Leaving our dogs when we go on holiday is a worry. We know we will miss them so assume they will feel the same way. We know how excited our dog becomes when we return home after a few hours away so it’s easy to imagine it pining when we go away for several days or weeks.
Will my dog miss me when I go on vacation? Your dog will miss you when you go on vacation but will cope better if you leave it in capable hands. If you know your dog suffers from separation anxiety when you go away on holiday leave it with someone who will give it plenty of attention so it doesn’t miss you too much.
Dogs associate certain things with happening at certain times and when you’re not there those things don’t happen, which can raise anxiety levels. Dogs like (and need) continuity and this is lost when you go away. However, that doesn’t mean they actually miss you, let’s look at this closer.
For dog owners like us, going away on vacation can be a difficult and stressful time. On one hand, you’re looking forward to getting away from work for a bit and just relaxing for a week or two. On the other hand, you’re worried that something might happen to them whilst you’re away and also that they will hate the fact that you’re leaving them – so will your dog miss you when you go on vacation?
What Does a Dog Think When You’re Not Around?
There has been a fair amount of research performed on dogs to gauge how their mental state changes when their owners go on vacation, at least for short periods. Dogs associate their owners with different events during the day, including meals (and the time they’re delivered), walks and treats. They will know (at least in the short term) that something isn’t quite right but they probably don’t associate that feeling with you. Those feelings will most likely be anxiety and stress as they dislike change like this. Do they know you’re not there? Well, they know you’re not there at that exact time but they won’t be thinking, ‘hmm, I haven’t seen my owner in days, where the hell is he?’.
The truth be told, no one really knows what goes on inside a dog’s head for any kind of time-frame that’s more than a few hours long.
Do Dogs Understand the Concept of Time?
Again, some studies using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of dogs has been carried out to try and understand how they perceive time. A simple test was performed and a dog greeted its owner with more vigor after 2 hours than just 30 minutes. However, the results between 2 hours and 4 hours were the same. So, the conclusion appears to be that over short periods of time the dog does perceive an extended time-frame. However, possibly not for time-frames between 2 and 4 hours – this may appear the same to them.
So what this tells us is that dogs feel time differently to us. How long they perceive the notion of several days though is unclear. I couldn’t find any specific studies on this online. Although this is disappointing I’m hardly surprised, I mean where do you start? You can’t exactly ask them how they’re feeling, can you? Well, you can ask them…
What Kind of Dog Do You Have?
The breed of dog you have might be relevant, you see. If you have a loyal dog (like a Collie or a German Shepherd) then they form bonds with you in a different way to the less loyal breeds (such as the Alaskan Malamute, Harrier or Terrier). The loyal dog, having formed a strong bond with you will be impacted more by your absence and they will show more signs of anxiety and stress than the dog who doesn’t have such bonds.
Where Will Your Dog Stay When You’re Away?
Why is this relevant? If your pet is being looked after in an environment where they feel safe and happy then they shouldn’t experience so much anxiety. This, in turn, could mean that they miss you less, which is what you actually want, right? You have a few options for when you go away on vacation:
- Dog-Sitting/House-Sitting, possibly the preferred option. Only the preferred option though if you know someone who’s willing to spend a lot of time in your property taking proper care of your animal. They must be someone who your dog knows and trusts and also it must be someone who loves animals as much as you!
- Traditional Boarding, which may be your only option, depending on other availability and available funds of course. You take your cat to a kennel where they look after many dogs, usually housed in cages typically.
- Neighbor visits, another option but not preferred. A dog won’t like to go too long without some kind of social interaction. Having someone come in twice a day to feed your dog just isn’t enough stimulation for it.
- Dog ‘hotel’, not possible for everyone as they are expensive. You take your dog to a hotel that caters exclusively for dogs. They get pampered basically. It’s basically a holiday for them and they’ll get plenty of attention. The only downside, you’re not there to share it with them!
- Is there any way they can come with you? Did you think of this possibility? Okay, if you’re going abroad then it’s a non-starter. But if you’re staying in-country then could you find somewhere that will accommodate dogs? They are becoming more and more popular these days as owners want to bring them along to avoid the extra expense of kennels. Think about it, surely everyone is a winner here?
So, where your dog stays when you’re away is a big factor as you can see. If they’re having a great time whilst you’re away (which is I’m sure what you want) then they won’t be so anxious as they won’t have as much time to realize their number-1 fan (i.e. you) isn’t with them. You may get less of a welcome when you come back but you’ll feel better inside knowing you’ve done the right thing!
What Should You Do for the Best of the Dog?
This ties in with the last section really but is worthy of its own as it is the most important. There is a direct correlation between what the dog does whilst you’re away and how much it actually ‘misses you’. You know your dog better than anyone else. What type of dog is it? Do you have any neighbors that it trusts or any friends? How would it deal with quite a few days in a kennel, would it be a detriment to the dog’s well-being? Remember, you’re going away on vacation to relax and to unwind. If you’re going to be worried about whether your dog is okay then you’re not going to be able to do those things. If you don’t have anyone who can house/dog sit then can you afford a dog hotel? These are things you need to think about well in advance of your holiday and actually budget into the cost of it.
The Reaction When You’re Back
Surely the best bit about going away from your dog is the reaction you get when you arrive home. I remember when I was a kid, we used to put our Cocker Spaniel in Kennels. There weren’t any fancy dog hotels around back then (not that my mum and dad could’ve afforded one) but I remember being a bit shocked at the size of the cages they kept dogs in. It was almost like a zoo.
Things have changed these days and the quality of the majority of kennels is much better. When we used to pick up Toby from the kennels he used to go a bit crazy, wagging his little tail so fast I thought he might just take off. But I remember the feelings I had back then, even though I was only around 11. I used to be sad. Sad that the cages seemed so small and sad that he seemed so glad to see us again. When I was away I always imagined he was on holiday himself having a great time. When he appeared so happy to see us again it made me think he can’t have been happy to have been there.
Just my musings I know but I learned something back then. I learned that your dog that means so much to you shouldn’t just be shoved somewhere for your convenience whilst you go away on holiday for a week or two. It’s part of the package, you buy a dog you have a responsibility for it. Make sure it’s happy.
If you want to know the signs to look out for if you think your dog could be depressed, my article 12 ways to tell that your dog is depressed goes through the signs to look out for (opens in a new window).
I must admit I have a soft spot for animals and their well-being. I have a dream of winning the lottery and then being able to create a massive pet-sanctuary, where animals that are no longer loved can live and be given the care and love they deserve. Anyway, I digress. Who knows what goes on inside a dog’s head. It’s nice to see videos though of a dog when it’s so happy when it’s owner returns. Check out this clip – it’ll make you happy. This dog sees his owner again – after 3 years!
So, will your dog miss you when you go on vacation? Yes, it probably will. But not in the same way that people miss each other!
If you’re after some further reading on this subject, check out this article in Psychology Today that explores this subject in more detail.