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Do Dogs Miss Their Owners?

Written by Adaptil, published on 18 January 2022

Over the centuries, dogs have become increasingly close to their owners. The relationship between humans and canines has evolved from dogs being kept as hunters and herders, to becoming close family companions.

Dogs are very social creatures and have become so close to humans that - although they do not speak - they can understand what we’re saying from our facial expressions (like our smiles), our gestures (like pointing) and our tone of voice. They recognise individual people, and look to their owners for comfort and protection if they are nervous or stressed.

It follows, therefore, that dogs are very likely to miss their owners if they are separated for any length of time - just as we would miss them.

Do Dogs Miss their Owners?

After a 2 year project, Psychology Today reported that “Yes, dogs miss us when we’re gone!”  In another study it was found that after 2 hours absence, dogs greeted their owners more vigorously than after only 30 minutes of being left alone. This could suggest that dogs can tell the difference between 30 minutes and 2 hours, and may struggle to tell if you’ve been gone any longer - but will still be pleased to see you!

Another study explored the difference between whether dogs missed their owner the most, or were they just as pleased to see a stranger, or someone that was less familiar than their owner.  Measuring the part of their brain which is associated with positive expectations and rewards (activated by a familiar human’s scent), it was clear that the dogs clearly missed their owners more than they missed anyone else.

The human/dog relationship is a source of emotional fulfilment for humans too and has been proven to benefit humans in all walks of life and situations.  The bond between someone in service and their dog is well documented - the pair become as one, particularly in situations like searching for drugs or bombs - and if anything happens to the dog to separate them, the person in service might grieve for their loss, just as they would another human.

Cues that your dog has missed you

Aside from the warm welcome when you return home, look out for these other clues to understand if your dog has missed you:

  • They are sitting by the door waiting for you
  • They are super excited to see you and will probably pace up and down and circle around.
  • They might lean against you when you arrive home and probably follow you around the house for a while
  • Their tail will be wagging and their eyes and ears will be relaxed. They may even give you a doggie smile!
  • You may find evidence that they have been close to your possessions - such as sleeping on your pillow, or collecting your shoes - they want to keep your scent close to them!

Signs they have not been coping well while you are out

If you think your dog’s welcome is over-exuberant when you get home, you should look out for these signs that may indicate that they have found your absence more of a challenge:

  • Your neighbour reports they have been barking
  • They were whining when you left and pacing up and down and perhaps looking out of the window for you
  • You may find that they have been chewing shoes, or cushions or anything they can get their paws on
  • They haven’t touched their food
  • They may well soil in the house
  • They may raid the rubbish bins

Not all dogs like being home alone, and you may need to take some steps to help them adjust.  For example:

  • Build up their alone time gradually
  • Create an area where your dog knows they will be safe, with a comfy bed and their favourite toys. Using an  ADAPTIL Calm Home Diffuser is an excellent way to help your dog feel supported and calm while you are not at home.
  • Take them for a long walk before you leave so that they will be tired, which may help them relax more easily
  • Try and stick to a routine as much as possible so they get used to you leaving - and also learn that you’re coming back
  • Give them something to occupy their time while you are away - like a Kong filled with treats to keep them engaged
  • Reward them for acting calmly when you leave or arrive

Recent research has shown that gentle petting of your dog and settling them before you leave may help to calm them down, rather than leaving them without acknowledgement.

How stressed is your dog when home alone, take the quiz

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