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14 January 2022

4 MINS READ

Is Your Dog Lonely? How You Can Tell

Does your dog look a little disappointed when you put on your shoes or grab your keys to leave and it’s clear they won’t be heading out with you? It’s normal for your pup to look a little forlorn when you’re about to leave the house (let’s face it, that’s what the puppy-dog eyes were […]

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Does your dog look a little disappointed when you put on your shoes or grab your keys to leave and it’s clear they won’t be heading out with you?

It’s normal for your pup to look a little forlorn when you’re about to leave the house (let’s face it, that’s what the puppy-dog eyes were made for). The good news is that most dogs learn to cope when their owners are gone. At least for a few hours. And hey, they might enjoy a little break from you and fighting for that sunny spot on the couch.

For some pups, being without their human can leave them seriously stressed out. In fact, up to 40 percent of dogs with behavior problems are diagnosed with separation anxiety, according to research in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

While it can be tricky to distinguish between a dog who is bored and a dog who is lonely and having and separation issues, we talked to a few pro trainers who helped highlight the differences.

How long is too long for a dog to be home alone?

Lonely-dog-sticks-head-out-window

There is a lot of debate about the answer to this question and it’s for good reason. Like humans can be introverted and extroverted so can dogs. Have you ever noticed that some dogs are much more social and crave being the center of attention while others prefer to just have a cozy spot to rest (by themselves away from the action)?

Both young puppies and senior pups will need more frequent bathroom breaks, meaning you can’t leave them alone as long as healthy adult dogs. And if youe dog has a medical condition requiring medication at specific times of the day, you may need to do some planning around their schedule.

While a healthy adult dog might be just fine at home alone for around 6 hours – this doesnt mean they won’t be lonely. If being home alone for a long stretch is only occasional, it might be more okay than if it’s an all day, every day occurrance.

While ensuring that your dog gets enough bathroom breaks is important, it’s also important that your dog is getting enough exercise, mental stimulation and social opportunities.

Since you dog can’t talk, they won’t be able to tell you if they’re bored, lonely or even scared. You’ll need to look at their behaviors for clues.

Concerned your dog might be dealing with loneliness? Take our quiz to help you spot the signs.

Dog diagnosed with lonliness? Here are some things you can do to help

1. Play some music or keep the TV on while you’re gone

Ever been home alone and its been so quiet you could hear a pin drop? Or something making funny noises in the backyard. You probably turned on the TV or threw on your favorite spotify playlist to keep yourself entertained (and to drown out the weird noises). So, why not do the same for your pup. You can play some soothing classical music or some chill coffee shop vibes – whatever you think your pup will respond to! Some dogs even enjoy the voices of cartoon characters so a Disney movie is also a good choice (we just don’t recommend 101 Dalmatians for obvious reasons!).

2. Invest in some enrichment toys for your dog to play with while you’re out

Consider loading up a Kong or Zogoflex toy with some peanut butter, pumpkin, yogurt and some kibble or treats. You can toss the whole thing in the freezer for a long lasting and delicious snack that will take your dog a long time to eat. This might help them pass the time while you aren’t home.

If your dog can’t be trusted with these kinds of toys unsupervised, you couls also have them work on their enrichment toy before you head out. That way they might be ready to just relax while you’re gone. You can also take your dog for a long walk or give them some exercise before you leave if that works better for your pup.

3. Get your pup a friend

Since not everyone has the space or budget for a second dog, consider arranging a playdate with a friend for your dog who suffers from separation anxiety. Do you have a friend or neighbor who’s dog gets along with yours? Maybe you could coordinate errands or take turns hosting playdates to give the dogs some company when they need it.

If your dog isn’t really interested in other dogs and prefers the company of humans, consider a dog walker or ask a friend to come spend some time with your pup if you need to be out for a longer stretch of time.

4. Seek medical treatment for separation anxiety

If your dog has serious separation anxiety and you’re afraid they might hurt themselves while your out (or are seriously suffering mentally) seeking medical treatment is going to be your best bet. You’ll work with your vet or a veterinary behaviorist to get your dog some medication and behavior modification.

This may include working up to leaving your dog alone very slowly. You may even only be able to start with a few minutes. With patience and consistency the goal is to have your dog feel comfortable and relaxed when they’re home alone. It might not be their favorite thing, but you want them to at least tolerate it.

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.

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