Your dog follows you everywhere. Even your own shadow can’t keep up the way they do.
Then all of a sudden, they want to be alone.
They spend more and more time away from you.
It’s something highly unusual. And you’re naturally worried.
While it may seem unimaginable, dogs do want to be alone at times. And I’m here to help you understand it all. So…
Keep reading to learn:
- 15 reasons why dogs want to be alone.
- Whether it’s something to be worried about.
- What it means for your relationship with your dog.
- How to help when they’re going through such times.
- And much more…
Why does my dog want to be alone?
Your dog wants to be alone for psychological reasons such as burnout, depression, anxiety, stress, or phobias. If you have a puppy, they might be going through the fear period or the flight instinct period. If you have an older dog, they might be suffering from illness or the effects of old age.
15 reasons why your dog wants to be alone (all of a sudden)
Your dog might want to be alone because they’re burnt out.
Perhaps it’s not what you expected. After all, one of the common problems fur parents face is that their pooch is too full of life.
But dogs can apparently suffer from psychological burnout. And vets are pointing the finger at us.
Our busy lifestyles, they say, have led to our dogs “suffering from anxiety attacks and depression.”
It’s certainly not something we want to hear. But if we are in any way accountable, we need to look into it.
The first 4 reasons are often used interchangeably: burnout, depression, anxiety, and stress. But while they have several things in common, they’re not synonyms.
Let’s break them down as we go…
Stress is an emotional response to an external trigger. This trigger is known as a stressor.
A study was carried out on the manifestations of chronic and acute stress in dogs. It named some of the following stressors:
- Restricted housing conditions.
But others seem less suspicious. Such as boredom. It can be a stressor for your dog. So can an altered routine.
They can even become stressed just by being around you while you’re stressed. They pick up on what you’re feeling. And it affects them in turn.
As listed, even training can turn out to be a stressor too.
“Shouldn’t it relieve stress, not cause it?”
Under the right conditions, yes. But fur parents may get carried away with training. Especially when their pup is learning something new and fun.
As with all things exciting, it can cause one to lose track of time. So it’s important to note your dog’s body language. When they begin to tire, training should end.
“How long is an ideal training session?”
According to AKC, “it may only be 10 seconds to 2 minutes in duration.” Of course, as your pup gets older, they can train for longer. But as a general rule, quality over quantity (duration).
PetMD names 5 signs that indicate your dog is stressed:
- Increased sleeping.
- Decrease in appetite.
- Aggression toward people or other animals.
- Diarrhea, constipation, or another digestive issue.
A stressed dog will seek isolation. As will a dog suffering from…
Much like stress, anxiety is an emotional response. But there’s a distinct difference.
Stress goes away when the stressor is removed. Anxiety persists even in the absence of a stressor.
It can be experienced as excessive worry over certain fears and separation. Or as a result of age-related cognitive decline.
Anxiety is generally oriented towards the future. Your dog worries over scenarios that could happen. Such as when you’re away. Or when going to the vet.
In this sense, it presents as the opposite of…
Depression is generally oriented towards the past. It’s a persistent feeling of sadness about something that has already happened.
According to OVRS, among the more common causes of your dog’s depression are:
- Change – change in routine or residence.
- Grief – loss of another pet or human family member.
These sum up depression in dogs. It’s an inability to cope with past events.
But stress and anxiety can be interwoven with depression. And a common thread seen is wanting to be alone.
For instance, a dog is depressed over the loss of a family member. They may also become anxious and worry about losing another. The stressor for this could be seeing them fall ill.
If your dog is suffering from such internal turmoil, isolation will be their escape.
And an accumulation of all these negative emotions can land us right back at reason #1: Burnout.
It might be unthinkable. But it’s possible your dog wants to be alone because they’re avoiding you.
You might have inadvertently done something that intimidated them. Think back.
Maybe it was a long day at the office. And you came home to find the house trashed.
Perhaps you slammed the door in frustration and called them a bad dog.
No one’s condemning you to some special circle of hell. But it’s important for you to identify the specific trigger. That way, you’ll know how to better address it.
After you’ve done this, I recommend following Adrienne Farricelli’s instructions on the Jolly Routine technique.
Some want attention when they’re ill. Others want to be left alone. This goes for fur parents and fur babies alike. So we should be more understanding of this.
You haven’t yet determined that your dog is sick. But you suspect as much. The logical next step is to see a vet. Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll know how to proceed.
But keep in mind what I just said.
Your dog may want attention. If that’s the case, give them a lot of it. Laughter is the best medicine for humans. But for dogs, it just might be love.
However, your dog may want to be left alone. If so, give them space. It’s a lot to ask. Your furry maternal instincts compel you to stay by their side.
You want to cuddle them and reassure them. But it’s what they want that takes priority here. The more comfortable they are, the sooner they’ll recover.
And comfort here means being alone.
Read also: 13 tips to get a sick dog to drink water
Not to get melodramatic but pain can really isolate you. Or in this case, your dog. And it’s not just about feeling isolated. I mean really being alone.
For humans, it’s emotional pain that drives us away from others. For dogs, it could be physical pain.
