Will My Dog Forget Me?

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Will my dog forget me? No, as long as they are mentally and physically healthy. 
Whether you’re just out to the shop, or on holiday, your dog remembers you when you return. 
There are some incredible videos of dogs being reunited with their owners after months and even years! 
I use to care for a friend’s dog when I was a teen, and it lived in our family home when they were on holiday. Several months after we had cared for it, my brother was out for a run, and that dog was out for a walk-off the lead. The dog ran from his owner, about a mile to him and greeted him excitedly, in a way, he wouldn’t have done to a stranger. 

 

Busy? Get Your Hands Paws On The Answers Quickly…

 

Can A Dog Forget You?

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It depends. If you have had a relationship with a dog, and they are mentally healthy, then they won’t forget you. 
So if you and your pooch have a happy, loving, and caring relationship, they’ll remember you. It may take your dog a while to recognize your scent and look if you’ve been separated for a while, but as soon as they know it’s you, they’ll leap back into your arms and settle back into their old routine.
This also means dogs remember negative relationships. Dogs can be afraid of particular looks or genders. They may have been abused by previous owners and see this specific characteristic as threatening and scary. They will use everything they can to protect themselves.
However, medical issues can affect a dog’s memory, meaning they might not remember you. 

 

Dementia or canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD): Present in senior and aging dogs, dementia is a decline in cognitive function. It can be present in many ways, from depression to aggression. But it can also lead to forgetfulness of other pets and owners.

 

Brain Injury: Infection, trauma, among other things, can cause a brain injury. Confusion and becoming forgetful of people can be one of the many side effects.

 

Problems With Smell or Sight: Dogs recognize their owners through smell and sight. If your dog has issues with their smell or sight, it can make it harder for them to identify you. This doesn’t mean they have forgotten you. They just can’t find or identify you. 

 

Do Dogs Miss Their Owners? 

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This is up for debate. A dog can display behaviors when their owners first depart, like whining or pacing, suggesting they are feeling distressed. They are enthusiastic when they return. But whether this shows that they are actually thinking about their owner and missing them is unknown.

 

Does my dog miss me, or just human interaction? 

A study was conducted that had several dogs presented with three smells, one of the owner, others on familiar people, and another of a strange during an MRI scan. The results indicated that our dogs do know and have a more positive response to their owner’s scent compared to any of the others (link). 
Another study has shown that the period of time you’re gone does vary the amount your dog ‘misses’ you, the study was based on dogs being left for 30 minutes, 2 hours, and 4 hours. This suggests dogs do have a concept of time (link).
30 minutes: Dogs left for just 30 minutes showed the least enthusiastic behavior towards their owners when they returned.
2 - 4 hours: The study examined dogs being reunited with their owners after both 2 and 4 hours. The dog was more excitable and displayed more tail wagging and body shaking than after 30 minutes, but there was little difference between 2 and 4 hours. This suggests that dogs have a concept of time, but after the 2 hours, it made no difference to their greeting behavior.

 

Longer: If you’re away on holiday or for another reason for weeks and months, your dog can show signs of missing you when you go.
If you leave your dog in their usual home with friends, family, or a sitter, they may show signs, including sniffing clothes you’ve worn or beds, and wondering where you’ve gone.
But as long as they are well cared for, receiving adequate attention and love, they will settle right into a new routine and won’t suffer missing you. 
Once you return, your dog will be very enthusiastic to see you and settle right back into their old routine.

 

Do Dogs Get Sad When You Leave? 

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Happy and mentally healthy dogs should be okay with you, leaving them for up to 4 hours, some adjust to longer with a regular schedule. 
However, many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. This is when your dog is fearful of being alone or left without you. This can occur for many reasons. It can also present itself in many ways. 
Common Signs Of Separation Anxiety When Your Dog Is Alone: 
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Vomiting
  • Howling
  • Barking
  • Destructive behavior
  • Inappropriate toileting

 

Although you might not want to, there are many reasons we must leave our dogs home alone. There are many ways you can help your dog feel secure, safe, and at ease when you leave them alone.

 

Use distractions: KONGs, lick mats, and other treat dispensing toys work great. They keep your dog busy and occupied while you’re gone. Other things like leaving the TV, radio, or a fan on to create background noise can also be comforting to your dog.

 

Break the routine: If your dog is distressed when you begin your routine to leave the house, try to break it. If you always grab your coat, keys, and bag before you go, your dog will see these signs, and it can create anxiety. 
When you have time, start by doing your usual routine (e.g., coat on, pick up keys and bag) before you open the door to leave, turn around and put everything back and return to what you were doing. 
Repeat this several times over several days. 
Slowly your dog should stop reacting to the markers that you are about to leave. This should make leaving a far less stressful situation.

