Updated June 2, 2023
As fur parents, there's nothing we want more than to see our furry friends happy and content. While we try our best to provide our dogs with all the love and attention they need, there are times when we might miss an important signal that they're trying to send us. One of the most common signals that dogs give is the need for a doggy friend.
Dogs are social creatures. Sure, you might be your pup’s best friend… but sometimes, there’s nothing like a fellow dog friend that speaks Fido’s language and enjoys the same type of play.
If your dog is the only pet in your household, you may want to consider encouraging some healthy interaction with other four-legged friends. After all, puppy playdates are great opportunities for exercise, mental stimulation, socialization, and fun!
Signs Your Dog Could Use a Friend
Every dog is different. Some may be content to lounge around on the couch, while others crave companionship. So, whether you commute to the office or spend your days at home, the fact of the matter is that you can’t always give your dog your full attention.
A dog's personality is an individual thing. That said, if your pup is showing any of the following behaviors, they may be a good candidate for doggy playdates at your local dog park.
Signs your dog is lonely include:
1. Excessive Barking (whining, barking, or howling)
Dogs bark for various reasons: to alert you of potential danger, to express excitement, or to communicate their needs. However, if your dog barks excessively, particularly when there's no apparent reason, it may indicate that they're lonely and bored, and a canine friend may just be the ticket.
Aggressive dogs are usually trying to communicate their distress and loneliness. If your pup is showing signs of aggression, you should take them to an experienced dog trainer for help in managing their behavior. After all, dogs are social creatures and need companionship to thrive. Having another dog to interact with can provide your pup with the stimulation and entertainment they need, which in turn, can reduce excessive barking.
Dogs love to chew and play, but when they become destructive and start ruining furniture or other household items, it may be a sign of separation anxiety. A doggy friend can help alleviate this anxiety and provide your pup with a sense of security and comfort. It's not uncommon for dogs to suffer from separation anxiety and adding a new companion may be a solution to their destructive behavior.
3. Barking Licking
Like we've said, dogs are social animals and express affection by grooming themselves and others. If your dog is the only pet in your house and they're exhibiting excessive licking, it could be a sign of loneliness. Licking is an instinctive behavior that releases endorphins that make dogs feel good; having a buddy to lick can make your dog feel happy and reduce excessive licking.
4. Isolation and Depression
One of the most obvious signs that your dog is lonely is if they're always trying to seek your attention or if they're reluctant to leave your side. While it's heartwarming to be their sole source of comfort, it's also essential to provide them with an opportunity to socialize with their own kind. Socialization helps dogs feel less isolated and can boost their moods, reducing the risk of depression and other behavioral problems.
5. Lack of Appetite
Like humans, dogs too can lose their appetite when they're feeling down or under the weather. However, if there are no apparent medical issues, it may be due to loneliness. Not having a canine companion to play and interact with can lead to apathy, resulting in a loss of interest in food. An additional furry friend in your family can reignite their appetite and make mealtime a fun and exciting event.
6. Pacing or Restlessness
If your dog is always pacing around or appears restless, it can be a sign of boredom. Pacing and restlessness are signs that your pooch needs more physical and mental stimulation than you alone can provide. A canine friend can help alleviate their boredom and keep them occupied for hours on end.
Doggy playdates are a great way to keep your pup from feeling lonely and ensure that they get the companionship they need and deserve. Just be sure to choose a compatible companion for your pet, and always supervise them when they’re playing together. With a bit of patience and commitment, you can help your pup become a well-rounded, happy, and healthy canine companion.
7. Acting clingier than usual
Dogs are affectionate creatures, and if they're feeling lonely or isolated, they may become clingier as a way of seeking comfort. If your pup is sticking close by and acting extra needy around you, it could be a sign that they need more attention and companionship.
Having another furry friend can make them feel secure and provide them with the socialization they need to thrive. Remember, dogs are pack animals and need the companionship of their own kind to stay happy and healthy.
8. Lack of interest in usually enjoyable activities such as walks and games
A dog that isn’t feeling well or is feeling lonely may also experience a lack of interest in activities they usually enjoy. If your pup isn't as enthusiastic about their walks or playing with their toys, it could also be a sign of loneliness.
These are just a few of the signs that your pup may need a canine companion. If you think your pet is in need of some extra love and attention, bringing home a second dog or setting up doggy play dates may be the solution.
Keep in mind that some signs of loneliness can also be signs of health issues. To be safe, contact your vet anytime you notice changes in your dog’s behavior or appearance.
Tips for Helping Your Pet Avoid Loneliness
For fur parents with only one pet, here are a few tips to keep your pup from feeling lonely:
- Trips to the dog park
- Visits from friends’ dogs
- Quick meet-and-greets with other dogs on your daily walks
- Playing with your dog
If your pup formerly had a buddy, you already know that he does well with other dogs. That said, not all dogs are created equal; you can’t just replace a lost friend with a new dog at random. That being said, there are a lot of things to consider before pairing your dog with a new friend and expecting them to immediately click.
Choosing the Right Playmate for Your Pup
Ask yourself the following:
- Does your dog have experience playing with other pets?
- Does your dog have a tendency to get possessive, aggressive, or territorial around other dogs?
- Does your dog prefer to cautiously observe when first introduced to new situations, or does he like to dive right into the activities?
- Is your dog trained to follow basic commands?
When introducing a new dog to your pet, the most important thing is to be patient and take things one step at a time. Start by considering your dog’s age and abilities—can he handle roughhousing, or does he need a gentler playmate? You’ll want to match him with a particular dog who has a similar personality and play style, taking age, energy levels, and size into consideration.
Additionally, be sure to introduce the two dogs to each other in a neutral location in order to avoid any tendencies to get territorial.
Should You Adopt a Second Dog?
While it’s possible that bringing home another dog could alleviate your dog’s loneliness, this is certainly not a decision that should be made lightly. Age, sex, health, personality, and history can all influence how well the dogs will get along.
Before adopting another dog, ask yourself:
- Do you have the time, finances, space, and energy to care for a second dog?
- Are all humans in your household on board with the idea of another furry roommate?
- Is your current dog trained and well-adjusted?
- Does your current dog get along with other animals?
- How does your current dog cope with change?
If you do choose to adopt a second dog, you’ll likely want dogs of similar age or energy levels. If your introverted dog is prone to anxiety, a rambunctious playmate may just exacerbate that stress. Conversely, a senior dog probably isn't the best match if your energetic young dog needs someone to roughhouse with.
Helping Your Dog Feel More Comfortable Alone
While puppy playdates and quality time between pet and owner are important, it’s equally important that your dog is comfortable and confident being alone every once in a while.
However, it’s also possible that adopting a second dog isn’t the right solution for you and your dog. And maybe regularly-scheduled pup playdates aren’t always an option. For those inevitable times when you need to leave your dog alone, there are a few steps you can take to help him feel more at ease without a companion.
For example, make a quick stop at home during your lunch break, or hire a dog walker or pet sitter to break up those hours of alone time.
Crate training is also helpful for dogs with separation anxiety, as the crate acts as a safe, secure space for your dog to comfortably be alone (with the exception of a favorite treat or toy, of course).
For dogs who experience separation anxiety, try Pet Honesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews. These tasty soft chews are a gentle, non-sedating way to make stressful situations such as separation, thunderstorms, car rides, vet visits, and even trips to the dog park more enjoyable.