A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Signs Your Dog Wants Some Alone Time

Humans aren’t the only ones who need some peace and quiet every now and then.

corgi laying on the couch
Purple Collar Pet Photography/Getty Images

With more people than ever working remotely, our beloved pups are getting more attention than normal. While some breeds have been relishing the extra walks, snuggles, and treats, others may be bristling slightly at this encroachment on their alone time. Like humans, dogs have personalities and preferences regarding their routines, activities, toys, foods, and lifestyles, explains Emily Wilson, DVM, a veterinarian at Fuzzy Pet Health. “Imagine always being on the go, with constant stimulation and activity,” she says. “For the vast majority of us, this lifestyle would become exhausting.”

So, how can you tell if your faithful friend needs some alone time? Here, pet experts shed some light on this topic. (Pun totally intended). On the flip side, if your dog has gotten really used to your constant presence and things are about to change now that lockdowns are ending, here’s how you can help your pet cope with post-quarantine separation anxiety.

Your dog seems stressed

Do you ever feel anxious in your home these days? Maybe it’s your children running around, making noise and creating messes. Or maybe you live in a city with a lot of sirens and alarms, or there have just been a lot of thunderstorms displays lately. All of these factors play a part in your mood, so why wouldn’t they impact your pup’s? When dogs live in high-stress households or experience high-stress situations, they need quiet time to recover, says Katy Nelson, DVM, the senior veterinarian for Chewy. “Giving pups a calm, cozy place to call their own can help them feel safer and more secure,” she explains. “A warm bed, some white noise, a toy to chew on, and an Adaptil pheromone plug-in can help to ease anxiety and create a space they seek out when they need a haven.” These are the best dog beds for every type of dog.

Your dog is hiding

If you frequently find yourself wondering where your pup has gone off to, consider it a sign that he needs a moment away from humans. Rolan Tripp, DVM, a veterinary behavior consultant, explains that dogs tend to “hide” when they need to feel safe. This doesn’t mean they feel scared at home, but rather, they are tired of hearing loud noises and being woken up from naps and otherwise disturbed. When you locate your furry companion, and he is happily snoozing away, leave him there so he can rest. He’ll come back for some love when he’s ready. Here are another 30 other things your dog wishes you knew.

Your dog’s schedule has been erratic lately

It’s safe to say that nearly everyone’s calendar looks a lot different than it did pre-COVID-19. Believe it or not, your dog had his own schedule during the day, too, and now, it’s been completely shaken up. As Dr. Wilson explains, dogs are creatures of habit, and a routine isn’t just comforting to them—it also provides them with a sense of security in terms of their daily expectations. So, your dog may not want to play outside with you in the late afternoon because that might be when he usually takes a nap. Wilson suggests providing ample opportunity for your pup to have downtime and following his lead.

Your dog is acting oddly

Think about what happens when you’ve been in back-to-back meetings all day while also responding to a friend’s crisis via text message and trying to figure out what to feed your family for dinner. You feel pushed to the max, right? And this can cause you to act in ways you usually wouldn’t. The same is true for dogs, though the signs may be a bit different, according to Katie Lytle, DVM, the veterinary channel manager at Wisdom Health. “When stressed or anxious, some dogs may pace around and seem like they just can’t settle down,” she explains. “They may also pant excessively or get a pinched look to their face. Other dogs may start repetitive behaviors like licking their leg or a cushion.” Keep an eye out for these habits, and see if your dog lets go of them after a little downtime. You may also want to try these dog-anxiety products.

Your dog wants to go outside without you

If you have a sunny backyard or patio, consider leaving the door open for your dog. Especially if he keeps scratching to get outside, it’s a vital sign that your pet wants to retreat without you, says veterinarian Justine Lee, DVM, a spokesperson for Pumpkin Pet Insurance. This isn’t a slight toward you or anything to worry about; instead, it’s your dog expressing the need to have a breath of fresh air, away from the hubbub.

Your dog is less excited about walks

Pre-pandemic, your dog looked forward to walks in the morning, when you returned from work, or anytime you decided to pull out the lead. Now, though, Fido may look at you like you’re crazy when you ask if he’d like another trot around the block. Dr. Wilson explains that while dogs typically show excitement for exercise, increased time spent together on outings may cause your pup to demonstrate less joy. “If you grab the leash and your pup turns around and heads back to bed, this may be an indication that he or she may only require a short potty break rather than a lengthy walk,” she says. “It’s important to note that doggy-walk burnout can happen!” Here are more interesting facts about dogs you didn’t know.

Your dog is more aggressive or agitated

When dogs show aggression or agitation as you try to pet or engage them, it’s typically a sign that they want some time to themselves and need to regroup, says Michelle Coffino, the CEO and owner of Pet Porter. “Particularly [since] most have been in quarantine for the past few months, dogs are more likely to showcase this type of aggression or agitation,” she shares. “In these situations, it’s best to give them the time they need, leaving them in a safe room or allowing them time in their kennel in a separate space.” However, if this behavior continues, you should consult your vet to ensure nothing more serious is affecting your dog.

Your dog isn’t seeking attention from you

Sometimes when you stop petting your dog, he’ll nudge your hand so you’ll continue with the rubs. When he no longer seeks this cuddle time, Dr. Wilson says it could be a sign he needs a break. “If you notice that your pup is spending less time asking for pets and seems reluctant for your affection, this may indicate that he needs more time on his own,” she continues. “While some dogs may just walk away when you begin to pet them, others may vocalize their opinions through growling or snapping.” You might also be doing these things that your dog hates.

Your dog is self-entertaining

Rather than asking you to throw a ball, then a stick, then something else on repeat, your dog is happily hanging out in the living room with a toy or bone. That’s a good thing! Dr. Lee says that self-entertaining is a signal that they’re satisfied with their current situation and don’t need your attention. “Remember that just like with people, too much stimulation may be exhausting for a dog, and having some quiet time after being cooped up with humans around-the-clock is normal for Fido, too,” she adds.

Your dog is sick

If your dog starts rejecting food or appears to be in pain, make an appointment with your vet ASAP. By explaining the symptoms and the changed behavior, you can help a professional diagnose a sickness that could be brewing. “Chart this information or any other activity that is out of the usual for that particular pet,” Coffino recommends. “Fatigue is naturally an option, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, particularly as pets have been off of their routine since quarantine and it’s caused [some] stress.” Don’t miss these 10 signs your “healthy” pet is showing dog illness symptoms.

Lindsay Tigar
Lindsay Aurora Tigar is an experienced digital editor and blogger in NYC. Her blog, Confessions of a Love Addict, has a large following around the world, and a book project based on the blog is under development. The New York Post named her New York City's most eligible single in January 2014. She was also selected as one of New York's most desirable singles by the lifestyle dating website Rachel & Chris and has partnered with several popular dating blogs to create viral content. She is part of the HerCampus Blogger Network and spoke at their summer conference on "How to Be a Powerhouse Blogger." She's a social media and digital media guru with large followings on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. She freelances for several sites, including Shape.com, eHarmony.com, AskMen.com, Engagement 101 and more. She's also the resident dater for Women'sHealthMag.com, writing weekly about her dating adventures in her "Dater Diary" column.