Dogs are known for not being good at being alone, whether in the apartment or around the house. Many owners report undesirable behaviors that occur at such moments (barking, destruction, unclean rooms, …). Even so, the dogs who quietly suffer from their loneliness are probably more numerous. Why doesn’t a dog like to be alone? What can be done to make the phases of the absence of its owner easier for him?
The dog is a social animal that lives in a group. This way of life manifests itself in the form of a pronounced need for contact and interaction with other animals. As a result, it is difficult for a dog to endure loneliness and isolation. Problems associated with prolonged periods of solitude are common and can take a variety of forms.
The Dog: a Social and Active Animal
In contrast to the cat, the dog is an animal that in nature tends to form groups. As surprising as it may seem, there are few studies of wild dogs that allow us to understand dog behavior without human influence. The latest studies show that dogs can act alone but still have a tendency to form small groups. These groups do not arise by chance: the dogs choose to live in society.
However, this is all about the wild, and at home, the dog doesn’t have that choice!
It is also an animal that needs entertainment and exercise. Failure to meet this need leads to frustration, which makes the animal more impatient, irritable, and sometimes even hyperactive. In such a case, periods of loneliness turn into a real ordeal of boredom, and behavior disorders often arise.
How Long Can You Leave a Dog (Puppy) Alone?
So the ability to stay alone and, if necessary, to occupy itself is something that a dog can learn. Young dogs and puppies very rarely experience phases of loneliness – they are usually only confronted with this when they are living with people.
Learning about loneliness can be positive or negative. A dog that experiences being alone under good conditions learns to be busy or simply to wait patiently and to experience little frustration. In bad conditions, on the other hand, the dog develops a feeling of fear and stress, which occurs before and during the phases of loneliness.
You should therefore create the following conditions:
- Responding to the needs of the dog: In order to be able to leave the dog alone, he must be satisfied with the extent of his activities and his contact with people and/or other dogs and must have received enough food.
- Make its surroundings interesting for your pet: As a rule, a dog does not have absolute freedom of movement (whether in the garden or in the house), which is why it must be given opportunities to be occupied (for example with dog toys).
- Facilitating progressive learning: Do not start with a full day of absence with a puppy that has just been weaned, but slowly get dogs used to being alone! Use a progressive approach to gradually get him used to be alone: start with a few seconds of absence, then 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increase the duration, unless the animal shows signs of profound misfortune. If it doesn’t respond well, you should continue with the short periods of absence until your dog begins to tolerate longer periods as well.
How Can I Find Out If My Dog Can Stay Alone?
Of course, trying is more important than studying. But today there are numerous methods of observing dogs at home while their owners are away: camera robots can be helpful here. You can send us the pictures with the push of a button and even let us know when the dog is barking by calling on our cell phones. These videos can hold surprises in store for us!
The signs of discomfort from the loneliness that causes stress in the dog can include:
- Wins, sighs, howls;
- Scratching, especially on the door and around the exits;
- Destruction of objects (chosen at random or objects to which the smell of the owner clings);
- House uncleanliness;
- Self-mutilation (compulsive licking, chasing one’s own tail, …), weakened health.
If you observe such behavior while you are away, you should contact a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about animal behavior. Find out in as much detail as possible what exactly is stressing the dog (fear, frustration, boredom, …). This step is often essential to crafting the right behavior therapy.
What Can I Do If My Dog Doesn’t Want to Be Alone?
Learning to be alone can take a long time. Many dog owners are forced to find emergency solutions in the meantime. In some cases, however, these solutions can exacerbate the initial problem. This applies, for example, to anti-bark collars or room cages. So do not hesitate to seek the help of an adult dog behavior expert, who is best advised to employ positive parenting practices that reinforce the desired behaviors. The sooner you get your dog used to being alone, the easier it will be for them to control their emotions during periods when their owners are away.
In England, Spotify is currently testing a new podcast especially for dogs that are left alone at home. So the lonely four-legged friend should be able to relax better. It remains to be seen whether the technology will actually bear fruit. You can find out which music dogs find relaxing here.
Another option that is very comfortable for your dog is to let someone else take care of him instead of leaving him alone for hours. Today there are numerous services that connect dog owners with individuals or companies. The offer is very diverse – from dog boarding to private dog sitters, you are sure to find something that meets your dog’s needs in the phases of your absence.