Do dogs miss us when we travel without them?



This may be an unpopular answer, but I don’t think dogs miss us a whole lot when we’re not home.

My dog is rarely home alone during the average day. When he is, he just sleeps.

I don’t believe he thinks much about me at all. I don’t believe he sits and pines over me or wonders “When is she coming back?” Or, “What am I going to do?”

He knows I’m coming back, and that is the routine. Like me, my dog finds comfort in routine.

But when the routine is different, my dog does seem to feel anxious.

Packing for a trip … loading the car …

And sometimes (usually), he whines in these situations because, I assume, he doesn’t know if he gets to go along. He doesn’t know what the routine is.

What about when we leave our pets with a sitter or at a boarding kennel?

My dog Ace the Lab mix

I’ve worked in the pet boarding/pet sitting/dog walking industry since 1999, and I have not seen much evidence of dogs missing their owners. (This doesn’t mean they don’t miss their owners. They just don’t show it.)

Most dogs adapt within a few hours, especially if they’re put on a routine – walking at this time, eating at this time – and given calm affection and rules.

I’ve had the opportunity to see this from many angles – dogs getting dropped off at a large boarding kennel where I worked, dogs getting dropped off at my house and owners leaving their dogs at their own homes for me (the pet sitter) to visit.

Routine and calm consistency are key in all these situations.

Still, just because a dog accepts the current situation and is having a great time playing with other dogs or even just lunging around in a kennel, it doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about his owners. It doesn’t mean he does not miss his owners.

Why wouldn’t he be thinking about them? And missing them?

Don’t we miss our homes and routines when we go on vacation, even while having a great time? I do.

But, my point of view as a petcare provider is that dogs usually don’t fret about us too much, especially if the pet sitter gives them treats or if the boarding kennel has a cute cocker spaniel to play with.

Sure, our dogs might miss us a bit while we’re gone. We like to think they do, at least, but we often beat ourselves up too much about leaving in the first place. This isn’t necessary.

Find a great kennel. Find a great pet sitter. Your dog will be OK.

What do the rest of you think?

Does your dog seem to miss you when you travel?

*Photo of Ace by Tawna.

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  1. jan on August 18, 2014

    My dogs start milling around the door about the time I am expected home according to the humans who live here so I do think they miss me.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 18, 2014

      My dog doesn’t even get up when I come home, half the time :)

  2. Jen Jelly on August 18, 2014

    I think it just depends on the dog and the owner; some dogs might be more prone to anxiety and a lot of times owners don’t know the proper way to handle anxiety in dogs.

    My dog Laika is somewhat like your dog; she does sleep while I’m away and actually seems pretty relaxed. I’ve been lucky in that regard this time around; my previous dog Carer had bad separation anxiety that at times was hard to manage.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on August 18, 2014

      I’m sure it does depend a lot on the dog and the owner and how the owner acts. I know my dog is a lot more anxious if I am anxious/excited myself.

  3. slimdoggy on August 18, 2014

    Routine is critical – Jack and Maggie know when they see me with the yoga mat, they aren’t going and are usually in their beds before I leave. That doesn’t mean I don’t get a rousing welcome when I get back home – I do!

  4. Julia at Home on 129 Acres on August 18, 2014

    I don’t think Baxter misses us when we travel. He spends his vacations with Grandma and Grandpa and is royally spoiled. When we came home, B was in a bit of a funk. He was really happy to see us when we picked him up, but once we got home he seemed to give us the silent treatment for a few hours.

    During the week when we’re at work, Baxter does the same thing as Ace… sleeps all day. Without fail, he’s ecstatic when we come home. He likes being with us, so he seems happiest when we’re all together at night. The one thing I will say is that on the weekends when we’re home he doesn’t seem to be as relaxed. He spends a lot of time following us around, seeing where we’re going and checking if it’s time to go out for a walk yet. He’s definitely a guy who likes his routine.

  5. weliveinaflat on August 18, 2014

    I agree… once Donna got used to her boarding place, she was all excited to go in and play without even her head turning back to look at us when we leave… #poorhumans

  6. Elaine on August 19, 2014

    I agree, I think it has more to do with routine than the emotions of missing an owner. When I get ready to leave the house, my dog looks at me to find out if she’s invited to go along. If I tell her she has to “stay here”, she settles right down in her bed and seems content. Of course, she would always rather go along, haha! Traveling and vacations are a lot harder and she almost always gets to go on vacation with her family.

  7. Rachel @ My Two Pitties on August 19, 2014

    Good question! Kaya & Norman give me the same greeting if I’m gone for an hour or a week so it’s hard to say. Luckily they love everyone so I think they have a blast when others are watching them. I’ve always had pet sitters stay at the house. I like the idea of them staying in their environment, even if there are other changes going on. But I prefer not to go on trips without them!

  8. Teresa on August 22, 2014

    I couldn’t agree more! I really think that dogs love and need routine!
    I have a black Lab (almost 3 years old) and last year I left him with a pet sitter for a week and I’m totally sure that I missed him so much more than he could possibly miss me!

  9. Jana on August 26, 2014

    Well, I don’t travel. LOL. Not without my dogs, anyway.

    When we were pet sitting Jasmine’s best buddy had his house mate, he seemed to have missed his mom a little bit at certain times of the day. The house mate was just happy to Ben on a sleep-over. I thin Tasha s long as they’re having fun, they don’t really have time to think about such things.

  10. Megan on September 8, 2014

    I think some people confuse separation anxiety with “missing” their owners. Separation anxiety is harmful and is less about the dog “missing” an owner and more about the dog’s state of distress and anxiety.

    I like your comparison to how people travel. When I travel I have a blast, and while I certainly have moments where I miss home, I’m usually happy because I know I’ll return home eventually, so why worry? The same could be true for dogs – they don’t need to miss you because they are having fun and living in the moment while knowing that you’ll return to them eventually. And of course if there’s one thing we know about dogs it’s that they LOVE having fun and seizing the day!

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