Heading back to the office after an extended time at home can be tough at both ends of the leash. Our dogs crave being close to us—we call them companion animals for a reason—and a change in schedule that results in them being home alone for longer periods of time can have an impact on their personality, as well as their mental health.
It doesn’t matter if the change is due to a new job, going back to school, divorce, or the end of a global pandemic. If your daily circumstance is changing, it’s likely your dog will feel the impact of it as well.
Do Dogs Get Lonely?
We like to think that our dogs are nonstop happiness on four paws, but the reality is that dogs experience a variety of emotions. Dogs have the same emotional complexity as human toddlers, which means that they are capable of happiness, sadness, jealousy, anger, and yes, loneliness.
Dogs evolved to be by our side, whether on the hunt, in the field, or by the fire, so it makes sense that they crave our companionship. Add to that the fact that we’re their sole providers of food, exercise, and access to the world, and it’s no wonder that our dogs have a drive to stay close to us.
Being left alone, especially when it’s something a dog hasn’t experienced in a while, can absolutely lead to a dog experiencing loneliness.
9 Signs of Loneliness in Dogs
The following behaviors are potential lonely dog symptoms that might manifest individually, or in a combination of behaviors. Some responses might be an indication of an underlying health problem, like skipping meals, so consider a veterinary check-up to rule out illness if you notice these signs.
Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from depression. It’s likely that lonely dogs also feel depressed. The behaviors that indicate dog loneliness are closely related to depressive behaviors, like withdrawal and lethargy.
If your dog paces or shows other signs of pre-departure stress as you prepare to leave the house, this could be a sign of isolation distress or separation anxiety.
Dogs that are home alone might find ways to keep themselves occupied like chewing up pillows, shoes, and remotes.
You might find that your dog wants to be by your side more than usual, even waking up from a sound sleep to follow if you leave the room.
Change in Play Style
Lonely dogs might be less interested in playing the games they used to love.
Dogs that feel lonely might sleep more than usual, or might choose to sleep in unusual spots, like in a closet.
A lonely dog might not have an appetite and could even skip treats. Not eating can also be a sign of many medical conditions, so make sure to discuss this with your veterinarian if you notice it.
Dogs use their voice to communicate, and a lonely dog might bark, whine, or cry when left alone.
Overall Behavior Shifts
It can be challenging to characterize the exact changes in a dog experiencing loneliness other than the fact that they just seem different from the way they normally act.
How to Prevent Loneliness in Dogs
Pet parents who know that they have a major schedule shift on the horizon, like going back to the office after working from home for an extended period, can help their dogs adjust in a variety of ways.
Practice your new routine. Dog parents should help their canine companion prepare by practicing their upcoming schedule. Go through an abbreviated version of your typical departure routine (get dressed, pack a lunch, grab your bag) then leave the house for 30 minutes to an hour. Continue this preparation and departure process in the weeks prior to going back, gradually increasing the length of time you’re away from the house. Continue to throw a few short-duration departures as well to make it easy on your dog.
Keep your dog active. Increasing your pup’s exercise regime can help put a dent in dog loneliness as well, but it helps to be creative. Sure, your dog will probably welcome more walks, but engaging your dog’s brain can help tire him out and make being left alone less stressful.
Trick training and dog brain games like “hide the toy” will wear out your dog and can make alone time less fraught.
Try interactive toys. Invest in busy toys to give your dog when you have to leave him home alone. Hard rubber toys that can be stuffed with goodies are an excellent way to give your dog something to focus on while you’re gone. Give your dog an opportunity to practice with the toy while you’re home (this also ensures that your dog can’t destroy it and accidentally swallow pieces of the toy), then when it’s time to leave him alone pack the toy full of treats so that it’s tougher for your dog to get the goodies out and will keep him busier longer.
Consider a dog daycare. Some lonely dogs might benefit from going to a well-run dog daycare a few times per week, although this option isn’t a fit for every dog. Make sure that your dog enjoys the excitement of group play, and that the daycare is reputable.
Final Thoughts on Lonely Dog Syndrome
Do dogs need companions? While it might be tempting to add a second dog to your household to “cure” your dog’s loneliness, the success of this solution isn’t guaranteed. Adding a second dog requires an honest evaluation of your resident dog to determine if they’re a fit for a sibling (keep in mind that some dogs like being an “only child”) and if so, finding a buddy that’s the right fit for your household and lifestyle.
