Layne is an animal lover who grew up in a household full of rescued critters. She is a registered veterinary technician.
Do Dogs Really Miss Their Owners?
You love your dog and your heart breaks when you think about leaving them alone for the day while you go out and work (or maybe you have to go on a brief trip or vacation). Your dog probably sees you packing or getting ready to leave—they seem to know and you just can't hide the fact you're leaving.
Dogs are very receptive animals. Not only are they used for their various impressive services—sniffing out explosives, detecting a drop in blood sugar, detecting cancer, or offering seeing-eye support—but they also seem to be clued in ways that humans aren't. Just like we are sensitive and get lonely when we miss our favorite people, dogs can experience loneliness and longing, too.
Here are common signs to look for that indicate your dog misses you when you're gone.
Signs Your Dog Misses You While You're Gone
Many of these signs vary by breed, your dog's age, and your living circumstance. That is, if you have other family members in the house, your dog might latch on to them until you return. (Fun fact: Dogs actually use scent to determine how long you've been gone and when you're due back, so if you keep a regular schedule, your dog will know when to expect your return.) Keep reading to learn about common signs your dog misses you.
1. They Sit by the Door or Window
Some dogs like to sit in the window to watch passersby and will be either amused by the happenings outside the house or bark and protect the house out of nobleness and territoriality. Your dog might have their designated spot on the couch or in the window. There's a difference, however, between them staring out of the window for entertainment and staring out of the window to await your return.
Our family dog really misses a special someone in my family. He sits by the door and will even wait into the late evening, not moving, looking morose, unless someone coaxes him away. Sometimes we even have to talk to him to let him know that that person isn't coming home today (if they are traveling, etc.). He often sits staring out the window with his eyes glazed over. It's very sad to see. It takes him a few hours to get over it. If your dog does this too, it's likely that they miss you.
Dogs Greeting Their Humans
2. They Sleep on or Destroy Your Belongings
Many times, pets will be attracted to our scent and seek it out—this goes for cats, too. You might find that your dog sleeps by your shoes, sleeps on your pillow, sleeps on your robe, or spends time near some of your favorite (or most fragrant) belongings. If this is what your dog does, you're lucky, considering the alternative listed below.
What's even more common is that dogs turn destructive when left alone. This is either a manifestation of separation anxiety or boredom and can be extremely detrimental. It's not only financially costly that your dog destroys things in the house, but it puts them at risk especially if they ingest objects that they shouldn't (leading to surgery, potentially).
Destruction of household items can either stem from anxiety or boredom, and having their favorite person leave for the day is a common reason dogs experience separation anxiety. There are some ways you can help discourage this behavior mentioned further down.
3. They Follow You Around the House
If your dog is really dependent on your presence, they might constantly follow you around the house either before you go somewhere, when you're not actually going anywhere, and especially when you return. Sometimes, we might think that they are hungry or want to play, but in actuality, they are probably following you simply because they love you and you are the pack leader!
Dogs become just as dependent on humans as humans are dependent on dogs. The companionship is often mutual. Your dog might sit outside the door when you are in the bathroom, watch you get ready to go somewhere, or perk up when you grab the car keys.
4. They Whine When You Are Getting Ready to Leave
Another indication of potential separation anxiety is indicated by your dog's worried whining right before you walk out the door. It's not uncommon to see your dog's anxiety crop up when you grab your purse or gym bag, put on a coat, or they hear the jingle of your car or house keys. Dogs are perceptive and very easily bothered by these small clues that you might be leaving.
It is fairly common for dogs to whine, nervous yawn, or pace right before their owner leaves. Also, if you've ever packed for a long trip and put your suitcase by the door, you might have observed that your dog went and sat by it or on it. While this is cute, it is also sad! They want to come with you! Some dogs will even howl and howl when their owner(s) go away from the day. This is another sad indication that they miss you.
5. They Ignore You or Don't Pay Attention to You
It is also not uncommon for dogs to pretend like you don't exist when you are getting ready to leave. This is probably a coping mechanism. They might be busy licking their paws (not good!) or nervously chewing on a toy or doing something else a little bit obsessive and distracting. Some dogs are like this . . . and it can either be raising or breed dependent. Just because your dog isn't showing the obvious above signs doesn't mean they miss you. They may have gotten used to your routine and go and sit down in their bed when they know you are setting out for the day. While these good manners are impressive, they are still sad that you are gone!
6. They Freak Out When You Are Home
A strong indication that your dog lives for you is how excited they are when you return. This can either be from a day's work or from a long trip. There are numerous videos online of dogs that have experienced joyous bouts of hyperactivity when their owners return either from the day or a long journey. They are extremely uplifting, so check them out.
Some dogs will jump on you (it's good to discourage this), others will bark and twirl, and others will go sprinting through the house pulling their toys out, their bedding out, jumping up on the couch, and other hyper activities. This display of affection can be rather cute so long as you get it under control in the moments after.
