Dogs are creatures of routine that enjoy a safe and familiar environment. Because of this, some dogs will get homesick when they spend excess time in an area they aren’t familiar with. Symptoms of doggie homesickness include a loss of appetite, lethargy, pacing, and digestive issues.
Dogs and humans are more alike than we may want to admit. We are both very social creatures that create bonds with our families and friends that last a lifetime. Although this creates many positive emotions, it can also create negative ones.
Just like humans, dogs get homesick. If you’ve ever dog sat for someone, odds are that you have seen this firsthand.
The symptoms of homesickness in dogs are very close to the symptoms of anxiety and depression (which dogs can get too).
What Does Homesickness Look Like?
Every dog is different, but there are some universal signs that your pup may be homesick. Your dog will likely have an overall lack of energy and have issues enjoying things that they otherwise love.
Not Interested in Food
Homesick dogs will often not want to eat their food. While dogs may typically get excited about mealtime, a homesick pup might ignore their food or only take a bite or two before losing interest.
There is nothing wrong with the food, the dog is just too anxious and sad to enjoy it the way they typically would. Even your dog’s favorite treats might not hold the same appeal when they miss their family.
Playtime? No Thanks
Your dog may also skip playtime when they are feeling homesick. The typical toys and activities will not hold their interest.
Instead, your dog may just lay down and whine, refusing to get up. You can try to give your dog their favorite toy if they are feeling homesick, but do not expect them to instantly snap back to normal because of this.
The body language of dogs is very well-documented. A nervous or depressed dog will always have the same tells.
Homesick dogs will often whine and pace much more than usual. Their nervous energy may also cause excessive chewing or shaking as well.
If your dog feels unfamiliar with its surroundings, it may also look for a place to hide.
Lastly, your dog may have a problem relieving themselves when you take them outside. Pooping and peeing are vulnerable times for dogs. They are leaving themselves open by taking the time to relieve themselves.
Add to this the fact that most dogs are potty-trained and have a specific routine when it comes to relieving themselves, and you can see why going to the bathroom can be confusing and upsetting for a homesick dog. Instead, many will just hold it in.
Why Does My Dog Get Homesick?
The bottom line is that dogs become homesick because they miss the familiarity and safety that their owners and a dedicated space can provide.
If your dog is separated from you, that means that they are separated from the being that keeps them fed, exercised, comforted, and healthy.
If your dog is with you, but in a new place, it can be very confusing for them. They do not have access to the same smells and routines that they have grown used to.
How Do I Fix My Dog’s Homesickness?
Unfortunately, there is no magic button you can press to instantly put your dog at ease wherever they go.
Your dog is a complex animal, with emotions and needs just like humans. You can find ways to comfort your dog, but do not expect them to become their old selves at the drop of a hat.
Certain breeds are also more susceptible to conditions like homesickness and separation anxiety. Working dogs and herding breeds form strong bonds with their owners, so being away from them can throw them into disarray.
Homesickness is a universal dog condition. However, you can ease their situation a little through certain actions. The key is to not to rush your dog. Homesickness isn’t fun, but over time they will start to feel it less.
Find a Good Sitter
If you are leaving your dog in the care of someone else, make sure your dog is completely comfortable with them.
Have your dog meet their sitter multiple times before you leave so your dog understands that this is someone you approve of.
Dogs take many cues from their owners, so if you act on edge around someone new, they will assume that something is wrong.
Your sitter should know how to properly handle your dog. They should not feel threatened or worried by your dog.
Look for someone with an established reputation and professional training to be your dog sitter. While they may cost more, the peace of mind is worth it.
Pack Your Smells
Another trick you can use to make your dog less homesick is to leave something that has a direct connection to you.
Sleep with a blanket that you can leave with your dog so they have a comforting object that smells like you. This can help calm your dog down if they are having trouble accepting that you are not in the house.
If you are taking your dog somewhere they are unfamiliar with, bring some of their favorite toys to take a little piece of home with you. Your dog will appreciate the ties to stability that these toys indicate.
Give Them Space
If you are caring for a dog that misses its owner, don’t try to force them to like you. This can make them feel more uncomfortable and fearful.
Instead, be gentle with them. Simply sit down on the ground near them and wait for them to come to you.
While the dog may not want to go near you at first, eventually, they will come over. Reach out a hand, but do not try to pet them. Just let the dog smell you and come to terms with the fact that you are in their space. This is a simple way to establish trust between the two of you.
Take Them Out
If your dog is in unfamiliar territory, they may benefit from some social interaction with other dogs. A visit to the dog park has the potential to calm dogs that are very social. If your dog already has social issues or problems with dog parks, this method will not work for them.
When you get back from the dog park, stay with the dog. Make sure it knows you are not leaving them. This will help them become a little more comfortable with their new surroundings.
Don’t Panic Your Dog
Many dog parents go overboard with their goodbyes. When you leave your dog, do not make a big deal about it.
Instead, have a simple routine that you follow when you say goodbye. If you become overly emotional and start acting strange, your dog will do worse when you’re away.
Trust that your dog will be alright with whoever you have chosen as a sitter, and go on your way.
Prepare in Advance
Homesickness is not a pleasant experience for anyone, including dogs. Homesickness and separation anxiety stems from the need to have some kind of structure.
Give your dog a routine so they know what to expect. Find a dog sitter long before you need one, so you can make an informed choice that suits your dog’s needs.
Remember: your dog will survive being homesick, it just takes some time.
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