Easy Ways to Deal with a Lonely Dog
Dogs are highly social animals. They are strongly inclined to maintain a connection and interact with creatures that are familiar to them.
Since dogs have become so thoroughly domesticated by humans since ancient times, it is not enough for them to socialize with other canines to avoid loneliness. We have become the center of our dogs’ existence so they need to pass quality time with us.
This is not always easy to accomplish.
The majority of us live pretty busy lives. Sometimes we perform the most elementary caregiving tasks for our dogs with less pleasure than we’d like. Responsibility becomes a pest when we’re short of time. It’s even worse when increased demands on our time or added responsibilities spoil the quality of time we are able to spend with our dogs.
Instead of enjoying the twenty-minute walk with your dog after work, it becomes just one more chore to get through. Ideally, it should be an opportunity for both you and your dog to spend some relaxing time together in quiet, mutual appreciation of the outdoors.
Our Lifestyles Affect Our Dogs, too
To a certain extent, the lifestyles we choose for ourselves – a shortage of time, various levels of stress, personal commitments, job anxiety etc. – also affect our dogs. An owner’s negative frame of mind can badly affect a sensitive dog. It can cause the dog to also become anxious and depressed.
More well-adjusted dogs can suffer through isolation. When urgent commitments come up, the regular dog walk can become the first thing to relegate to the bottom of your “to-do” list. Obviously, the dog cannot express his outrage at that decision.
It’s not always easy to make as much time for your dog as you’d like. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily require a huge input of time or energy. There are ways in which you can include your dog in your life without spending time that you don’t have. Let’s look at 5 ways to deal with a lonely dog:
1. Let him accompany you to places.
If you have tasks to perform, such as dropping the children off at school, sports practice or music lessons, your dog will be delighted to come along. Even if he doesn’t leave the car, he will welcome the opportunity to experience a change of scenery – and a chance to discover new scents along the way. It’s also a good way for you and your dog to spend some low-pressure time together.
When your errands involve other people – picking up the spouse, carting children around or visiting friends – being with you can help fulfill your dog’s social requirements for the day, too. However, leaving him alone and unsupervised in the car for more than half an hour would not be regarded as responsible behavior for a dog owner. If a trip is likely to require you to be away from your car for an extended period of time, it would be better to leave your dog at home.
You don’t have to invite your dog to sleep on your bed with you; you can place his own dog bed next to your bed or in a corner of the room. (Tip: dogs typically like to have something comfortable to rest their backs against when they lie down.) This is a good way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog; you’ll both be enjoying the same pastime in a relaxed way.
Dogs are pack animals and like to sleep with members of their pack – that means you! Being pack animals, they have an innate desire for comfort and close contact with others during sensitive times. It reinforces their sense of security and togetherness. By allowing your dog to pass the time of night in your bedroom with you, you’re promoting closeness between you and him/her.
3. Spend time in mutually-enjoyable activities.
When you become bored with walking your dog, it becomes a chore. If you’re enjoying the experience, it’s more likely that you’ll devote more time to it. This will be beneficial to you, to your dog and to your relationship with each other.
You don’t need to restrict yourself to the same fifteen-minute walk around the park every time. Diversify and explore new territory. As much as your dog might enjoy re-examining familiar territory, he’ll appreciate discovering new sights and sounds. Try visiting a different park, the riverbank (if there is one), an unfamiliar beach or a dog exercise yard (while your dog makes new friends, you can enjoy a chat with their owners, too).
4. Become an expert multi-tasker!
Have you found that – whenever you’re busy – for example, reading a book, pruning a shrub or peeling vegetables – your dog plops himself down nearby and gives you a woeful look as if to say: “Why is that getting your attention and not I?” You might feel that you are entitled to a well-prepared dinner or your chapter or two a day; however, you can counteract your dog’s tragic expression by learning to multi-task.
Let your cooking time also be your dog-training time. Use the pause between saucepan stirrings to practice “Down!” and “Sit!” Your reading time can become “read-and-cuddle” time. The two of you can recline on the sofa together: while you’re relaxing and reading your book, give your dog a tummy rub as he snoozes. You can use your TV-watching time to do a little dog grooming, too.
5. Discourage the “one-man dog” inclination.
If there are several people living in your home, it eases your burden if others in the household share the responsibility of dog-caring. It’s also healthier for your dog. You can share responsibilities such as feeding, walking, grooming and playing. The more social stimulation he gets, the happier he’ll be.
Regarding children in the household, make sure that the child and the dog interact well together before allowing a child to go out-of-doors unsupervised with the dog. The dog should be aware that the child “ranks” above her in the household’s social hierarchy and should reliably obey him or her. The child should know and respect the rules of dog-walking etiquette (poop-scooping, dog-on-dog social protocol, leash laws and so on).
These tips are not intended as a substitute for the quantity and quality of time with you that your dog lives for. He still needs to spend focused, active time with you in exercise, training, playtime and petting. With a little deliberation and discipline you can help to ensure his psychological and emotional wellbeing without over-burdening yourself.
For more detailed advice and tips on responsible dog ownership, including step-by-step solutions to dog behavior problems, obedience work and a revealing look at canine communication and psychology, don’t miss “Secrets to Dog Training“. It’s the ultimate resource for a dog owner like you.