Golden Retrievers are incredibly social animals, which is why they make such great family pets! They do well with families and young children because of their protective nature and how much they love being part of the pack. Because of this, Golden Retrievers tend to get lonely when the rest of their pack is away from home for long periods of time.
So, how can you tell if your Golden Retriever is suffering from loneliness?
Golden Retrievers will let you know if they’re lonely by displaying destructive or aggressive behavior, showing a lack of appetite, or having accidents in the house when your gone. Their loneliness can be alleviated by you spending more time with them, letting them look outside, and crate training.
In this article, I’ll discuss the signs to look for that show a Golden Retriever is lonely, some reasons why your dog may feel lonely during your absence, and several simple steps you can take to help fight that loneliness and get your bouncy, energetic, happy dog back!
How to Tell if Your Golden Retriever Is Lonely
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your dog is lonely or not. They can’t verbally explain their feelings or let you know that something is wrong but there are a few behaviors to look for to determine whether your golden retriever is lonely or not. These include:
Lonely Golden Retrievers Show Destructive Behavior
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This is usually one of the first signs that something is bothering your golden retriever. This behavior will show up when they start barking, howling, and chewing on things, especially if they never did this before. Sudden aggression, snapping, and other behavior issues such as ripping up couch cushions are also common.
If they often act in this manner, this may have more to do with poor training overall than loneliness. But if these behaviors randomly show up, they may be a sign your dog is lonely.
If new behaviors like these start appearing, your pup is telling you that you need to give him more attention. Taking him for a long walk and carving out a little extra time each day for shared activities can go a long way in preventing this type of behavior.
Playing fetch, petting them, and other favorite pursuits are always a good place to start. Goldens are full of energy and when that energy isn’t used up, they can get upset, depressed and destructive.
There Are New Accidents in Your Home
If your dog is past the age of potty training and hasn’t had an accident in a long time, and yet you start to see accidents inside the house, this is a sign of loneliness. These accidents can signify that your dog is under a lot of stress, though sometimes it’s a medical issue, so you may want to check your golden retriever with a vet to make sure.
After checking with the vet, if you notice that these accidents continue, make sure to let your dog out more often and spend more time with them. In some cases, this is a situation of separation anxiety. You may need to spend some time establishing routines with your golden retriever to help them feel better when you leave.
Most Golden Retrievers are very friendly dogs. They like to spend their time close to their owners, running around, playing, and wrestling. They also enjoy playing with the little ones in the family, having fun with the kids while also being their protectors.
However, if your dog is normally as sweet as can be and turns into a dog that snaps and gets aggressive, loneliness may be the main reason for a change in behavior. You may find that spending a little extra time with them each day for a week is enough to make them feel a little better and stop the aggression.
Always pay attention to the aggression, particularly if there are kids around, and deal with it as quickly as possible. A little snapping is not necessarily a big deal. But if left unchecked, it can cause issues, and someone may get hurt. If the extra time and attention are not helping, then talk with your vet or a local trainer to get more ideas before it gets out of hand.
Your Golden Retriever Stops Listening to Commands
Most Golden Retrievers are eager to please and will hang on your every word. Once you’ve trained them to listen to your commands, you’ll find they’re amenable and will do well with these most of the time.
Once your dog starts to feel lonely, however, they will begin to disobey commands. When you ask them to get down, come to you, or fetch, they may not have the heart to obey your command.
They could be lethargic or just refuse to do it at all. This is your sign to interact with them more and be present. Take them on a walk, invest in a few new toys, and spend time with your dog to help them feel better.
Golden Retriever Displays High Anxiety
While some dog breeds seem to struggle with stress and anxiety quite frequently, Golden Retrievers are pretty laid back and generally not one of these breeds. When they start to feel lonely, though, their stress and anxiety go through the roof, and their behavior becomes more unpredictable.
For example, they may jump and get worried when they hear a random noise, be more submissive than usual when you’re stern with them, and always be on high alert. If you start to notice your Golden is hard to calm down or is extra sensitive to some surrounding noises, then this is a red flag that some loneliness is going on.
They Don’t Like Their Old Toys
Many Golden Retrievers like to spend their time outside, having fun, and playing with their owners and others. They’re also just as happy to come back home and play with some of their favorite toys during the day. If your dog stops enjoying some of these common activities, it’s a sign that they feel lonely, and something needs to change.