Finally, keep in mind that dogs exhibiting behaviors associated with loneliness might be suffering from an undiagnosed health issue, so scheduling a wellness check can help to rule out any more serious problems.
6 Products To Help Lonely Dogs
All featured products were chosen at the discretion of the Great Pet Care editorial team and not directly recommended or endorsed by the author of this article. Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
One of the best cures for canine loneliness is spending time with your dog. Since pet parents generally can’t spend 24/7/365 with their dogs, loneliness can creep in. As long as you are giving your pooch focused attention along with physical and mental stimulation, you can help ward off feelings of anxiety or sadness. Keeping your dog occupied and his mind stimulated is key to helping him feel relaxed, at ease, and fulfilled. Here are six of our favorite products to bust boredom and keep canine loneliness at bay:
The Anxious Pet Relax & Roll Organic Hemp Oil
Dogs who become nervous or anxious, when separated from you, may benefit from this full-spectrum, organic hemp oil from The Anxious Pet. Relax & Roll is veterinary formulated by professionals at top institutions across the United States. Dosing is simple using the provided dropper that comes with each bottle. Dispense the recommended amount based on your dog’s weight and age.
- Available in 400 mg or 800 mg active CBD
- Can be applied directly into your dog’s mouth or on their food
- Third-party tested to verify quality, potency, purity, and consistency
- Oils from the hemp plant stimulate your dog’s serotonin receptors to stabilize and improve his mood naturally
- Easy to digest
- Dosing made easy thanks to the precise mL dropper included with every bottle
Things to Consider
- Product best if titrated slowly to the desired dose as indicated on the package
- Must be stored away from heat, light, and humidity in a cool, dry place
Sample buyer review: “I discovered The Anxious Pet and thought I would give the hemp oil and calming chews a try. I was a bit skeptical at first, but I noticed a difference in my dog’s behavior immediately. He was much more relaxed and able to just be a dog without all of the worry that he was displaying previously. The combination of the oil and the chews allowed him to accept me leaving without undue stress.”
Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee and Guru – Interactive Treat Dispensing Ball
A busy dog is a happy dog. Treat-dispensing toys and balls can sometimes be too easy, but the Orbee-Tuff keeps a dog busy and engaged for a while. Unlike other treat balls, this one has five openings to fill with your dog’s favorite snacks. If you are busy at home, fill the Orbee-Tuff and watch as your pup chews, sniffs, rolls, and plays to get the goodies out. The durable TPE material is soft on gums but withstands more vigorous chewers.
- The material contains no BPA, lead, PVCs, or phthalates
- Made in the USA for peace of mind
- Mint-infused flavor to help keep your dog’s breath fresh as they play
- Floats on water and is bouncy so it can be used in water, on grass, or indoors
- Can be stuffed with everything from bully sticks to peanut butter, small treats to apples
- Five openings for extra-long play sessions
Things to Consider
- Because no toy is indestructible, supervise your dog while playing with the Orbee-Tuff
- Best to remove the ball from your dog after playing so he doesn’t try to tear it apart
Sample buyer review: “My dog has tons and tons of treat balls, and this is the one she seems to find the most engaging. If I fill several with the same type of reward, she goes for this one every time. Keeps her engaged for a while and is clearly fun for her. She’s a smart one, and the others bore her after 1-2 uses. Would highly recommend.”
Furbo Dog Camera With Treat Tossing Feature
You are at work or running errands but it’s impossible to check on your lonely dog, right? Times have changed thanks to the Furbo Dog Camera with its unique treat tossing feature. Livestream your dog’s activities via your phone while you are away or in another room. The 160-degree wide-angle and night vision ensures you’ll see what he’s doing at any time. Furbo’s barking sensor sends a push notification to your phone so you can check-in. The 2-way talk and treat-tossing features allow you to reward a very good boy while he hears your voice. The easy set-up is frustration-free in a home with a stable internet connection and a strong WiFi signal.
