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10 Tips to Keep Your Dog From Becoming Sad When Left Alone

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.

Many dogs sleep for most of the day when left alone; other dogs become sad.

Many dogs sleep for most of the day when left alone; other dogs become sad.

Do Dogs get sad When You Leave?

Some of us worry a lot when leaving our dogs alone all day. We probably shouldn't because even though dogs are social animals, they sleep most of the day (anywhere from 10–16 hours) and are usually fine when left alone for several hours. That fact is not much help when closing the door on your dog's lonely face. I usually give my dogs a final command before leaving them alone. Do you think that makes it any easier for them? Probably not.

Are there things you can do to make your dog's day alone a little easier? Sure there are. You may have tried a few of these things before, but if not, here are some ideas to make things a little better for both of you.

10 Ways to Make Your Dog Feel Less Lonely When You Aren't Home

  1. Feed Her Just as You Leave
  2. Take Her for a Brisk Morning Walk
  3. Hide Treats Around the House Before Leaving
  4. Fill a Kong Toy With Frozen Peanut Butter to Keep Her Occupied
  5. Get Another Pet
  6. Leave a Radio Turned On
  7. Subscribe to Dog TV
  8. Call and Leave a Message
  9. Use a Webcam and Treat Dispenser
  10. Install a Doggy Door or Window Platform

1. Feed her When you Leave the House (Or Just Before)

I think this is very important. Dogs with a full belly are much more likely to sleep. Some dogs will eat everything as soon as you leave the house, others, especially if feed free-choice, will not bother with their food until their family comes home. If your dog only eats when you are present, go ahead and give the meal and then wait around until she eats it before leaving.

Note: If you have one of the breeds that is susceptible to gastric bloat and torsion, feeding a meal right as you are leaving the house may not be a good idea.

2. Take her for a Long Morning Walk

A quiet dog is going to have a full stomach and be tired after her morning exercise. This is not always easy for everyone, but set your alarm a half-hour earlier and take the time to walk your dog far enough and fast enough that she comes home tired.

3. Hide Treats Around the House

Some dogs will spend time searching for all of your hiding spots. Change the hiding spots every day, and use a treat that your dog likes. Some dogs, unfortunately, will wait to find the treats until you come home.

4. Fill a Kong Hollow toy With Hard-to-Get Goodies

Your dog is going to spend a lot of time and effort getting to the food that you have “hidden” in the toy, and time spent playing with the toy will keep her distracted and prevent her from feeling sad and alone. (I bought several Kong toys years ago, and my dogs still use them when I am away from home.) Frozen peanut butter or another type of food that is hard to get out works best.

5. Get Another Pet

This suggestion will not always work when you are dealing with a dog already suffering from separation anxiety, but for dogs that get bored when home alone, this may be a good cure. A dog companion may be best since they can wrestle and play when alone, but if you do not want another dog, then a cat, a parrot, or even a rabbit may be a good choice.

My Pit Bull stays occupied sitting at the bottom of my parrot's perch, waiting for him to throw her a piece of shredded coconut, and my Schnauzer spends a lot of time just watching my free-range rabbits run around my yard.

6. Leave the Radio Turned on

If your dog is bored, sometimes a distraction is all he needs. I cannot tell you for sure whether talk radio is better than music since it depends on the dog. Change the stations; it may all be white noise to your dog.

7. Subscribe to Dog TV

Many dogs do not like to watch the TV shows that we watch because the images flicker. A new TV station called Dog TV has been set up, and it airs content that is more pleasing to a dog's eyes than typical television. The programming is dog-related, so your dog might be interested. Think about setting a timer/programmer so that the TV flips on during the day. The noise and images will probably attract your dog and keep him occupied during the program.

8. Call and Leave a Message

If you call and leave a message on your answering machine, your dog will probably recognize your voice and come over to take a look.

9. Use a Webcam and a Treat Dispenser.

Get a treat dispenser that can be controlled electronically, and set the answering machine up just next to a webcam so that you can see your dog. Give him a command, and when he sits, for example, tell him he is a good boy and give him a treat. (I am assuming that you have already obedience trained your dog so that he feels confident when left alone. If you have not, get started right away and make him feel better about his place in your household.)

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10. Install a Doggy Door or Window Platform

Some dogs will make use of it and spend some time in the backyard. However, some readers are concerned about dognapping in their area. If you are not able to allow your dog out during the day, you can set up a platform (or just the back of a couch for a smaller dog) so that he can sit by a front window during the day and watch passersby.

Dogs depend on humans to find solutions.

Dogs depend on humans to find solutions.

Create a Good Routine for Your Dog With Technology

Take advantage of all of the technology available.

  • Walk and feed your dog in the morning.
  • At 10:00 am, he will probably still be sleeping but have the TV (set to Dog TV) come on remotely and leave it on until 12:00 pm.
  • Call at noon and leave a message on the machine so that he can hear your voice and give him a treat for performing some obedience commands that you monitor through the webcam.
  • Have the radio come on until 1:00 pm.
  • Have the TV switch on again for another two hours.
  • Switch on the radio from 3–4 pm.
  • Take a break and call again at that time; speak to him for a few minutes on the answering machine.
  • Come home in the evening to a dog that is happy to see you!