7. They Escape or Run Away
It's always important that you keep your dog secure when you are gone especially if they are attached to you. Breeds like huskies and other athletic, determined dogs are known for escaping and running. This can mean that they jump a fence, bust through a screen window, break out of their crate, dig out of the yard, or break away on a leash when someone else is walking them.
This is very, very dangerous and often doesn't end well unless you live in a small, tight neighborhood. If you have a paid dog walker or dog sitter, make sure they know these traits about your dog and you provide secure housing and leashes for them to use, or else you might wind up looking for a lost dog.
8. They Don't Eat While You're Away
Dogs that are food motivated might stop eating or be disinterested in treats and food when you are away. This is especially true if you free-feed them and they are typically very much into their food (we call these "social eaters").
Dogs, just like humans, might lose their appetite due to distraction or depression. You will know this is true if their appetite returns as soon as you are back in the picture.
9. They Act Depressed
This one goes without saying, if your dog acts depressed when you are gone, he or she probably is. It might take you noticing this on a pet cam or it might take a family member reporting this behavior (or a dog sitter or roommate). Dogs will not hide their emotions and often put them out on display.
Signs of depression might include sleeping all day, moping, slinking around, whimpering, lethargy, and all things similar to what humans exhibit.
10. Their Personality Changes
Personality changes are a true indication that your dog misses you. If your dog is generally bouncy and happy and loves to play, but when you're gone they won't do any of the sorts, they miss you. If your dog is generally very alert and ready to do tricks and work for treats but doesn't do any of the sorts when you are gone, they likely miss you. Some dogs will be so distracted by your absence that nobody will be able to get their attention (this often happens when they are waiting for you by way of the leash and watching for your return) or if you step inside quickly to run an errand (never leave your dog in a hot car!). If this is true of your dog, he or she probably is probably eagerly awaiting your return.
How to Help Your Dog Feel Less Lonely When You Leave
It's not uncommon for dogs to experience separation anxiety. Here are some ways to make sure your dog is taken care of and less lonely when you're out for the day or traveling on vacation:
- Buy a good pet cam that allows you to talk to them.
- Buy a smart pet toy/pet cam that allows you to talk to them and dispense treats at the sound of your voice.
- Pay for a good pet sitter to come over and cuddle them or walk them midday (make sure they are trustworthy and credentialed).
- Send them off to doggy daycare if you can afford it (nice and distracting).
- Leave dog tunes (or doggy radio or dog tv) on while you are gone to add some noise to the environment.
- Leave them with a kong (pack it with some peanut butter or unflavored yogurt ad freeze it); this will keep them busy and gets them excited!
- Leave them with plenty of fun toys (dog puzzles are interesting).
- Adopt a friend for them and grow your family so that they are less alone.
- Install a doggy door (if they can be trusted).
- Leave them with a scented blanket (of your scent) for them to sleep on while you're away if you can trust them not to destroy it.
- Make sure they are watched or dog-sat by their second favorite person in the world!
- Work with a behavior specialist to get through indications of separation anxiety, especially if your dog is destructive or licks/injures themselves when you're away; some of the above suggestions might help (or downplaying when you're leaving); you will want to not make it a big deal when you leave to help them through the buildup of your departure.
TV for Dogs With Separation Anxiety
What to Do When You Miss Your Dog
Just like your pup, you probably miss your best friend when you're away. If this is the case, there are some things that you can do to feel less alone. Some might make you feel worse or better, depending on your personality:
- Talk to them via FaceTime or Zoom.
- Have your pet sitter or pet hotel send pictures and videos.
- Put their picture as the background of your phone.
- Post pictures of the two of you on social media.
- Talk to them on your pet cam.
- Leave them with your sweater or a piece of clothing that smells like you (it's comforting).
- Think about how well they are being taken care of (did you spend big bucks for a doggy hotel?) and be proud that you are a responsible parent.
- Convince yourself that they are having a great time meeting other dogs at their doggy hotel or out adventuring with their doggy sitter.
- Leave them with a special treat.
- Take something with you that reminds you of them.
Dogs are our best friends! It's expected that they miss you when you're gone and that you miss them. It's a crazy little thing called love.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2020 Laynie H
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 16, 2020:
Hi Kalpana, I was interested in it too so I decided to write about it. Glad you found it informational.
Kalpana Iyer from India on October 22, 2020:
Very interesting. I stumbled upon this topic while hub hopping, and this is such a coincidence because a few days back I was wondering how do dogs react when they are missing someone.
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 18, 2020:
Hi Ivana. Thank you for the compliments. I'm glad you found it useful.
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 18, 2020:
Hi Liz, thanks for reading. I have seen so many dogs mourn their owner's absence it breaks my heart. Glad you liked the tips for reducing the heartbreak!
Ivana Divac from Serbia on October 18, 2020:
This is an amazing article. Very well-written and useful. Thanks for sharing!
Liz Westwood from UK on October 18, 2020:
This is a very well-organised and helpful article. I really appreciate the fact that you have included tips on what to do to help in these situations.