You may want to try adding in some new toys before diagnosing this as loneliness. It’s understandable if the dog just gets bored with a toy they have played with for a long time. But if you bring in some new toys you know they should love, or try bringing back an old favorite that’s been gone for a while, and your Golden Retriever still doesn’t show much of an interest, then it may be time to give them more attention to fight off loneliness.
Your Golden Retriever Hides From You
Your dog may choose to ignore you or hide from you if they feel lonely. They may do the hiding because they think that they did something wrong, and don’t want to get in trouble. Hiding dogs can be hard to find, especially if you have a large house with a lot of hiding spots. You can spend a lot of time looking around only to find that the dog is hiding under one of the beds.
Not all dogs will do this, but some feel that if they’re lonely and not getting enough attention, this is a sign that they’ve been bad, and should hide. You may inadvertently be the source of this because you’re gone for the day, whether at work or elsewhere. Being gentle and calm and giving them extra attention will help them get past this behavior.
Their Energy Levels and Appetites Go Down
You should notice the lowered energy levels pretty quickly. Most Golden Retrievers have a ton of energy and can keep running and playing all day long. Because of all this energy they expend, it’s not unusual for this type of dog to eat a lot of food.
If you start to notice that your dog is not eating, and doesn’t seem to enjoy playing or going for walks as much as before, this is your first sign that something is bothering them. Check first to see whether some physical ailments are the cause.
But once those are ruled out, you can look towards some of the stressors in their lives. Sometimes they get depressed when lonely, and spending more time with them will improve their appetite and their energy again.
Diagnosing Loneliness and Depression in a Golden Retriever
Keep in mind during this that you will need to see several of these symptoms together before you can diagnose your dog with loneliness. Each one on their own could be a sign of something else. For instance, if your dog is just having accidents, even new ones, this may be a sign of aging and they will need to be let out more often, or they could have a health condition.
If your dog is not interested in some of their toys any longer, this is sometimes a sign they are bored and need something new to play with. Each of these symptoms is not a big deal and usually can be fixed with a few simple changes. But if you start to notice three or more of these happening about the same time, then it is a sign of a bigger problem.
Reasons Your Golden Retriever Is Lonely
Your dog will feel lonely any time they’re not getting adequate amounts of attention. Since the Golden Retriever is naturally friendly and likes to spend time around their families and others, they are more prone to feeling lonely and needing extra attention than some other types of dog. Other dog breeds may be fine with minimal attention but that is certainly not the case with Goldens.
If you’ve been away from home at work for long periods, or you don’t take the time once you’re home to give them some extra love and attention, your Golden Retriever will likely start to feel neglected.
Think about it, if you were left inside a small room or even the whole house all day, on your own with no interaction, you would start to feel lonely pretty quickly as well.
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Golden Retrievers Home Alone
If you’re not home often because of work and travel, or if you’re home and don’t take the time to walk or play with your dog, it’s likely they will get lonely. Your Golden Retriever needs a lot of attention and love, and you have to be home to provide that to them.
While a healthy, happy Golden Retriever should have no problems being left home alone for 8 hours or so, much longer than this on a regular basis could become a problem.
Consider if You Have the Time for Your Dog
While Golden Retrievers are great pets to have, they do require a lot of time and energy. If you’re away from home often or just run into issues with having the energy to keep up with them, it may be time to consider getting extra help.
There are many dog caretakers and dog walkers who can come in and provide some additional attention that will be welcome by your Golden Retriever.
Luckily, as we will explore more in the next section, you can take a few simple steps to help fight loneliness and make your dog as happy as possible. It can be as simple as letting them outside more, taking some time to play and exercise with them, and leaving a window open during the day so your dog can look outside if they don’t have outside access during the day.
What to Do to Prevent Loneliness
There are a few things you can do to help prevent loneliness with your dog. You may have noticed by now that throughout this article I have kept mentioning that the answer to most behavioral problems due to loneliness can be easily fixed by having more time and attention with you.
While spending time with them is the best cure, sometimes your golden retriever will get lonely and you can’t be with them. There are a few things you can do to help with this problem and make your golden retriever feel more loved and secure:
Let Them See the Outside
Many pet owners decide to close up the windows blinds and keep out all the light. They assume that their dog will bark and get over-excited if they are allowed to look outside the whole time.
