Do Dogs Worry About Their Owners?

Dear Doggy,

I love being home with my dog but I have to work. Does my dog worry about me when I’m not home?

Missing My Little Buddy

Dear Little Buddy,

Dogs worry about their owners if their routine is broken or disrupted. Canines are creatures of habit so they thrive on regular patterns of behavior like what time their pet parents come home. They are also ‘pack animals’ and view their owners as the Alpha, so they feel anxious if the important member of the pack is not around.

All pet parents would like to think that our pups fret about our absence because they love us that much. But is there truth to it?

Here are the reasons why it is highly likely that dogs worry about their owners:

  1. Dogs are creatures of habit. A domesticated mutt relies heavily on a schedule such as when to be fed and when to take a walk. Since they are aware that humans take care of such things for them, they feel anxious if their owners are not present at a time they are expected.  
  2. Dogs think humans are part of their pack. Pack animals go in groups to hunt for food and shelter. They are particularly concerned about the smaller, more vulnerable members of the pack like babies and little children. Of course, as the Alpha, your Rover will be extra protective of you if you appear to be missing or hurt.
  3. Dogs can feel anxiety and fear. Canines may not be able to “worry” as humans do—analyzing future events in a negative light—but experiments prove that they experience anxiety. Increased cortisol levels reveal separation anxiety in dogs when they think their owners abandoned them. They also feel stressed if they sense their owners are agitated.

Does My Dog Think About Me When I’m Gone?

As much as we love our pooches, it is impossible to take them with us wherever we go. Do pups think about their fur parents when we’re not around?

Dogs think about their owners when they are gone and have the mental capacity to “miss” humans. Experiments revealed pups show more intense excitement if their owners return after a longer period of absence. As some dogs get older, they may display inconsistent reactions to humans leaving because of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD.

If we ever wonder if our dogs think about us as much as we think about them when we are away, science has proven just so. Rover misses you a lot!

Psychology Today discussed how the brain scans on canines revealed that they long for their favorite humans to always be around. When made to smell their owner’s scent, dogs’ caudate nucleus lights up which signals positive expectations.

Can dogs tell how long their owners have been away? 

Canines have an internal biological clock called the circadian rhythm. So even if they cannot exactly tell how much time has passed since you’ve been gone, dogs can pick up clues in changes in temperature and if it’s day or night.

A study supports this claim after they observed that dogs grow more anxious when their owners have been gone for 2 hours compared to 30 minutes or less. They also exhibit increased enthusiasm to greet their humans after an extended time of separation.

Certainly, pets have different personalities. Some dogs are more clingy while others move on easily without their fur parents.

Sadly, some aging canines suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, similar to Alzheimer’s in humans. Instead of excitedly greeting you when you come back, dogs with CCD mistake their owners for strangers and snarl at them.

How Far Away Can A Dog Recognize You?

In a sea of pups in a large park, it may be easy for you to spot your doggo. But can he also recognize you from afar? 

Canines are able to recognize their owner’s scent from as far as 20 kilometers. They can also detect their humans from afar based on hand gestures and body movements. Dogs are able to tell their owners from strangers if they have a clear view of their faces. Mutts’ heightened auditory senses also help them identify their owners’ voices.

How can your furry best friend recognize you from a distance?

By Scent

The olfactory sense is the first and strongest sense a newborn puppy develops. If we have about 6 million smell receptors, dogs have nearly 300 million. If humans have one nasal passage, pups have two: one dedicated for breathing, another for detecting odors. 

It is no surprise that dogs can immediately recognize their owners through their scents. In an ideal setting, your pup can smell you even if you are 20 kilometers away.

By Sight

Mutts can differentiate their owners’ faces from strangers’. But if their faces are covered, some pooches might be confused.

But canines’ vision excels when it comes to motion visibility. Even if their pet parents are far away, they can detect specific movements and gestures unique to their favorite humans. Because dogs have more rods in their eyes, they can also see you better in the dark.

By Sound

A newly born Rover may be a late-bloomer when it comes to hearing, but when his ears start to open up, he can hear 4 times better than most people especially in high frequencies.

This special skill helps your pooch recognize your voice among a noisy crowd and hear your distinct footsteps before you even come to the door.

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Forget Its Owner?

You may need to be away from your pooch for a long time because of work, vacation, or illness. How quickly may he forget about you?

Generally, if a canine shares significant experiences with humans that brought him intense emotions, the dog may not ever forget them in his lifetime. Because of their associative memory, pups can recognize their previous owners despite being apart for many years, often through scent. An adopted mutt can recover from separation anxiety once he bonds with his new owner.

You may sometimes wonder how long will it take for your precious pooch to forget you if you have to leave him for an extended period.

Or, what if you adopted a dog from another family, will he still pine about his previous owners?

To help answer these questions, here are the key things about canines’ memory:

  1. Dogs have associative memory. While Rover’s short-term memory only lasts about 2 minutes, his associative memory makes up for it. He can recall previous experiences with his former human and how happy he felt as soon as he senses his owner’s presence.
  2. Dogs remember scents very well. Even when your fur buddy cannot actually see you, your scent alone can trigger an emotional response in him that reminds him of you. Forty percent of his brain is dedicated to retaining odors so it is natural that the scent of his favorite person is on the top of the list he remembers.
  3. Dogs need time to transition. A doggo who lived with his previous family for quite a long time may experience separation anxiety at first. Even though he may never forget his former master, he can still develop a strong bond with his current owner if he is showered with the love and attention he needs.

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