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Home > Dogs > Does My Dog Miss Me When I Go on Vacation? Dog Emotions Explained

Does My Dog Miss Me When I Go on Vacation? Dog Emotions Explained

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Dr. Chyrle Bonk

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There’s no denying that dogs are capable of forming strong bonds with their families. Dogs can show love and care for people, so it’s no surprise that they may also miss their owners while they’re away on vacation.

Different dogs can show different reactions to owners leaving for vacation. So, it’s important to figure out the best arrangements for your dog if you plan to leave them for a few days. Here’s what you need to know about dogs and how to help them have an easier time while you’re away.


Are Dogs Capable of Missing Their Owners?

Since we can’t talk to dogs to determine their exact feelings, we have to extrapolate some of their emotions based on their body language and behavior. You’ve probably seen it yourself, your dog may show a myriad of negative emotions both while you’re preparing to leave and after you’re gone. After all, you’re their source of food, play, and comfort, and they can’t understand you when you say you’ll be back in a week.

Even if they did, dogs appear to have a very limited sense of time. Knowing that you’ll be back in a week doesn’t really help them. A study conducted in 2011 found that dogs seem to be able to tell the difference between 30 minutes and 2 hours, but after that, they probably don’t know the difference between four hours and four days.1 This just means that your dog may miss you, but the length of time that you’re gone may not increase their degree of missing. So, your dog will probably miss you while you’re away, but it’s unclear if they know exactly how many days you’re gone on vacation.

Along with missing your physical presence, dogs can miss and feel stress from a change in routine or environment while you’re away. Dogs prefer having structure and knowing what to anticipate. So, when their primary caretaker is away, they can start to feel confused or anxious. They can also feel anxious if they’re left in a new environment, such as a dog boarding facility or a friend’s house.

wheaten terrier dog with his owner
Image Credit: katamount, Shutterstock

Signs That Your Dog Misses You

The ways that dogs express that they’re missing their owners will be different from how humans express their feelings of missing someone. Some dogs may wait by the door or pace around as they wait for their owners to return. They may also seek comfort by laying on a piece of clothing that has their owner’s scent on it.

In more extreme cases, dogs can exhibit signs of separation anxiety or depression. Separation anxiety occurs with dogs that become overly attached or dependent on someone. Signs of separation anxiety include being overly distressed, refusing to eat, vocalization, destructive behavior, and inappropriate urination.

Dogs may also become depressed if they experience a significant change, like being away from their owners. They can become more withdrawn and inactive, and they may have changes in their eating habits. Some dogs may not be interested in activities that they once enjoyed and refuse to play.

If your dog has separation anxiety or depression, it’s important to consult your veterinarian. Sometimes, a medical cause can bring on these changes in your dog’s behavior and mood, and your veterinarian can help determine what could be causing your dog’s depression or separation anxiety.

If your veterinarian rules out any underlying medical issues, it’s helpful to connect with a dog trainer to see what may be causing your dog to feel depressed and identify any triggers for their separation anxiety. A dog trainer can also develop a plan to help your dog get through and reduce their anxiety.

Weimaraner Nook Dog Sad Dog Sleepy
Image Credit: APN Photography, Shutterstock

Ways to Reduce Stress for Your Dog While You’re on Vacation

You can help your dog feel less stressed by thoroughly planning their care for when you’re away. Some dogs don’t mind being in a dog boarding facility, but most dogs will much prefer staying at home or with someone that they already know. This sense of familiarity will be more comforting for them while they’re away from you, so try to look for a trustworthy and familiar person who can house sit and care for your dog at your home.

It’s also helpful to have your dog continue with their usual routine or schedule while you’re away. Giving your pet sitter your dog’s schedule can help reduce anxiety and stress, as sticking to a routine lends normalcy to their daily life. Make sure to include a list of your dog’s favorite activities, games, toys, and treats so that your pet sitter knows how to engage your dog and help them to have fun.

Another way to help your dog feel at ease is to be mindful of your own emotions. Planning and packing for a vacation can be stressful at times because of all the details and logistics. Dogs are sensitive to human emotions and will know when you’re feeling stressed out. Your stress can end up causing them to feel anxious, especially because they won’t understand what’s causing your stress. Similarly, it’s important to stay calm and give your dog a cheerful goodbye on the day you leave. Giving overly expressive goodbyes can end up causing your dog to feel confused or distressed.

closeup of young white great pyrenees dog looking up at owner outside at home porch
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

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Just like humans, dogs will miss the people they love when they’re away, and it’s important to make arrangements to help your dog feel as comfortable as possible while you’re on vacation. In general, dogs will be happiest when they’re at home and with a pet sitter. They’ll also benefit from sticking to their daily routine as closely as possible. Lastly, keeping your own emotions in check while you plan for your vacation can help reduce putting additional stress on your dog.

No matter what, your dog will most likely miss you while you’re gone. However, taking the time to establish a good care system and routine will help them feel better as they wait for you to return home.

Featured Image Credit: eva_blanco, Shutterstock

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