Care of Them
Dogs are more than just pets, they are members of our family. As dog owners, our desire is to ensure that our pups are happy, healthy, and loved. Sometimes, busy work schedules and lots of things on our calendars can keep us from being home enough for our dogs, leaving them to be on their own.
When you have to leave your dog home alone, it can make you feel guilty. It is also more challenging to be able to know if your dog is feeling lonely or missing you while you’re gone. Leaving them alone often tends to lead our pups to feel isolated and sad.
But the question is still there - how can you tell if your dog is feeling sad or lonely? And more importantly, what can you do as their owner to help them feel better and cared for?
Dogs have personalities and traits, just as humans do, so why they feel lonely may vary depending on the situation. However, many of the signs and symptoms of loneliness are similar, so if you spot your dog behaving in one of these ways or demonstrating the signs below, you may want to address them sooner rather than later.
DISENGAGEMENT OR LACK OF INTEREST
One of the most prominent tell-tale signs of your dog feeling sad and lonely is their lack of interest in you, other humans, or animals. Typically, happy pets are playful and energetic, but if they are not excited for playtime or seem less active and withdrawn, it is a strong sign that they could be distressed or unhappy.
The Bond Vet Clinic in New York City states that there are some cases in which dogs might just lack social skills when it comes to feeling comfortable around other animals. If they do not frequent the company of other dogs or animals to play with, that may be why they do not show interest. However, not engaging with you or other family members demonstrates that they are experiencing feelings of loneliness.
SLEEPY OR LETHARGIC
Humans experience a lot of time in bed when they are sad or depressed, and, just like us, dogs will sleep much more often when they are feeling low. Lonely dogs will sleep more during the day because there is nothing else to distract them, but too much napping during the day can cause your dog to be more restless in the evening and the middle of the night.
According to the Humane Society of Tampa, dogs need around twelve or more hours of sleep every day. If you leave your dog home alone for multiple hours during the day and are bored or lonely, they could quickly fill this time with sleeping. Your dog will then be feeling more active at night and may even wake you up due to wanting more attention.
CONSTANT NEED FOR ATTENTION
Another behavioral indicator that you have a lonely dog is when it is constantly by your side, perhaps even following you everywhere you go when you are home. One way you can determine this is if you go somewhere and shut the door, you may find that your dog has parked itself right by the door in anticipation of your return.
Your dog is seeking companionship and missing it, so they will become clingy just to stay as close to you as possible. If you sense that your dog’s interest in you when you are home borders more like stalking than love, it strongly indicates loneliness.
LICKING OR BITING
When dogs become anxious, they can sometimes lick or bite their fur frequently, which leads to hair loss or damage to their skin. It can also be because they are feeling bored or lonely. If you notice your dog has developed patches of missing fur or sores, you should contact your veterinarian right away for treatment.
Dogs can develop what is known as lick granulomas, which occur when the dog continues to lick one focused area on its body. While there is no guarantee that your dog will stop licking even with treatment, there are things you can do to ensure that your dog is no longer feeling lonely or bored.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR LONELY DOG
The best and most obvious thing you can do for your lonely dog is to be around more and spend more quality time with your pup. However, if you have a social calendar that is filling up or know that your work is going to keep you too busy to be with your dog more, there are some other things that you can do to help prevent your furry friend from being lonely.
- Get Another Pet - If you have a social dog that likes the companionship of other animals, you could look into getting another dog so that they can keep each other company.
- Bring Your Dog Along - anytime you have to leave the house, maybe see if you can bring your dog along with you in some cases. Something simple like visiting friends, if they don’t mind you bringing your pup along, or even on long trips to visit family, as long as your family doesn’t mind, keep your dog from being alone and take them with you.
- Go Home For Lunch - if you have extended lunch breaks or work close to home, consider going home during your break to spend some time with your dog. While this may not be feasible every day, it can help, so your dog doesn’t sleep all day, having a coordinated playtime for your dog anytime you come home and spend some quality time together.
- Invest In a Dog Walker - If you know you can’t be home and work long hours, you should look into having someone come to play and walk your dog during the day if possible. Even if you can just get a neighbor to go in and check on your dog and play with it for a while, it will go a long way to providing it with some needed attention.
There are some simple steps that you can take when you know that you’re going to have a long workday or will be out of the house for an extended period when it is not a common occurrence. For example, you can invest in some dog toys or chews to keep your pup occupied, as well as leave a blanket or piece of clothing that smells like you. You might also consider leaving music or background noise on for comfort.
If you sense that your dog is experiencing loneliness or feeling very sad, a required course of action would always be to seek out your local veterinarian to gain some perspective and advice on how to help. Understanding your dog’s body language and behavior can help you make this determination. Taking steps to help your dog overcome its loneliness will bring back the energetic and playful companion you consider as part of the family.
Special thanks to our Guest Post contributor: Melissa Waltz
"Melissa’s love for animals is not limited to being a mother to her five dogs. As a former vet tech, she has spent many years treating and caring for sick animals and found it to be an extremely rewarding career. Her professional experience in the vet industry allows her to share insight that is both fact-checked and observation-based. Nowadays Melissa spends her free time volunteering at animal shelters in the Dallas area and offering advice to pet owners everywhere."