One of the best times of the year is when you pack up ready to go on vacation. That much-needed and well-earned break from routine. But there is a downside, of course. Usually, it means we have to leave our dogs at home. Without their humans. So naturally, it makes us question whether they will miss us while we are away. Do they even know we have gone? Well, this is what the research has to say…
So, does my dog miss me when I go on vacation? Dogs do generally miss their owners while they are away on vacation. This can be exacerbated if your dog is left for too long a period of time or is left in conditions that aren’t optimal. For example, a dog left in his own home with people he already knows is less likely to miss his family as acutely as a dog left in a kennel.
Leaving a dog is not ideal let’s be honest.
But it is often necessary if we are to go away.
Besides coming back refreshed, rested and joyful will result in the better care of our dogs.
So we certainly shouldn’t feel guilty here.
Especially if we prepare in advance – ensuring they have everything they need, from a physical and emotional standpoint, while we are away.
So let us turn to how we can do this.
But first, how do we even know a dog misses its owners?
- 1 Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They Go On Vacation?
- 2 Do Dogs Know How Long You Are Gone On Vacation?
- 3 Signs A Dog Missed You While You Were On Vacation
- 4 Best Practices When Leaving Your Dog to Go on Vacation
- 5 Finally
Do Dogs Miss Their Owners When They Go On Vacation?
Dogs do miss their owners when they go on vacation. Dogs become emotionally attached to their people, so they miss them when they’re not around.
Dogs Are Emotionally Attached To Their People
A series of experiments called the Dog Project found that dogs do indeed love their humans.
This knowledge, combined with what we know about dogs’ sense of time, has researchers believing that dogs definitely miss us when we’re away.
A group of dogs was trained to be able to go into an MRI for a scan while still awake. The dogs were exposed to different stimuli:
- Their own smell
- The smell of people they knew
- The smell of strangers
- The smell of dogs they knew
- The smell of unfamiliar dogs
When observing the data, the way the dogs reacted led the researchers to conclude that dogs may love their favorite humans even more than their favorite dogs.
Do Dogs Know How Long You Are Gone On Vacation?
While dogs can’t necessarily count the days, they do have a sense of the passage of time. Some studies show that dogs will miss their people more when they’re gone for longer.
A Dog’s Sense of Time
A 2011 study showed that after 2 hours of being left without their owners, dogs would greet them with more displays of affection than if their owners were gone for 30 minutes.
Although some periods of time gave rise to similar results (no significant difference between 2 hours and 4 hours), overall, the dogs responded more strongly the longer their people were away.
Dogs do have a sense of time since, like all animals, they follow internal circadian rhythms.
One reason dogs get a sense of the passing of time is daytime and nighttime. In addition, levels of hormones such as melatonin and cortisol rise and fall at regular intervals throughout the day and night.
Then, of course, there are sensations of hunger or thirst or the need to empty their bladders.
Another way dogs know how long you’ve been gone and when you’ll be back is by how much of your scent remains.
When you leave the house, your scent dissipates over time. Your dog learns how much of your scent is left when you come home at the end of the day.
His nose helps him anticipate when you’ll be back the following day!
Other Mechanisms For Long Periods Of Time
Although there is no direct evidence, there are other possibilities that would enable dogs to tell that long periods of time have passed: associative memory and episodic memory.
Your dog learns to associate you with many things, such as eating, playing, and exercise.
If you were to take these events away, it is possible that these associations would dissipate. When associations dwindle away, this process is called ‘extinction.’
And although associations can dissipate, it’s easy to reestablish them once they’ve been formed. T
his would suggest these associations are like memories in that they never completely leave.
Episodic memory is the memory of events. More and more data suggests that, like humans, dogs remember certain events in their lives. Dogs can remember certain days and significant events.
These memories might not last in the long term, but your dog can indeed remember specific events or days.
It could be that while you’re away, your dog dreams about happy times, though that’s yet to be proven.
How Long Can Your Dog Remember You?
How someone has treated a dog will impact how long the dog will remember them. Because dogs use their memory primarily for survival and safety, they’ll remember dangerous people or situations for a long time (sometimes for years.)
Anyone who has had a rescue dog will tell you that he remembers his previous owners if they’ve treated him badly.
The flip side of that coin is that your dog will also remember people who are kind to him and whom he can trust.
Either way, you will make a lasting impact on your dog, and he will remember you for the whole time you’re gone.
