We all miss our dogs when we need to leave them. Whether we’re taking a holiday, heading to work, or painting the town red, it’s never easy to farewell our pooches. However, do they feel the same way? Does their delicious dog food not taste quite as good when we’re not around? Sure, most pups will look heart-broken when we leave, and act like they’ve won an Oscar when we return. This is all well and good – but do they think about us when we’re not there with them? In fact, do they even perceive time as we do? Well, science has an answer, so to quote Jesse Pinkman, “Yeah, science!”
Read on to learn whether your dog misses you, and what you can do about it!
What does the research tell me?
A study published in Psychology Today revealed that dogs miss us more acutely when we’ve been away for longer stretches. The study, which compiled fMRI data on different dogs, found that canines have some grasp of time. According to the research, pooches greeted their Owners with more gusto after two hours than 30 minutes. However, when researchers measured the dogs after four hours, they found no difference. During these stints of separation, they also displayed negative emotions via their fMRI data.
In other words, dogs can start missing their Owners from the moment they part ways. After that, keep missing them more and more for up to two hours. Beyond the two hour mark, they begin a plateau of melancholy until they see their Owner again.
“Okay, fine,” I hear you say, “but do our dogs miss us, or do they just miss people in general?”
Science has an answer for that too. Another study provided dogs with three different scents: their Owner’s, someone familiar to them, and a stranger’s. In each case, the dog reacted the most positively to their Owner’s scent. Moreover, each pooch was willing to wait by the door when they could no longer detect their Owner’s scent. The same wasn’t true of the other two scents. Unsurprisingly, though, the pups showed more interest in the scent of the familiar person than the stranger.
What are the warning signs that my dog(s) miss me?
Of course, research or no, all dogs are unique. While all may miss their Owners, some will cope better than others with the separation. The question is: which kind is your dog?
If they miss you more than they can bear, your pooch will offer you a few telltale signs. Chewing on your possessions, crying when you leave, and staring at the door after you’ve gone are all key indicators. They’ll also make a really big deal of you returning home; they may lean on your leg, or they might whizz around the house in glee.
So…what can I do about it?
Insights like this can often feel like they’re creating problems instead of solutions. None of us want our dogs to be miserable, but we can’t be with them all the time. Maybe your workplace isn’t dog-friendly. Perhaps you’re visiting a friend or relative who doesn’t like dogs (believe it or not, these people exist). Whatever the reason, you’ll want to ensure your dog isn’t too forlorn in your absence.
As the above study highlights, dogs prefer to be with their Owners – but they still feel warmly towards familiar people. The solution? By leaving your furry friend with someone familiar, you’ll offer them a balm that will soothe your absence. If you can’t find a relative or neighbour to fill this role, consider choosing a Pet Sitter to be your dog’s “regular”. After a few visits, your pup will come to recognise your Sitter. They’ll never replace you, but they will ease the burden for your pup1