Scientists sing the praises of canine-human communication. But there’s still no explicit way for our dogs to tell us what hurts.
We show them lots of affection through patting, petting, rubbing, and cuddling. But we may be unwittingly hurting an injury.
So you walk into the room ready to attack with affection. But your proactive pooch is nowhere to be found. They’ve already taken cover somewhere safe and alone.
You might also want to know: Why do dogs walk slowly with their tails down?
You’re moving up in life. You got a promotion, bought a new house, and you’re starting a family. That’s all great!
But someone might not be too ecstatic about it – your dog. They don’t mean to be a grinch. It’s just that adapting to change can be difficult for them.
Some humans adapt easily while others don’t. It’s the same way with dogs. And yours doesn’t welcome change with open forelegs.
You can’t blame them, though. Everything’s suddenly different.
The environment. The sights and sounds. The neighbors. Even the neighbors’ cat. They didn’t realize until too late that they’d miss the previous one. And then there’s a new baby to boot.
Yes, change can be quite overwhelming for your dog. Of course, you’ll do your best to help them adjust.
But before they do, they might want to spend some moments alone.
Dogs are primarily acclaimed for their olfaction or sense of smell. And what a remarkable sense it is. But almost as impressive is their audition or hearing.
Dr. Susan Hazel, an animal behavior expert, states that dogs can hear sounds from as far as 0.6214 miles or a kilometer away.
It’s the bats and moths fighting for the title of the supreme hearer. But canine auditory perception is still a force to be reckoned with.
Your dog is no longer a wolf, thankfully. They won’t eat grandma. But those ears? Well…
“All the better to hear you with, my dear.”
Sometimes it really isn’t “all the better,” though. Especially since they can’t turn it on or off at will. They take in every sound. Not just the “Good dog!” and “I have treats for you.”
There could be new noises your dog doesn’t like. Perhaps your fur baby isn’t a fan of your hairless baby’s frequent crying.
Or your neighbors are extending their deck. Or there are some repairs being done on the street.
They may not be able to put over half a mile or a kilometer of the distance between themselves and the noise. But your dog will go as far away from it as they can.
This could mean somewhere alone.
And on a note related to noise, I give you…
Further reading: Why is my dog freaking out at night?
It’s also known as brontophobia.
“And what’s that?”
It’s also known as–
“In English, please.”
Okay. Fear of storms. Lightning and thunder in particular. Not so much the downpour. That’s the reason for the names.
Astraphobia comes from the Greek for lightning, astrape. And brontophobia comes from the word for thunder, bronte, in the same language.
But the fear of both is just commonly referred to as astraphobia.
This phobia also afflicts humans, both children, and adults. And I think it’s safe to say that we have a much better understanding of these phenomena. Yet we still get frightened. Well, it’s an irrational fear after all.
But think about how much worse it is for our dogs. They don’t understand what lightning and thunder are. This makes their fear even greater.
So during a storm, dogs want to hide. Much like a human with this phobia hides under the covers.
Your dog may prefer to be in the comfort of your company. Or they may just want to be alone.
#11: Fear of fireworks
New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July.
If there’s ever a time when men aren’t dog’s best friend, that’s when.
Those festivities can rattle the pluckiest pup. If they had our ability to talk (and make excuses), they’d have a lot to say.
Something about noise pollution. Air pollution. Harming the environment. How exemplary quiet dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve are.
And then you stop to randomly wonder…
“Why is my dog terrified of fireworks but not bothered by storms?”
They’re both fears of loud noises, yes. But astraphobia is specifically a fear of “extremely loud but natural noises in the environment.”
There’s nothing natural about fireworks. Your dog would point that out to you too.
A study examined noise sensitivity in 17 dog breeds. The subjects were exposed to:
- Heavy traffic.
- Loud noises (bang/gunshots).
Which caused the highest frequency of fear? Take a guess.
Why, fireworks, of course!
You may think of NYE and the 4th of July as family time. But your dog will want to skip out on the festivities.
Some eventually overcome this fear through acclimation. But for those who don’t, they’d very much prefer to be alone, thank you.
“We can be family again in the morning.”
#12: Fear of the vet
Hey, no giggling as if we don’t dread being on the dental chair. The dentist doesn’t even take our rectal temperature.
So let’s not judge. It’s a very valid fear.
But it doesn’t usually accelerate from 0 – 60 mph (97 km/h) in seconds as your Ferrari does. Or the one in your dreams, at least.
The first couple of trips to the vet are a breeze. A simple vaccination. A relatively painless jab. Your pup doesn’t even notice.
But then they get sick. That’s when the subsequent visits become nothing short of traumatic.
Your poor fluff ball gets prodded here and there. Their eyes are swabbed. Their blood is extracted. They get Marbocyl injections that can feel like a chorus of wildfires. Plus the stings of an entire swarm of bees.
And yes, the thermometer goes in from behind.
It should come as no surprise. When it’s time for the next vet appointment, your pup is MIA. Somewhere in their hiding place, they’re paraphrasing George Washington.
“It is far better to be alone than to be in bad veterinary.”