But staring at the walls of a house all day long by yourself is boring and will lead to loneliness. Consider opening up at least one window shade so your dog can look outside at all the sights and pass the day pleasantly. After all, dogs are visual creatures too.
Keep Them Occupied
The busier you keep your dog, the less likely they’ll get lonely along the way. There are different games that you can play with your dog when you’re home and some fun toys and games that work even when you can’t be home. Turning on a little music or putting a playlist on loop, is a good option to let them feel like something is going on.
There are even technology based solutions such as the WOpet Dog Treat Dispenser and Camera (Amazon). This fun tool allows you to see and communicate with your Golden Retriever when you’re away from home. You can interact by talking to them and can even remotely dispense a treat!
Socialize Your Golden Retriever
When you notice your dog is feeling lonely at home, it’s time to reflect on their recent behavior and activity levels. Have you been able to get your dog out enough to see other people and other pets?
Daily walks are a great way for the two of you to bond and get rid of excess energy, but you can also bring them around other pets, so they get some time to socialize and not depend completely on you for that.
Add a Doggy Companion
Another way to alleviate those lonely feelings is to add another dog to the mix. While this might not be possible for everyone, I’ve found that it’s a great comfort to a dog to have a buddy at home when you’re not around.
For a social Golden, having a friend to play with is great! And just knowing that he’s not alone will help to diffuse a lot of your dogs stress and anxiety.
Head Home During Breaks
During your lunch break, try to sneak back home. Even a few minutes during the day can be a welcome treat for your dog and it breaks up the monotony.
I used to do this every day when I worked outside the house and it made a world of difference in my Golden Retrievers happiness level!
This, of course, only works if you live near your work, and you may not be able to do this each day. Even occasionally doing it is a great way to give your dog more attention.
This is a useful method to ensure your dog always has a safe place to retreat to when alone and struggling with stress or other emotions. You can’t be home all the time, so using a crate and training your dog to see this as their special spot can make things a little easier.
With crate training, you’ll train your dog to understand that the crate is their safe spot. Whether you’re home or not, they can head to their crate to reduce feelings of stress.
It’s like if a person is having an awful day, all they want to do is go home and crawl into bed because they know that is a place they can finally decompress and relax. It’s the same with a dog and his crate.
Your job is not to force your Golden Retriever to spend time there. The goal is to teach them that this is a safe and secure spot, they can go to when they need a break, when they feel stressed, or when they’re lonely.
The dog doesn’t need to be shut in the crate. It’s a place your Golden can come and go of their own free will.
You can see the type of crate I’m talking about here (Amazon). They’re foldable, so they stay out of the way when not in use, and they can provide your Golden with a safe place to call her own.
Talk to To a Trainer
If you have taken some time to work on the tips above and it doesn’t seem like your dog is getting over their loneliness, or the problem seems to worsen, then it’s time to talk to a professional dog trainer.
There may be a few behavioral or cognitive issues that your Golden Retriever is suffering from. Your trainer will be able to diagnose these and offer the best solutions to help your dog feel better.
There are times when your dog will start to feel lonely and need some extra attention. When you’re busy at work or run into other obligations that keep you away from home, it may start to affect your goldens behavior.
Plan some extra time to play with them, go on a walk or run, and give them the attention they need to help fight any loneliness.
Here’s a quick recap of the post:
- Golden Retrievers will act aggressive or show signs of anxiety if they’re lonely.
- Try to play or interact with them several times a day since they’re a social breed.
- Exercise is essential to prevent loneliness in most dog breeds because it prevents anxiety.
- If all else fails, book an appointment with a local veterinarian for possible medical solutions or a trainer for more specific behavioral issues.
More Golden Retriever Articles You’ll Love!
- Running With Your Golden Retriever (What You Need to Know!)
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- Dogster: How to Socialize a Dog
- Wag: Destructive Behavior in Dogs
- PetMD: How to Potty Train a Puppy or Adult Dog
- AKC: How to Crate Train your Dog in 9 Easy Steps
- I Heart Dogs: 5 Signs Your Dog is Lonely
- Pet Helpful: 6 Signs That Your Pet is Lonely
- Greenfield Puppies: 3 Big Signs Your Dog is Lonely
- Recipes for Pets: 10 Ways to Tell If Your Dog is Lonely
- Wikipedia: Lethargy