Will Your dog get Bored With That Routine?

All of us want our dogs to be free from boredom, feelings of isolation, and the loneliness that comes with lack of a social life. Not all of these tips are going to work for all dogs, but if give this problem a lot of thought you should be able to work out a solution that makes both of you happy.

If you work all day but still want a dog, check out descriptions, videos, and pictures of these low-energy breeds to find out which will suit your lifestyle.

Follow these tips and your sad dog might just end up smiling.

Follow these tips and your sad dog might just end up smiling.

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: Will it be alright if I leave my two Yorkies at a shelter for two weeks while I am on holiday?

Answer: Some dogs do just fine when boarded during the times when an owner is traveling. If there are two dogs, and they are going to be in a large kennel so that they will be together, they are usually even better. If they are kept in a cage, they will have to be separated.

Some dogs do not do well in a boarding facility. This varies a lot, so I cannot tell you specifically how the dogs will do.

© 2017 Dr Mark

Any great ideas? Please leave a comment.

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on July 09, 2019:

Good advice!

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on October 30, 2018:

My father's dog always whines and watches the door when he goes out, it's the saddest thing! I'll send this article over to him; hopefully, it will keep Oscar out of mischief. Fantastic article!

Mildred on June 26, 2018:

How to sensibly buy LEGAL and best quality cbd products for my dog? I've heard how CBD dog treats could benefit your dog; reduce seizures, anxiety, pain etc.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 14, 2018:

Hi Larry I wish I could say there was something to do, but there really is not. Just make sure she has a comfortable place to lie down and will not have an accident if she happens to be standing when the seizure hits. Most dogs do okay when alone unless they go into status epilepticus, which is a series of seizures and the dog never regains conciousness between each seizure. That can cause heat stroke and death.

I am glad you are able to spend time with her most days. My dogs seem to sleep most of the time when I go away but will not eat or drink when I am gone!

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 14, 2018:

A great article, Dr. Mark. I do not usually leave my dog alone all day because we are retired. However, when I peek in as I am closing the door I can see the sadness in her little face. I do worry when we have to leave our dog alone for even a little while. She has epilepsy and I hold her and protect her when she does. What about when I am not there and she gets one?

rls8994 from Mississippi on April 10, 2017:

Great tips! I love the one about hiding the treats around the house for them to find lol. I wish I had done that for mine. He was always so sad when I left him. It would break my heart. I had a miniature schnauzer and he was like my third child. Unfortunately, he died in 2013 and it left me so heart broken. I'll have to keep these tips in mind if I ever get another dog.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on March 06, 2017:

Great suggestions, Dr Mark and I will use at least two of them.

Sakina Nasir from Kuwait on February 26, 2017:

Great hub DrMark! Very well written with awesome solutions. People who have dogs are going to find this very useful.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 25, 2017:

Hi Bob always great to read your useful comments. Yes, I know what you mean about visual cues. My dogs know as soon as I reach for a shirt, since here in the tropics we usually only wear shirts when we go out to work. Most days they do not mind, however, since I take them for a run behind my motorcycle and leave them at my neighbor´s compound to play with his Pits. (My version of exercise and dog daycare!)

I agree with you about the seperation anxiety. I saw it a lot more in Chicago than I do here, since dogs are loose to run around much of the time, and "Vecro dogs" like the Weimarainer are not popular down here. It is definitely one of those problems where prevention is easier than cure, which is why I got a second dog when I noticed Ajej getting too upset as I was leaving.

Thanks again for dropping by. Carnival is this week so our summer is about over, so hopefully your spring will be coming soon.

Bob Bamberg on February 25, 2017:

I had to smile when I read your title. I'm thinking "Ten tips to keep your dog from ripping your house to shreds when left alone." Another good one is to vary your departure routine in the morning. We tend to be creatures of habit and leave the house at about the same time and in the same order...grab your keys, grab your coat, adjust the blinds, etc...every day. Dogs, being the masters of visual cues that they are, start getting anxious when you grab your keys. Some behaviorists say anxiety begins for some dogs when the alarm clock goes off. Some also say ignore your dog when you first come home; don't engage in his greeting ritual. Give him a few minutes to calm down, then acknowledge him...the idea being not to underscore the fact they you've been gone.

Would you agree that separation anxiety is one of the most difficult of the behavioral problems to treat? It seems that owners can put up with inappropriate elimination and other issues, but get entirely exasperated by separation anxiety.

Another good and helpful article, Doc.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 25, 2017:

Thanks, I definitely understands how she feels. I know they sleep a lot when I am gone, but still want to be needed too!

McKenna Meyers on February 25, 2017:

These are fantastic tips, Dr. Mark. Even though I reassure my 80-year-old mom that her dog will sleep when she's away, she refuses to leave home without him. She definitely needs to be needed by her dog!

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