- Furbo accepts up to 100 pieces of your dog’s favorite treats
- Barking alerts let you know if your dog is in distress or an intruder, fire, or another danger is present
- Event-triggered cloud recording lets you see what your dog did all day
- Selfie alert so Furbo can capture your dog’s face when he’s staring at the camera
- Person alert feature so you know when a human (dog walker, family member, intruder) enters the view
- Wide-angle view lets you place Furbo out of your dog’s reach
Things to Consider
- Treats used in the Furbo should be round-shaped with a diameter of around 0.4 inches
- Some pet parents complained about the low volume of the microphone
- Treat-dispensing sound is similar to a doorbell
Sample buyer review: “Great night vision, overly conscious motion alert, notifies for consistent barking, whining, someone breaking in, fires, AND IT SHOOTS DOG TREATS! Such a cute little app they have to offer you! Makes me feel super secure knowing I can see my little Lily Pup all safe and sound!”
RUNDA Snuffle Mat For Dogs
A snuffle mat engages a dog’s innate curiosity while keeping his mind and nose active. This enrichment toy slows down fast eaters, makes dogs work for their treats, and keeps their minds stimulated to keep the loneliness away. Dogs must forage and “hunt” for whatever goodies you place in the RUNDA Snuffle Mat. We like this brand for its longer, thicker fibers and higher edge so food and treats won’t easily fall out. It comes with two suction cups to easily affix it to the ground. The bottom is a non-slip cloth so dogs won’t easily move the mat out of place.
- Encourages a dog’s foraging instincts to help channel their energy
- Generous 17-by-21-inch size suits small, medium, and large-sized dogs
- Can be machine or hand washed for easy cleanup
- Smart solution for dogs who like to dig or engage in destructive chewing behaviors
- Environmentally friendly fibers with a hair length of 2 inches
- Made of high quality, non-toxic, durable, and odorless material
- Feeds your dog’s belly and his brain with one simple solution
Things to Consider
- RUNDA recommends their snuffle mat is washed weekly
- A few reviews mentioned the suction cups did not stay in place on the floor
Sample buyer review: “Out of three different snuffle rugs we tried out, this is by far my favorite! It is softer, easier to clean, and much easier to hide snacks and food in. My pups LOVE it!”
LickiMat Classic Slow Feeders For Boredom and Anxiety
The LickiMat helps calm and soothe a dog’s anxiety and keep him occupied through licking. It’s recommended by veterinarians and trainers alike. If your dog is lonely or bored, simply apply a dog-friendly snack like a soft banana, yogurt, or peanut butter and watch your dog have fun. Perfect for crate training, fireworks diversion, during bath time (stick it to the bathtub), to combat boredom, and distract dogs while you are busy. Calming endorphins are released when your dog licks the mat, which leads to a happier pup.
- Food settles into the mat’s grooves to dramatically prolong your dog’s enjoyment
- LickiMat is environmentally friendly without any silicone, BPA, PVCs, or phthalates
- Made for small and large dogs and dishwasher safe
- Slows down feeding to help prevent bloating in fast eaters and large breeds
- Keeps pets entertained so you feel less stressed
- Can be used with a large array of spreadable foods and treats including wet and raw foods and spreadable snacks
- Three surface patterns: squares, dots, and crosses for variety
Things to Consider
- For puppies or heavy chewers, the company recommends the LickiMat Tuff
- Consult your veterinarian for which human foods are suitable to spread on the LickiMat
Sample buyer review: “I mixed together a mashed banana, some plain yogurt, a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened peanut butter, and some pumpkin purée. I mixed it until it was like a light fluffy mashed potato texture. I spread it on the mat and then put it in the freezer for a bit as suggested. My dog loved it! It keeps her busy for about 20 to 30 minutes. It also helps to keep her focused on something so she’s not giving me that guilt-inducing face that she has perfected when I leave the house. It was well worth the money for that alone.”
Pet Acoustics Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker With Calming Canine Music
Help your dog feel calm and at ease with the soothing sounds of canine-specific music from the Pet Acoustics Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker. When your dog is home alone, the music will play continuously and wirelessly for up to eight hours on a full charge. Designed by composer and researcher Janet Marlow, Pet Tunes pairs to your personal library of songs using Bluetooth technology. The built-in repeat mode ensures it plays all day and comes pre-loaded with songs to soothe your dog’s worried mind.