Signs A Dog Missed You While You Were On Vacation
There are many different signs your dog missed you while you were gone. Whether your dog displays all or only some of these depends on his age and his breed.
Here are the most common signs your dog has missed you while you’ve been away:
Dazing Out The Window
A clear sign is if your dog spends lots of time looking out the window – not just to watch the world go by but to wait for you to come home.
Some dogs will have their eyes glaze over as they wait and wait for their owners. Fortunately, many dogs accept the situation after a few hours.
Destruction Or Sleeping On Belongings
Your dog will seek out your scent, so he may sleep on something that smells like you.
He might also experience separation anxiety or boredom, in which case, he’s likely to destroy things in the home as a way to vent his frustration.
You may also find your dog follows you around the house when you return: this is most likely because not only does your dog love you, but he sees you as his pack leader.
And he’s happy you’re back!
When he sees you again.
He might run around in circles, sprint around the house, bark, pull out his toys and bedding, or do other activities.
While you’re away. If your pet sitter tells you your dog seems depressed, he probably is.
Slinking around, acting lethargic, moping, whimpering, or excessive sleeping are all signs of depression.
Particularly while you’re away (in a way that isn’t depression.)
If your dog suddenly stops playing or doing other activities that he usually enjoys, he is missing you.
Some dogs get so distracted when their owners are gone that they won’t give their attention to anyone else.
Best Practices When Leaving Your Dog to Go on Vacation
There are several things you can do to keep the distress to a minimum when leaving your dog to go on vacation. Prepare at home first, get reliable care for your dog, and make sure he has everything he needs to feel comfortable.
Prepare At Home
Here are some things you can do at home before you go:
- Make sure your dog’s microchip and collar have the correct information.
- Get out your suitcase a few days before you go so that your dog can smell it and get used to it.
- Spend lots of quality time with your dog before you go.
- When it’s time to go, keep the goodbye short and sweet.
In addition, you can also create a pet safety kit. A pet safety kit is a good idea if someone is looking after your dog in your home. Gather together the following:
- Water bottles
- An extra leash and collar
- A pet first aid kit
- Dry dog food
- Travel bowls for food and water
- A thermal blanket
Get A Reliable Dog Sitter Or Use An Excellent Shelter
It’s essential to have someone dependable to look after your dog while you’re gone.
Allow your dog to get to know and trust whoever will look after him a few days before you leave.
Let them bond with each other so that your dog doesn’t feel lost or bereaved: he’ll already be missing you!
Make sure the sitter can come several times a day, or better yet, that they can stay overnight.
Write out a set of instructions for your sitter (or for the shelter) with your dog’s typical routine so that he can stick to it as much as possible. Leave him with the same food and bedding, too.
If your dog will stay in a shelter, make sure you leave his favorite toys, as well as something that smells like you. An unwashed t-shirt is perfect.
Don’t Leave Your Dog For Too Long
While it isn’t always possible, it’s best not to leave your dog for too long. Most dogs can tolerate two to four weeks of being in a boarding kennel or with a sitter.
Some dogs start to have problems after two weeks, whereas others will be less fazed: it depends on your dog’s personality.
Take into account your dog’s character and plan accordingly. If you know your dog tends to get anxious when you’re gone, keep vacations short.
It’s better to have shorter times away several times a year rather than one long vacation – from your dog’s perspective, at least.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
Here are some other things you can do to ease the separation for your dog:
- Leave him with smart pet toys or interactive toys,
- Invest in a new, comfortable bed. This is where I bought my dogs.
- Have him attend doggie daycare sessions each day
- Leave doggie tv, radio, or music on for your dog (get your sitter or shelter to organize this)
- Adopt another pet so that your dog isn’t alone
- Make sure they love the person who is looking after them
If in doubt, consult a behavior specialist to help your dog get through separation anxiety.
It’s best to address potential issues while you’re still around.
Your dog will likely miss you while you are all away.
That’s just how it is, I’m afraid.
It’s the downside to having a loyal and emotionally intelligent pet.
That being said, as we can see, there are certain things you can do to make the experience less troubling.
We all deserve a good break.
Don’t be harsh on yourself.
Just be mindful and try to think ahead.
- Does My Cat Miss Me When I Go On Vacation?
- What Does It Mean When Your Dog Wants to Be Alone?
- Can You Leave A Puppy Alone Overnight? [If So, How Long For?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.