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

Updated on November 27, 2017
DrMark1961 profile image

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

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

Should I Be Worried About My Dog Being Home Alone?

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 will usually be fine when left alone for several hours. That fact is not much help when closing the door on your dog's lonely face. I even 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.

Tips Your Dog Might Want You To Know

Feed Her Just As You Leave
Take Her For A Brisk Walk Each Morning
Hide Treats Around The House Before Leaving
Fill A Kong Toy With Frozen Peanut Butter To Keep Her Occupied
Get Another Pet
Leave A Radio Turned On
Subscribe To Dog TV
Call and Leave a Message
Use a Webcam and Treat Dispenser
Install a Doggy Door or Window Platform

Details On Things You Can Do For Your Dog

  1. Feed her just before or just as leaving the house: 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 fed 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.(If you have one of the breeds that are susceptible to gastric bloat and torsion feeding a meal as leaving the house is not a good idea.)
  2. Take her for a long walk in the morning: 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 to come 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 when you come home.
  4. Fill a Kong hollow toy with frozen peanut butter or a type of food that is hard to get out: 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 of these years ago and my dogs still use them when I am away from home.)
  5. Get another pet: This suggestion will not always work when your 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, my Schanuzer spends a lot of time just watching my free range rabbits run around my yard.
  6. Leave a radio turned on: If your dog is bored, sometimes a distraction is all he needs. I cannot tell you for sure if talk radio is better than music, since it will depend 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 is set up to make it more pleasing to a dogs eyes, and the programming is dog related so that your dog will be more 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. Set the answering machine up just next to a webcam so that you can see him, and there are some treat dispensers that can be controlled electronically: Give your dog 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 she feels confident when left alone. If you have not, get started right away and make her feel better about her place in your household.)
  10. A doggy door: Some dogs will make use of it and spend some time in the back yard. Some readers are concerned about dog kidnapping in their area, however, so 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 strollers pass your house.

Dogs depend on humans to find solutions.
Dogs depend on humans to find solutions. | Source

Is Your Dog Sad When Left Alone?

See results

Be Creative

Take advantage of all the technology available.

  • Walk and feed your dog in the morning
  • At 10:00 he will probably still be sleeping but have the TV (set to Dog TV) come on remotely and leave it on until 12:00
  • 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
  • Have the TV switch on again for another two hours
  • Switch on the radio from 3 to 4
  • 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.

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

Questions & Answers

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      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 10 days ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 Fish profile image

        Larry W Fish 10 days ago from Raleigh

        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 profile image

        rls8994 12 months ago from Mississippi

        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 and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 13 months ago from Mississauga, ON

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

      • SakinaNasir53 profile image

        Sakina Nasir 14 months ago from Kuwait

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

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 14 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        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 profile image

        Bob Bamberg 14 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        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.

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 14 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

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

      • letstalkabouteduc profile image

        McKenna Meyers 14 months ago from Bend, OR

        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!