Unlike humans, we can’t ask a dog if they’re feeling sad or lonely; so we have to rely on their body language and other cues to help us to understand them. Dogs are very sociable and originally they lived in family groups or packs, implying that they seek company from their own species. However, as they have become domesticated, they have developed strong bonds with humans and seem to be content living with a family of humans instead of a pack of dogs. However, although your dog enjoys spending time with you, might they still benefit from the companionship of their own kind? 

What signs might indicate that my dog is lonely?

Some dogs can show signs of separation anxiety when they are left alone, these include being destructive, barking, or pacing around the house. Other dogs can become clingy when they are with you, following you around the house or howling when you go into another room. If you think your dog is craving attention from other dogs, you may notice some signs after meeting other dogs. After playing with another dog, your dog should be tired and content. If they seem to be restless or upset then they could be indicating that they want to spend more time with their friend.

What can I do to make my dog feel less lonely?

If you think your dog is showing signs of loneliness, it’s worth speaking to your vet or to a clinical animal behaviourist to see if there are any behavioural techniques that could help. Although dogs can be left alone at home, it is best not to leave them all day while you are at work. Instead, ensure that they are walked regularly and have toys to play with when they are alone. You could also put the radio on when you go out. And leave them with something to stimulate their mind such as a puzzle feeder.

How can I tell that my dog likes other dogs?

When you take your dog for a walk, watch how they react with other dogs; do they hide behind you or are they keen to go up and investigate? You may notice that they act differently depending on the gender of the dog. This could be different depending on whether your dog has been neutered or not.

How do I choose another dog companion?

Often dogs get on better if they are of different genders. But it is best for either one or both of them to be neutered to prevent any sexual behaviour. If your dog is calm and quiet then it would be best to pair them with another dog of a similar nature as they may become overwhelmed by a bouncy or boisterous dog.

When do I know it’s the right time to get another dog?

Talk to a friend who has a dog. See if you can go for walks together to see if your dog enjoys the company of another dog. If they do, you could arrange for them to come over to your house so that you can see how your dog reacts to another dog being in their house. If things go well then you could try looking after the other dog for a weekend and see how things go.

How do I introduce a new dog?

Start off with gradual introductions; take your dog to meet the other dog in a neutral place and see how they interact. If things go well, arrange a couple more meetings, both away from your house and at your house. When you bring the new dog home, ensure that each dog has their own space as well as their own food and water bowls. At first, they should be fed separately to avoid any competition or anxiety about eating.

Once they have become accustomed with each other and realise that the other dog isn’t a threat, they may be able to sleep in the same room and be fed next to each other. But it’s best to take things slowly and monitor their response. It is important not to leave both dogs alone together, just in case a fight happens. Ensure that you spend equal amounts of time walking, interacting with and playing with each dog so they don’t feel left out.

Many dogs are perfectly happy as a spoiled singleton

But others do seem to miss canine companionship. And for those, getting a suitable friend can make a lot of difference.

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