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Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone?

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. July 25, 2021
Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone?

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When we have to leave our dog for any reason, we know we miss them. It isn't always as easy to know if this goes both ways. When our dog greets us at the door excitedly, we may infer they missed us while we were gone. However, they can also get just as excited when a mail carrier approaches the door. AnimalWised asks, do dogs miss their owners when they're gone? To answer this question, we need to look at the various circumstances in which we might be apart from our dog. This could be temporary, such as when we leave them with a kennel, or even permanent, such as when a caregiver passes away.

  1. Do dogs miss their owners when left alone?
  2. Do dogs miss their owners when in kennels?
  3. Do dogs miss their owners when they die?
  4. Do dogs miss their original owners?
  5. How long does it take for a dog to adapt to a new owner?

Do dogs miss their owners when left alone?

A too large percentage of dogs experience separation anxiety when left home alone. When their owner leaves for work or any other reason, these dogs will howl, scratch doors, destroy furniture and exhibit many other behaviors which manifest due to anxiety that their guardian won't return.

For humans, missing someone is something more than wishing they were around. It is a deep, emotional state of being which involves nostalgia and profound longing. It would be incorrect to say that separation anxiety is the same as missing someone. With separation anxiety, the dog fears for their security. They are worried they won't have food, companionship and the other securities we provide them.

Although dogs internalize their routines, they live in the moment. When a healthy dog feels they should be eating, walking or doing any of their reglar tasks, they should be fine if we delay these practices. However, when a dog has behavioral problems, they will show frustration or even anxiety when they don't occur. Separation anxiety occurs when a dog misses something in their education, training or socialization which would otherwise prevent these feelings of insecurity.

For dogs, we are their main point of reference. They develop strong attachments to us and need us for survival. When left alone, it is understandable they get excited when we return, but this doesn't mean they should feel sad when we are at work. On the contrary, if a dog feels anxiety when home alone, it means they need help to stabilize their emotions.

Some dog breeds are more prone to miss their owner than others. You can learn more with our list of dog breeds prone to separation anxiety.

Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone? - Do dogs miss their owners when left alone?

Do dogs miss their owners when in kennels?

On some occasions, it is necessary for us to be separated from our dog for an extended period of time. Going on vacation or a work trip are common for many families. When this happens, we need to place our dog somewhere they can be safe and well looked after. Sometimes this can be with a friend, but often we may need to place them in a boarding kennel. This is the equivalent of a dog hotel where the needs of the animal are provided while away from their guardian. These needs include food, shelter and socialization with other dogs.

Some dog owners are reluctant to leave their animals in a boarding kennel because their fear the canine will feel abandoned. However, as when left home alone, the dog doesn't keep track of time as we would. This doesn't mean it won't cause upset to the dog. However, this upset is due to disorientation of the change. When their guardian is away from them, their point of reference leaves. Adjusting to a new point of reference in the kennel can be difficult for some dogs.

When the dog feels insecure during this adaption period, the dog can miss their reference person if they feel insecure. However, this feeling can be counteracted by the care they receive at the kennel.

If you want to learn more, you can learn about the attachments dogs form with our article on whether mother dogs miss their puppies.

Do dogs miss their owners when they die?

The bond that is established between a dog and their caregiver can be very deep. When our dog passes, the emotional response in us can be very strong. It is not uncommon for a dog to go through their own emotional grief when their guardian dies. Since dogs are experts at reading body language, they may also be able to sense the grief of a family when they are grieving the loss of one of their members.

Not only might a dog be sad about the loss of their human caregivers, the same can happen if an animal family member dies. When this occurs, the dog may seem depressed, lose some of their appetite or excessively seek attention and affection. This means it cna be difficult when it is time for them to be rehomed.

Dogs have the capacity to feel certain emotions, including fear, anger, excitement and love. However, they do not exhibit more complex emotions. They can mourn the people and companions they lose, but they are also very good at adapting to their circumstances. Dogs which are provided the right kind of care should be able to regain their zest for life and overcome their grief.

Do dogs miss their original owners?

A dog's guardian doesn't have to die for them to be missed. Dogs often have to be rehomed because their owners can no longer meet the responsibility of their care, sometimes even abandoning them. When a dog has associated a person with positive sensations, their removal can bring negative ones. They can miss their original owners to such an extent that, if they are reunited years later, they can still remember them.

This goes to show that dogs can miss their owners. However, the extent to which this happens depends on the individual. Some dogs are not as demonstrative with their feelings as others. They may miss their owners, but they can also adapt more easily to a new situation. Other dogs can have such strong bonds that they take a long time to adapt to a new family. However, it is very rare for a dog not to adapt at all.

Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone? - Do dogs miss their original owners?

How long does it take for a dog to adapt to a new owner?

When a dog is removed from their guardian and rehomed, their security is taken away. Whether this is due to death of the owner, changing homes or abandonment, the effects can be detrimental. Their psychological and physical well-beings can be affected. Their reaction will depend on the individual, but any dog taken from their security and routine will have to adapt to a new one.

This means the length of time a dog takes to regain equilibrium after being rehomed will vary. This will depend both on their previous experiences and the new circumstances in which they find themselves. In circumstances when there is no choice but to move the dog to a new home and guardian, we need to do what we can to minimize feelings of disorientation. This will be dictated, in a large part, by the circumstances in which they find themselves.

For dogs which have suffered abuse in their previous home environment, it is not likely they will miss their previous owner. Unfortunately, it is likely they will have developed some serious behavioral problems. They may have trouble socializing with other dogs and people. In some circumstances, it is even possible they will have reactive aggression issues when rehomed. In these cases, it may that only a professional dog trainer or ethologist will be able to help them adapt to their new environment.

There is no adaptation period which can be applied to every dog and their circumstances. While they will miss their previous owners or may have developed behavioral problems, they should be able to adapt given time. Some dogs may take some time to bond with a new family, but they should be able to do so if they are given positive reinforcement and their specific care needs are met.

If you want to read similar articles to Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone?, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.

  • Fogle, B. (1999). The Dogs talk about their Owners. Madrid. Ateles Editores.
  • Morris, D. (1988). Watch your dog. Barcelona. Plaza Janés.
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Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They're Gone?