Dogs are highly social pack animals who generally would rather not spend much time alone. Unfortunately, many of us have to leave home for much of the day in order to earn money to support our families and splurge on our pets! But how can you tell if your dog is suffering while you’re away? Here are 5 signs your dog is lonely.
#1 – Destructive behavior
Do you ever dread what sort of mess your dog is making while you’re away from home? If you regularly come home to chewed up shoes and clothing, trash strewn about your house, and food stolen from counter tops, your dog is trying to tell you something. Since dogs don’t have words to communicate with, they use destructive behaviors as a tool of communicating to you their loneliness and boredom. This is one of the telltale signs that your dog is lonely.
#2 – Excessive barking or howling
If you’ve ever come home to an angry note from a neighbor or received a call from the manager of your apartment complex regarding noise from your dog, you probably already realize that your dog is calling out for attention, which is another sure sign of loneliness.
#3 – Accidents inside the house
Has your housebroken dog started leaving you “presents” in the house? While this could be the sign of a medical issue, it is also a common symptom of stress. If your dog specifically waits until you’re in the shower to poop in the living room – but only on the days your alarm goes off – he’s sending a very clear signal that he doesn’t want you to leave him home alone while you go to work.
#4 – Reduced appetite or energy level
If your dog is eating or playing much less than usual, that’s a clear sign that something is wrong. Once physical ailments have been ruled out, it’s time to look at the stressors in your dog’s life. He might be depressed if he’s lonely every time you go to work.
#5 – Aggression
If your normally sweet dog is suddenly snappy, it’s important to discover the cause for your dog’s change in behavior. It could be an underlying health issue or it could be a symptom of loneliness. Before giving up on your dog, try spending more quality time with them when you are home and work with a trainer to address the likely underlying separation anxiety.
Tips for reducing your dog’s loneliness:
If you can’t come home on your lunch break, see if you have a friend or family member who can spend some time with your dog in the middle of the day. You might also consider hiring a pet walker. Doggy daycare is a great option for dogs who are highly social. They get to spend the entire day playing with their friends and they come home with you worn out instead of full of pent up energy.
Crate training can give your dog a safe place to be when you are gone. If done properly, the crate can become a safe haven for your dog that they will happily go into to feel secure. If a crate is not an option, consider locking your dog in a safe room in the house to minimize destructive behaviors – eating the wrong thing could send your dog to the emergency room, or worse.
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of toys when you leave the house. The more interactive the toy, the better. There are lots of great puzzle toys to keep your dog occupied.
If your dog has the right personality and you have the right financial situation, adding another pup to your pack could be a great way to reduce your dog’s loneliness. Some pets prefer to be the “only child,” though, and an added dog means added expenses, so thoroughly think this option through first.