#13: Fear period
Part of a dog’s developmental stages is the “fear period.” There are 2 of them:
- Fear Period #1: 8–11 Weeks.
- Fear Period #2: 6–14 Months.
During this time, puppies are sensitive to stimuli. They can become fearful of anything, hence the name.
Even objects or situations they were once comfortable with can scare them. And new encounters can easily traumatize them. Yet somehow, “scaredy-cat” became a thing
The first fear period coincides with:
- The age they begin to venture out of the den in the wild and learn from their mom.
- The age in a domestic setting when they leave their first home and are separated from mom and siblings.
This vulnerability can contribute to their fear and trauma.
The second fear period occurs when the puppy is older. For large breeds, they can already be quite massive. But it doesn’t make them less prone to fear.
It might be the remnants of their instincts in the wild.
At this age, puppies are old enough to join the pack on hunts. But they don’t play any significant role. Far from it, actually.
When there’s a threat, they are to run away. Yes, very much like a scaredy-cat supposedly does.
This could explain why domesticated pups go through this fear period. After all, what’s the most common reaction to something frightening? Escape.
So your puppy normally basks in attention. But if they suddenly prefer to be alone, they might be hiding.
There could be something they’ve come to fear. And they’ll avoid it at all costs. Even if it means stepping out of the spotlight.
#14: Flight instinct
Another part of a dog’s developmental stages is the “flight instinct” period.
This happens at 4 to 8 months old. It’s roughly around the time of the second fear period. We mentioned earlier it’s when a puppy is old enough to join the pack on hunts.
But I doubt your pack of pups goes on hunts. Or that you have an entire pack in the first place.
So what you see instead are the manifestations in a domestic setting. Your puppy becomes more independent and curious.
In this case, independence can (and usually does) mean stubbornness. And curious means exploring new things to chew on.
At this time, your pup will frequently venture out alone. Granted, it’s just to different parts of the house and yard. It’s nowhere as dramatic as a young wolf stalking out into a snowy forest.
But it’s alone, nonetheless.
Advanced age brings with it a decline in cognitive function. This is true for both humans and dogs.
In humans, you know it as dementia.
While in your aging fur baby, such a decline is termed canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
Researchers carried out a study on dogs with CCD.
They set out to determine a link to physical disturbances frequently described in them. These included:
- Swaying or falling.
- Smell disturbance.
- Vision impairment.
- Head ptosis (drooping of the head).
The findings indicated a significant association. But that’s not all there is to it.
CCD also results in:
- Changes in activity.
- Sleep-wake cycle disturbance.
- Altered interactions with owners, other pets, and the environment.
This can be seen in dogs 10 years and older. So if your pooch’s age is in that region, they may be suffering from CCD.
It’s naturally a heartbreaking situation. But you need to understand that your dog is in the twilight of their life. All these unpleasant experiences can drive them to seek out solitude.
Give them your undivided attention when they ask for it. Shower them with love. And make the most of every moment.
But when they want to be alone, let them. It could be what they need most. And it’s the best thing you can do for them.
Reading recommendation: 11 reasons why your dog growls at nothing
What does it mean when your dog wants to be alone?
Your dog wants to be alone because they’re trying to escape. Solitude provides them a place of safety and relief from their stressors. And as we’ve seen, these can have a profound impact on them.
So it’s important for your dog to occasionally have their own space. This way, they don’t get overwhelmed by everything around them.
Frequently asked questions:
Do dogs like to be alone sometimes?
Yes, dogs like to be alone sometimes. They’re very social creatures. So that makes this behavior seem odd. But even the most outgoing humans need a break now and then. Dogs, too, need to take time off. Especially if there are external stressors they want to get away from (refer to the 15 reasons in this article).
What do dogs do when they want to be alone?
Dogs will retreat from your company when they want to be alone. If they have a favorite secluded spot, that’s where they’ll go. It’s where they feel most comfortable and safe. They can enjoy some peace and quiet in those moments of privacy.
Why does my old dog want to be alone?
Your old dog is experiencing unpleasant age-related changes. Aside from creaky old bones, their once brilliant brain is declining. They’re just a shadow of themselves. So it’s difficult to cope with everyday life. Frustrations naturally creep in. And they might just prefer to get away from it all.
Why does my dog want to be alone at night?
Your dog might want to be alone at night because they’re feeling ill. This may not seem like a plausible reason at first glance. Especially if they’re fine in the daytime.
But dogs are diurnal creatures which means they’re active during the day. They’re the opposite of nocturnal creatures which are active at night.
It’s not just about the time at which they’re awake or asleep. It also dictates certain chemical processes in the body.
For example, white blood cells (WBCs) are regulated by the primary stress hormone, cortisol. WBCs cause inflammation. It’s the body’s response to infection or illness.
In diurnal animals, cortisol levels are lower at night. This gives the WBCs more freedom. As they fight off infection, they cause even more inflammation. This can intensify symptoms making a sick animal feel worse.
Unknown to you, your dog may be ill. And they feel more discomfort at night. This could be the reason they want to be alone when the day ends.