 

Exercise: A well-exercised dog tends to be a happier one. Take your dog for a long walk before you plan on leaving. Give them time once you’re home to have a drink and settle down.

 

Independence: Does your dog follow you everywhere when you’re home? Try to make your dog feel more comfortable spending time alone. Whether this means sleeping separately or spending an hour alone while you’re busy. 
Start slowly by introducing them to a safe space; this could be a crate, bed, or sectioned off area of the home. 
Tell them to go there and wait for 1-2 seconds, return, and treat them. 
Repeat this multiple times, increasing the time until you can eventually leave the room and return. 
If your dog leaves the area, return and put them back and take it back a step. Keep repeating. 

 

Safe Space: Leading on from the point above, giving your dog a safe space, whether this is a room, a crate, or sectioned off area, can be great to make them feel secure. 
This safe space can help your dog feel more secure and allows them to create a den-like area. Make sure that when they are in this area, no one disturbs them. 
This can take the pressure off of some dogs who can feel responsible for protecting or guarding the house in your absence.

 

Remove Aggrivators: Does your dog get wound up or disturbed by certain things? Commonly this is cars outside, or people knocking on the door.
When we leave, our dogs stay in the back of the house. We close off the area by the front door. 
The reason we do this is that our dogs can be disturbed by traffic passing and neighbors outside. We try to make the area we leave them the least stressful as possible.

 

Dog Sitter or Daycare: If your dog is severely distressed when alone, try using a dog sitter or daycare facility. They can be incredibly helpful and reduce the anxiety in your pet. They will keep them stimulated and occupied. It is also great for socialization if you have a friendly pet.

 

Welcome Home: When you return home, do not behave too excitedly. Using a high pitch voice, offering too much attention, or being overly playful can only serve to reinforce the anxiety. When you arrive, try to ignore your dog as much as possible. Use calm, slow tones, and only acknowledge your dog once they begin to calm down.

 

Do Not Punish Them: If your dog does anything undesirable when you’re out (e.g., destruction and toileting), do not punish them. They will not know or remember doing so and, therefore, can increase anxiety and confusion. 

 

Do Dogs Have A Sense Of Time?

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Dogs are thought to live very much in the present. However, studies show they are aware of time passing. In a study, dogs were more excited to see their owners after 2 hours, as opposed to 30 minutes.
It is believed that dogs also have some kind of internal clock telling them when to be awake, asleep, or eat. There are many ways they are thought to be able to do this, including:

 

Light and Dark: The sun will alert dogs that it is day time. Once it gets dark and it tells them it is time to sleep. 

 

Routine and Human Cues: Your dog may pick up on cues from you. If you pick up your keys to leave, your dog might retreat to their bed. Although this might seem like your dog knows what time it is and where to go, it might be a cue that you have given without knowing (link).

 

They Can Smell Time: A study showed that your dog knows what’s going to happen based on smells. For example, many people claim their dog is waiting for them when they arrive home. It is thought that they know you are about to come back as your scent disappears to a certain degree at a regular rate. 
In the study, the owner returned from work at the same time. The dog was always waiting for their owner to come home and was accurate to within 5-10 minutes. During the test, they dispensed the smell of the owner an hour before they were due to arrive home, disturbing the fading scent. As a result, the dog did not respond in the same way and was not waiting for the owner to come home. This suggests that dogs can literally smell time (link).
 
Food: Many dogs know when it’s dinner time. Whether this is because they can tell the time, know their routine of being fed at the same time, or are merely hungry at this time is not entirely known.

 

FAQs

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How long does it take for a dog to forget a person?
If your dog does not have any cognitive issues, they should never forget a person.

 

Will my dog forget me when I go on vacation?
In short, no. As long as your dog is kept in a safe, healthy, happy environment, then they will be perfectly happy when you’re gone and equally excited when you return.

 

Will my dog think I abandoned him when I go on vacation?
Dogs supposedly live in the present. So they may show signs they’re missing you, e.g., smelling your clothes. But as long as they are well cared for, they will be fine while you’re away. I’m sure we miss our dogs more than they miss us! Make sure the kennels or boarders are right for your dog, and they will see it as a holiday too.

 

 

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Disclaimer: Each dog is different, and every circumstance is different. All efforts have been made to provide accurate information. However, it is not provided by a qualified Veterinarian, Veterinarian Surgeon, or Behaviorist. The information provided is purely educational. The information should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical care. If you have any health or medical concerns, contact a qualified Veterinary Surgeon or Veterinarian immediately.

 

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