Do Dogs Get Lonely?

by Sundays

lonely dog sitting on bed alone

Before you go down this worry spiral, let’s talk about whether dogs can get lonely and depressed and how you can even tell.

Any dog parent can tell you that dogs have feelings. It’s easy to see when they’re happy–you can see the helicopter tail wags, zoomies, and playful energy. But do dogs get lonely, too? 

When you have to run an errand or leave for work, it can be really hard to leave that sad-looking face that seems to ask why you have to go. And there’s no way to tell your precious pup not to worry or what time you’ll be back. Then you start to wonder if you should get another dog or another pet to keep them company. 

Before you go down this worry spiral, let’s talk about whether dogs can get lonely and depressed and how you can even tell.

Can dogs get depressed and lonely?

Dogs experience feelings in a way that’s similar to a human toddler. So you are right in thinking that your pup can feel simple emotions like joy, sadness, excitedness, anxiety, and yes, even loneliness and depression. 

Of course, your dog may become more lonely at different life stages or in response to different situations. You may also have a dog that is more sensitive to changes and gets lonelier or less lonely in general. 

How can I tell if my dog is lonely?

If you’re already wondering if your dog is lonely, you’ve probably seen some signs. Here are some of the more common lonely dog symptoms:

- Seeming down or depressed 

- Not as interested in playing with others as they used to be

- Clingy behavior, like following you from room to room 

- Sleeping more than usual

- Tearing things up because they’re bored

- Licking or chewing their paws to the point of creating sores

- Suddenly barking a lot, pacing, or acting hyper

- Not eating as much as they used to

Dog loneliness vs. separation anxiety

You also want to be on the lookout for symptoms of a very specific expression of loneliness called separation anxiety. It’s a sign of distress when a dog is left alone at home for any period of time. This happens when dogs haven’t formed a healthy attachment to their people and fear being abandoned every time the pet parents leave.

With separation anxiety, your dog will be triggered by your “getting ready to leave the house” ritual–picking up keys, grabbing a certain bag, getting dressed, etc. They may follow you from room to room, start vocalizing or shaking, become withdrawn, or start destroying things. Some behaviors might start after you’ve left, also, like destroying the house while you’re out or watching at the window.

Why is my dog lonely?

There could be any number of reasons your dog could be lonely. They may just be more social than other dogs you’ve had before, or they could be a very social breed that loves to be around people or other pets.

If there seems to be more to it, ask yourself if there have been any major changes in your household: 

- Has a favorite person moved out recently? This could be due to a breakup or divorce, a roommate moving out, or a kid leaving for college.

- Have the schedules changed so that a favorite person spends less time at home with your pup? Think about kids going back to school at the end of summer, or someone’s job and hours changing. 

- Did a person or pet pass away in the household? It may even be another pet that you didn’t think your dog was too close to, but it could still make them feel lonely.

There may not have been any recent changes, but it could be that you’ve just started noticing the signs, or the signs have gotten more noticeable lately.

Do dogs get lonely without another dog? 

Yes, some dogs can get lonely if they are the only canine in the house. Certain breeds or just certain individual dogs might crave the companionship offered by another dog. This could especially be true if they were used to having another dog or other dogs around, but the situation changed so that they are now the only dog.

How to help a lonely dog

If you’ve seen the signs of loneliness in your dog, don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can try depending on the reasons behind it:

1. Get help with separation anxiety.

This will be a process that you can talk through with your vet. They may refer you to a behaviorist for help with extreme cases. Try to keep your routines as consistent as possible so your dog will be prepared for the time that you’ll be away from the house.

2. Keep them busy.

Get your pup toys that were made to give them something interesting to do while you’re gone. There are all kinds of food puzzle toys and chew toys that can help.

3. SIgn them up for doggy daycare.

Some pups love getting to play with other dogs and interacting with people when you’re at work. 

4. Schedule a lunchtime visit.

If you are able to, stop by your house halfway through the day for a short walk and some quality time. And if you can’t, you can always hire a dog walker for anything from a 15-minute potty walk to a longer visit that includes some playtime.

5. Get them a friend.

Your pup may actually need a buddy, if you are ready for all that that means. Take them to meet their potential new roomie to see how they react before making any decisions.

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