We all miss our dogs when we leave them to go to work, on holidays, or anywhere else that doesn’t allow them to come with us. But can they truly miss us when we’re gone or have even died?
Dogs can and do miss their owners. They have a somewhat grasp of the concept of time, so they know how long it’s been since they’ve last seen you. Dogs will also miss their owners who have passed away and died.
Let’s dive deeper into how dogs miss their owners.
Dogs Do Miss Humans – Backed By Science
Psychology Today has published studies showing that dogs miss us more acutely after we’ve been away for longer periods of time.
The study used fMRI data on a variety of different dogs and found that dogs do have a concept of time.
The results found that dogs greeted their owners more enthusiastically when the owner had been gone for 2 hours opposed to 30 minutes. The enthusiasm between 2 and 4 hours apart was no different.
During the time apart from their owners, the fMRI results also showed negative emotions from the dogs.
This all means that dogs begin missing their owners from the minute they’re separated. They continue to get more desperate to see their owners for 2 hours, and beyond this time they plateau at the same amount of desperation.
But Does This Mean That Dogs Miss Their Owners, Or Just Humans?
Another study has been more specific on whether dogs miss the connection with their owners, or rather just humans in general.
This study used three different scents to spark a reaction out of their dog participants. These scents were their owners, someone familiar to them, and strangers.
Every dog they used in the study reacted most enthusiastically to their owner’s scent, and were even seen waiting by the door when they could no longer smell their owner’s scent.
The same could not be said for the scent of someone familiar to them or the stranger, although the former was preferred.
So, we can assume that your dog cares much more about you, as their owner, than any other human in the world. When they begin to miss humans, like we saw in the first study we looked at, it can be assumed that they are missing you specifically.
Warning Signs That Your Dog Misses You
Your dog might have already shown you that they’re missing you when you leave – but you haven’t been able to understand their signs.
Every single dog is unique, so some will cope better with separation than others. But does your dog cope when you leave, or do they completely hate the separation?
Signs that your dog is missing you while your gone include:
- Chewing on your possessions
- Crying as you leave and while you’re gone
- Staring at the door waiting for you
- Barking continously
These are just a few indications that your dog is missing you. Another hint is that they’ll make a massive deal about you walking back through the door, running around you and jumping up.
How Dogs Perceive Time
As we mentioned earlier, dogs do have some concept of time. They are able to perceive the fact that time is passing. However, this is not the same as how humans can understand it.
William Roberts, one of the leading animal cognition researchers in the world, claims that dogs are ‘stuck in time’.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12002698/
This means that they don’t have the ability to form memories and think back to them. Instead, they just live in the present moment.
It is incredibly difficult for humans to understand how dogs think, but that doesn’t stop us guessing and forming our own conclusions!
Roberts believes that humans can consciously think back to specific events and memories. This is a contrast to dogs, who cannot ‘time travel’ back to memories in their minds.
This is why some people worry that their dogs will forget them if they’re away from each other for too long.
Will Your Dog Forget You While You’re Away?
We know you’re probably stressing about this now, but don’t worry. Dogs form such a secure attachment to their owners that they almost never forget them. You’d have to be apart for years before your dog would begin to forget your bond!
Remember all of those endearing videos of the dogs being reunited with their owners who have been gone on long periods of deployment? They’re always incredibly excited, happy, and relieved.
Helping Your Dog Through Your Separation Anxiety
Unfortunately, you cannot be with your dog every single minute of every single day. There are going to be periods of separation, and your dog will have to get used to being alone.
Getting your dog used to being alone without you will take time and training. Your dog will need to get used to being apart from you, and it’s not going to happen overnight.
The easiest way to deal with being apart from your dog is to leave them with someone familiar. While they’ll always prefer being with their owner, the best thing is for them to have the company of someone they already know.
If you do not have anyone who can look after your dog for you while you’re gone, a pet sitter will also suffice. After a few visits, your dog will be familiar with the sitter so they won’t mind being left with them!
If you need some more advice, tips and tricks then check out our blog on “how to train your dog to be left alone”.
Do dogs get depressed when their owner is away?
Dogs can suffer from depression from separation anxiety. It can be debilitating for them, so it’s best to prepare them before you leave. The best thing to do is to leave them with someone familiar to them.
Their depression can last between a couple of days to several weeks.
Will my dog think I abandoned him when I go on vacation?
It is impossible to know what your dog will think when you leave them to go on vacation. They will miss you, and perhaps wonder when you’re coming back.
However, they will miss you the same amount throughout the duration of your absence, so don’t think that the longer you go for, the worse they are going to feel.
Once you come back from your vacation, everything will be forgotten and your dog will be so happy to see you. Even if they do feel abandoned, they won’t remember this once you’re reunited.
Can dogs get sick from missing their owners?
Yes, dogs can get sick from missing their owners. This could be due to anxiety, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. They could also suffer from depression, which might stop them from playing or eating.
To prevent your dog from getting sick from missing you, make sure that you prepare them for your separation. Do this through training, spending shorter lengths of time apart, and leaving them with your scent.
To sum up, dogs can miss their owners. Between the time you part ways and 2 hours, your dog will continue to get sadder while missing you. However, after 2 hours, they remain at the same level of missing you.
Dogs do not have an accurate perception of time, but they won’t forget you unless you leave them for many years. We hope that we’ve answered some of your questions about leaving your dog!