely while you're gone, which can even extend to their behavior after you get back home. 

If you're worried about your pup while you're gone, look out for these behaviors - it's not necessary to set up a spy camera to watch your pup while you're not home (although it would probably be entertaining, as evidenced by countless of videos)!

Dogs that are lonely are likely also dogs that are bored. This means that a lonely/bored dog is usually a dog that gets in trouble while you're gone. So dogs that exhibit chewing or biting at things that they aren't supposed to, getting into the trash, and other destructive behaviors are actually not bad dogs - they probably just get lonely while you're gone. This can also include potty accidents - your dog is upset that you aren't there, and because they can't voice that feeling, their body may react in the only way it knows how.

Another sign your dog is lonely while you're gone is excessive barking or whining. Whether you see this characteristic on your puppy camera or hear it from an annoyed neighbor, a lonely dog is a talkative one. Dogs are social creatures, so when they're left alone to their own devices, many will reach out and try to "chat" with others to ease that boredom and loneliness.

Your dog may also pace or hide while you're gone. This is hard to know about unless you have a camera set up, or live on an upper floor that has really thin ceilings! Dogs that are lonely will often roam around your house or apartment, hoping for someone to play with or entertain them.

 A sad and lonely dog will also act, well, sad. Depressive behaviors in lonely dogs can last long past after you return home. They may fear that you're going to leave again, or just haven't gotten over the fact that you left in the first place. Depressive characteristics can include a reduced appetite, hiding, avoidance, lethargy, or a loss of interest in activities it usually enjoys. 

Body Language

Some signs that you have a lonely pooch are:
  • Averting eyes
  • Pacing
  • Scratching
  • Chewing
  • Cowering
  • Dropped Ears
  • Urine sprinkling
  • Lack of focus
  • Barking
  • Low tail carriage

Other Signs

Other signs to look out for include:
  • Destructive Behaviors
  • Lethargy or Depression
  • Lack of Appetite or Thirst
  • Going to the Bathroom Indoors

The Science Behind Loneliness in Dogs

Dogs have the capability to feel a wide range of emotions. Studies have shown that we can actually think of our puppers as toddlers, around the age of about 2 1/2. They basically have the same mental and emotional capabilities of little humans (but with more fur!). These emotions include love, distress, fear, anger, and more. 

Loneliness falls under "distress." Because your dog has the capability of loving you, it also has the capability of missing you and being upset when you're gone. 

Additionally, science has shown that dogs have evolved from wolves, which are social creatures. Even after evolving from wolves, most dogs, for centuries, had specific jobs in relation to their humans, which meant that they got to hang out with their owners all day. 

For example, German Shepherds were bred to protect, Golden and Labrador Retrievers were bred to, well, retrieve, and Beagles were bred to help in the hunt. This means that your dog's genetic makeup ensures that they need a lot of outside stimulation. Most dogs will not be happy to sit at a house alone doing nothing. And because we as humans are our dog's main source of entertainment, it's not surprising to learn that dogs will get bored and lonely while we're gone. 

Social animals need social contact, so while we're gone and they're alone, most dogs are likely to get lonely. Luckily, however, it's incredibly easy for us as owners to ease our dog's boredom and loneliness in those times where we're forced to leave them alone!

Helping Your Dog Be Less Lonely

Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to ease your pooch's loneliness. Number one, make sure that you are not leaving them for extended periods of time each and every day. Your dog does need to be with people most of the time to be happy. 

Another thing that you can do is let your pup know that you leaving isn't totally bad. Dish out treats each time you head out the door, or give your pupper a puzzle-toy to work on while you're gone. 

If you must be gone for a whole work day and no one else lives with you, it might be time to hire a dog-walker to make sure your canine gets some much-needed interaction. This will also give them some exercise, which can make a big difference!

All of these things can help take the sting off of your pup's loneliness. 

How To Help Ease Your Dog's Loneliness

  • Toys and distractions: a lonely dog is less likely to notice your absence if they have something to entertain them while you're gone. Puzzle toys and kongs are a great alternative for owners who can't be home all day to hang out with their pup. They'll keep your dog occupied, out of trouble, and less lonely!
  • Share your stuff! Dogs that are lonely are dogs that love their owners unconditionally. Many of dogs memories and emotions come from their sense of smell. By giving your dog an old t-shirt or blanket that smells like their favorite person (you!), your dog will feel more like you're there until they're able to jump into your arms!
  • A nice bed: dogs who have nothing to do for the day because their owner is gone is likely to get into to trouble. By providing them with a comfortable place to sleep while they wait for you to get home, dogs will be less likely to miss you (unless it's in their dreams!), and you're more likely to come home to a clean, undestroyed home.
  • Walkers: If you can afford it, having a dog walker to come in and check on your dog during the day is also incredibly beneficial in preventing trouble-seeking and destructive behaviors in lonely pups. Because dogs are social, even though it may not be their favorite person, any human interaction is likely to ease your doggo's loneliness.
  • Friends: Again, this is only if you can afford it and have the time to get a second dog. If you can, a furry brother or sister will help your pupper feel less lonely while you're gone, not only because they'll have something to do, but also because they won't be entirely alone in an empty house!

We Want To Hear If Your Dog's Ever Seemed Lonely!