It is never pleasant to leave your pet dog at home alone, especially when they are watching you with those big, sad eyes pleading for you to take them with you.
So the question is, does your dog really miss you when you leave?
Or is it all just a ruse to make you feel bad and take them with you?
What Do Dogs Think When You Leave?
Dogs don’t think like humans, but they miss you when you leave.
They can even develop separation anxiety during your absence.
That’s why dogs often wait by the door, cry, and chew things up whenever their owners leave them at home.
This article will discuss whether dogs understand how much time passes when you leave, the signs your dog misses you, and how to make them feel better in your absence.
So if you’d like to learn more about how dogs think and behave when you leave, read on.
What Do Dogs Think About When They Are Alone?
While we can’t be entirely sure of the specifics of a dog’s thought processes, we can make educated assumptions based on their behaviour and what we know about their mental capacities.
When left alone, a dog’s thoughts are likely influenced by several factors, such as their personality, breed, upbringing, and current environment. Here are some general possibilities:
- Anxiety or Stress: If a dog is not used to being alone or suffers from separation anxiety, they may be nervous or stressed. They may spend a lot of their time worrying and waiting for their owner to return, which could manifest in destructive behavior or incessant barking.
- Sleep and Relaxation: Many dogs sleep a lot when they are alone. This is especially true for dogs who are comfortable with their surroundings and secure in the knowledge that their owner will return. They use this time to rest and recharge.
- Exploration: Some dogs may use alone time to explore their surroundings, especially if they’re in a new place or there are new items in their familiar space. This curiosity could also lead to mischief, such as chewing on shoes or getting into the trash.
- Hunger or Thirst: If a dog is alone for an extended period, they may start to think about basic needs like food and water.
- Boredom: Dogs, especially active breeds, can get bored when they’re left alone without any stimulating activities. They might pass the time by playing with their toys, or if those are not available, they might resort to less desirable activities, like chewing on furniture.
Remember, each dog is unique, so not all dogs will respond the same way when left alone.
Some dogs are perfectly content to be alone for a few hours, while others struggle with the separation.
Regular exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship are crucial to keeping a dog happy and healthy.
Do Dogs Know How Long They’ve Been Left Alone?
Dogs often react sadly when you leave for the day, making you wonder if they can tell how long you have been gone.
Especially when you step out for a few minutes and they don’t seem troubled. In contrast, they seem quite distraught if you leave for more than a few hours.
Dogs don’t know precisely how long they’ve been left alone.
They can’t tell time and don’t even have a concept of what time is. However, dogs can vaguely mark the passing of time with things like meal times and if it’s day or night.
Ultimately dogs have a vague sense of the passing of time.
They are more likely to feel sad the longer you leave and will get excited when you return if you’ve left for a more extended period.
Having a routine also helps your dog understand that you’re coming back.
Once they get used to the routine, they will feel less anxious about you leaving because they instinctively trust that you will come back.
NOTE – You might want to take a look at this post asking the question: why doesn’t my dog get excited to see me anymore?
You Will Know Your Dog Misses You Through Their Body Language
While not all dogs get upset when their owners leave, all of them will miss their humans when they’re away.
So how can you tell if your dog misses you when you leave?
Here are some of the signs that your dog misses you when you’re gone:
- They wait at the door. A common sign that your pup misses you is waiting for your return at the last place they saw you. If you have a camera set up to watch your dog when you’re away, you’ll most likely see your dog loyally waiting by the door for you to come home.
- They cry or howl when you leave. Barking and howling is how dogs communicate an emotion or concern, so if they’re making a lot of noise when you leave, they’re upset by your departure.
- They make a huge mess. When dogs are anxious, it’s easy for them to get into mischief. Often dogs will tear up a pillow, chew a nice pair of shoes, or even get into left-out food on the counters to pass the time.
- They snuggle up somewhere like your bed. Dogs will often find items that hold your scent and cuddle them until your return to comfort themselves about your absence.
- Your dog gets excited when you return. If your dog is jumping all over and loudly yapping when you get home, chances are they missed you and are happy to have you around again.
- They follow you everywhere you go. Another sign that your dog misses you is that they begin to follow you wherever you go and feel the need always to be touching you.
It’s normal for your dog to miss you when you go, but if you notice that your dog seems highly distraught each time you leave, your pup may have separation anxiety.
This disorder can happen for several reasons, but it’s essential to address it for your dog’s mental well-being.
How To Make Your Dog Feel Better When You Leave Then On Their Own
If you’re worried about leaving your dog home alone for any length of time because of how sad they seem, don’t worry.
You can use some really useful things to help your pup feel better when you’re away.
Here are some ways to make your dog feel more at ease when you’re gone:
- Make your departure clear. It’s important to say goodbye to your pup, so they don’t spend all their time looking for you. This also helps them to understand the routine better.
- Take your dog out for potty before you leave. Ideally, giving your dog constant access to somewhere they can go to the bathroom is ideal. However, if that’s not possible, you must take them out, so they don’t hold it all day.
- Take them for a walk or some other form of exercise. If you can, a quick walk or a game of fetch in the yard can go a long way to make your pet feel at ease when you leave. Plus, exercise is a great way to burn up all their pent-up energy, so they’ll nap while you’re gone.
- Leave out interactive toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Just like a toddler who gets bored, dogs tend to get into things they shouldn’t get into when they’re left alone for too long. A great way to distract them is to set out fun interactive toys or puzzles, so they have something to pass the time.
- Leave the TV or radio on. Having some background noise (not too loud) in the house can comfort your dog and make them feel like things are relatively normal at home.
- If possible, make sure your dog has a friend. Dogs are pack animals and tend to do much better when they have another friend while home alone.
- Enroll your dog in a doggy daycare. Daycare is a good option for dogs that struggle with being home so long as they enjoy the company of other dogs when you have to leave them.
Implementing a few of these tactics can help relieve some of the stress and worry your dog might feel when you leave.
If you’d like to learn more about what happens to your dog when they leave, you should watch BrainCraft’s short but fascinating video on if dogs miss us.
Just click on the image, and it will play:
Final Thoughts On What Your Dog Thinks When You Leave Them Alone
Though you can’t precisely know what goes through your dog’s mind when you leave, it’s pretty easy to guess through their body language.
Dogs rarely like being left alone, especially for more extended periods.
That’s why making your departure as easy on your pup as possible and using coping strategies to minimize their stress and anxiety is essential.
This is the end of our blog post looking at the question: what do dogs think about when they are alone?
Thanks for stopping by and visiting The Factual Doggo.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!