Can Dogs Feel Lonely?
Loneliness by dogs is an underestimated and often invisible problem. Most of them are naturally social animals for which contact with a fellow pet companion or with the owner is a basic necessity of life. Nevertheless, most animals live alone and only get 8 minutes of attention per day. Who can not spend more time with his pet, can better not take one, says experts.
Dogs communicate primarily through body language, so it is important that we as humans learn how to understand this body language so we know what they are trying to tell us. Let's discuss the important dog behavior: loneliness by dogs
Why Can Dogs Get Lonely?
The fear of separation is a primal force. The fear of being left alone lives in every dog. Because of this, he constantly tries to form a bond, always and everywhere. This is not a disorder, it is completely natural behaviour. For a puppy, separation from its mother and siblings means certain death, unless a human takes over the parents' care. The still blind, helpless baby senses whether it is cold outside or in the abandoned nest.
He then tries to crawl towards the warmth. This is natural survival behaviour. Dogs that live with humans become completely dependent on their owners and thus remain children. That is why they panic when they have little contact or when contact is suddenly lost. It would therefore be best to always have our four-legged friends with us or to assign them independent tasks from the very beginning.
How To Recognize Loneliness By Dogs?
Loneliness in pets is an underestimated and often invisible problem. There are many different behaviors that can mean your dog is lonely. Let's discuss the following symptoms.
Coming home with destroyed things from your house: When you step into your house and you find chewed-up slippers and wires everywhere. You are greeted by a dirty floor and your sofa is in a complete mess. If dogs are regularly left on their own, this could be a sign of boredom, as well as a way to get their owner's attention;
Your dog following you around the house: If your pup is feeling lonely you may notice they follow you around in order to get the companionship they crave;
They aren't as playful as they once were: Something else you might notice is that your pet isn't wanting to play as much as usual. Sometimes, due to inconsistent companionship, they may lack the social skills they once had – and withdraw themselves from wanting to play. Dogs are incredibly social animals, so if they pull back from group activities it could be a sign of loneliness. Your dog may lose interest in the activities he usually enjoys, such as long walks or fun at the beach;
Excessive barking: It is one of the behaviours that express loneliness and is sometimes accompanied by howling. Barking and crying is one of the ways of expressing the fear caused by loneliness. Moreover, it is one of the behaviours that causes more problems in neighbouring communities;
Urines and shit everywhere: You come home and you find presents everywhere. Pee, poo and there are even adopters who have found vomit. Can you get an idea right now of how bad your dog is doing? It is not a problem of lack of training, but an emotional problem. Your dog clearly needs to be with someone, so in these cases, a dog foster or leave it with a family member or friend is the best option in the short term. In the long run, it would be interesting if you went to an ethologist to help you follow some guidelines. Depression in dogs exists;
Aggressiveness: Yes, yes Just as it may happen that he feels depressed, your dog may not develop any of the above behaviours, but in the normal day-to-day relationship he has aggressive rallies. It all has to do with that burden of anxiety that causes loneliness and can manifest itself in these five ways. Try the tests I have told you and you will see that this behaviour is reduced by improving your dog's quality of life. After all, we want our dog to be happy;
Sleeping more often: Similar to the behaviour of humans, many dogs that are lonely or sad may turn to sleep as a form of distraction. If your dog begins sleeping more than normal, it could be a tell-tale sign they are feeling lonely;
They may lick their own fur more regularly: According to research conducted by INSIDER, lonely dogs may lick or bite at their own fur more often, resulting in patches of lost fur. One expert said: "Lick granulomas are a common manifestation of boredom or anxiety in dogs, and present as small circular sores that are often on the dog's carpus or wrist.";
Your dog's appetite decreases: One indication of pet loneliness can be a change in appetite. A lonely pet may begin to eat or drink less than they used to. A change in feeding patterns may be linked to stress or anxiety, with loneliness being one possible cause. It's important to remember that loss of appetite at mealtimes can also be a sign of medical problems or even snacking on too many treats throughout the day, so talk to your vet to rule out any serious causes;
Ignoring the dog's name: Your dog may also begin to avoid you when you call its name;
How Long Can Dogs Stay At Home Alone?
How long can a human leave his four-legged friend alone? One hour, four hours, eight hours? How long is it reasonable to expect your dog to be on his own? There are many opinions. Some are from experts who say that for physical reasons a young dog should be left alone for a maximum of two hours. Moreover, the first few weeks in the new house should be made as close as possible, without even an hour of separation. According to some, four hours of sleeping in familiar surroundings is good. Eight hours in a garden that the dog has to guard, should be allowed, others think.
Experts think four hours is really the maximum a dog can be alone. Waiting any longer with a walk is not responsible. Whether a four-legged friend can actually cope with being alone for four hours differs from animal to animal.
6x Tips - Loneliness By Dogs
TIP 1: Exercise
The best thing you can do for a pet that is going to spend the day alone is engage them in some morning exercise. What works for your pet will depend on their age, fitness and overall health. For most dogs a walk, some off leash running and a game of fetch is ideal. Whereas for cats, exercise might involve 15 – 20 minutes of interactive play. Find some toys that excite them and give them a bit of tender loving care before you head out the door;
TIP 2: Saying goodbye
Some people leave their four-legged friend at home alone more than others, but the moment of saying goodbye is inevitable. Do not let it be known that you are saying goodbye, but do not be too enthusiastic when you come home either. This will only give your animal the feeling that something special is going on and of course we want to avoid that. An extra tip for the busier dogs among us: reward the animal when he is calm;
TIP 3: Familiar surroundings
Try to keep the environment as familiar as possible for the dog when you leave him at home. Is the television always on? Do not turn it off when you go shopping. If you are working all day, it is of course a different story. After all, we also have to think about energy costs;
TIP 4: Two is company
A possible solution to your pet’s loneliness is to adopt a second pet. Of course, this option won’t suit everyone and requires careful consideration, to avoid backyard breeders. It’s important to think about the nature of your current pet, and choose a second pet that it will get along with. For cats, the younger they are, the more open they will be to newcomers, where dogs tend to be able to form bonds with both cats and other dogs;
TIP 5: Environmental enrichment
Animals need mental stimulation just as humans do. Try to make your pet’s environment fun and interesting to keep them occupied while you’re not around;
TIP 6: Doggie day-care
Day-care is becoming more and more popular among dog-owners these days, and is a good option for those dogs, or pet parents who are after reassurance their dog will be entertained in a mentally-stimulated environment with other dogs – which is great for their social skills. Alternatives to doggy day-care include:
- A pet sitter/friend popping over while you are out
- A dog-walking service
Read more: Dog Health: 7x Best Dog Health Signals
Extra Tips To Prevent Lonely Dogs
The surest cure for loneliness is, of course, togetherness. But if you can't be with them physically, some of the ways you can help a lonely dog include...
- Behave in the morning as you would if you were going to work. Follow your own routine of getting up and getting ready for the day;
- Occasionally walk out of the door and come back a few minutes later. Do this regularly and build up the time you are gone. This way your pet can get used to being home alone (again).
- Do you still work at home? Then chances are that your dog gets extra attention during the breaks. In that case, too, this is a good time to reduce this, so that your dog gets used to it when you go back to the office.
- Putting on the radio or background music;
- If you can, get another dog so they have a companion;
- Take your dog with you if you go on runs or head out to see friends;
- Try to head home on lunch breaks if possible.
It's important to get your puppy used to being left alone when you are not there to prevent it from suffering from separation anxiety or stress as it gets older. An ideal time to start the process is when your puppy is sleeping so that it doesn’t become dependent on having constant company.
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