If you only have one dog, it’s natural to wonder sometimes if they’re lonely.

Having adopted my dog in India, she spent most of her young life fairly free and running around with other dogs. Now we live in Scotland, she is more isolated and especially during the pandemic, our contact with other people and dogs has become limited. As a result, I often feel she’s lonely. I think this can be even more pertinent if you live on your own as well (without other humans).

I started to think about what we could do to remedy this, but first let’s look at some signs your dog might be showing that can signal a need for more social activity:

Skipping Playtime

Did your dog used to be playful but recently has been skipping their usual playtime antics in favour of slumping in their bed? This could be a sign that they need more social interaction. I’ve especially noticed this during the lockdowns, and have also observed that she’s more likely to get her toys out when a friend comes over, signalling that she enjoys the company of other humans.

Barking A Lot

Another thing that’s become obvious is that my dog has started barking more around the garden. We all know it’s natural for a dog to bark, but when it becomes excessive, it could be a cry for attention. It’s also the timing of it that you should look out for — I notice that it happens when I’m working or have an online meeting — a sure sign that she’s craving attention. 

General Malaise 

A lack of energy, sleeping more and just an overall malaise could indicate that your fur buddy is longing for more friendly interactions. Just as in humans, troubled feelings such as loneliness could manifest in these ways. It’s sometimes hard to notice, especially if you live in a colder climate that pushes you indoors much of the time, but it’s something to keep an eye out for.

Of course, there are other signs that your dog might be lonely, but these are the main ones I’ve noticed during the covid-19 pandemic.

So, how can we help our dog if we think they are feeling lonely? Dogs are such social animals, it’s only natural that they want to be amongst other dogs and people. It’s important to note that this has become more challenging over the past year due to restrictions on our social interactions. We are all doing our best and I have found that I’ve been feeling guilty a lot about her loneliness — why am I not enough? But, just as with human children, our dogs sometimes need more of a circle than just their main carer. That said, there are some things we can do.

Get Out And About

It has been hard this last while to get out and see other pets and pet owners, but the good thing is that it’s an outdoor activity, making it easy to social distance. Look on social media for local dog meet-ups or social activities, check out a dog friendly cafe or simply try to coordinate walks with neighbours who have dogs. This can make a world of difference if your dog feels it has some time in a group. It’s especially important if you live somewhere remote, like I do.

Play Music At Home 

Music can be soothing for your pup, although it may take a while to figure out what they like (I know it has for me). This is especially useful perhaps for when you have to go out for a while and can definitely calm the nerves.

Talk To Them

This is something I’m definitely bad at! It doesn’t come naturally to me but I’ve been making a much bigger effort to talk to her, even about the most mundane stuff that she really doesn’t need to hear. I realised that just the sound of my voice can make her feel more included in my day, and less lonely. 

Get A Friend

This is not always the simplest option and it’s a very good idea to ask yourself some important questions before taking the leap. Getting another dog (or cat) could be the perfect solution here, but make sure you read up about how to introduce them first, as well as considering all the practical and financial implications. It can be such a wonderful experience, especially if you adopt a dog in need. If taking on another dog isn’t possible, you could consider doggy daycare — another possibility to meet some doggie pals throughout the day.

Look After Yourself

It’s likely you’ve been lonely yourself over this last year. One of the best things we can do for our dogs is look after ourselves. If you are happier, chances are that your dog will be happier too — making small efforts to do a bit more socialising will potentially help you both as we (hopefully) emerge from this pandemic.

At the end of the day, we all know we are meeting the basic needs of our dogs by giving them food, shelter and love. But if we can be more attuned to their signals and try to make small changes to improve their and our daily lives, we can give them the optimal chance of being healthy and content.


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About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.