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Can I Have Only One Dog? Tips to Reduce Your Pet’s Loneliness

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

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A dog and human relationship are one of the greatest bonds. Everyone needs a friend, but does your dog need a canine friend like we need human friends, or will it be harmful to have only one dog? There is no one size fits all answer. It all depends on the dog’s personality and the environment in which it lives. If you are a dedicated owner, your dog may be content with your companionship, but if you are away a lot, your dog will be happier with the company of another dog.

For some dogs, it will be okay to be the only one, but in some instances, certain factors may be harmful to being an only dog. As a pet parent, it’s up to you to understand your dog’s needs and be sure to meet them.

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Is It Ok to Have Only One Dog?

Dogs are social animals, and they enjoy interactions with humans or dogs that are familiar. Historically, dogs lived in packs, which is still seen today in wild dogs and wolf packs.  This may indicate that dogs have a natural and inbuilt need for contact with other dogs. However, dogs have been highly domesticated for so many years now and have learned to form strong bonds with humans and other dogs.

Your lifestyle and living conditions as a pet owner will also be a factor in whether it is okay only to have one dog. If you share a property where other dogs run free, you can have one dog without being concerned about whether it needs a friend. Also, when you spend a lot of time training, exercising, and providing it with enough attention, your dog will most likely be content and happy with just your attention.

With that all being said, every dog is unique and has its own preferences, personality, and temperament. While some dogs prefer to live alone with their owners, others prefer to share the home with another canine companion.

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Image Credit: Jolanda Aalbers, Shutterstock

Is it Harmful to Only Have Only One Dog?

If your dog is sociable and prefers the company of other dogs but is an only dog, it may get lonely. If your dog enjoys only the company of its owner, then being an only dog won’t cause any harm.

Having said that, if a dog is content with its human companion, being an only dog may become harmful if your dog is always alone. It can develop separation anxiety, which is a stress response to their owner suddenly being away1. Separation anxiety can cause a variety of responses, including destructive behavior, drooling, barking, and urinating in the house.

Your dog may also end up depressed, which may lead to harmful behavior such as aggression, a decrease in appetite, and a general change in personality2. Another consideration to remember is that it is especially important for an only dog to be properly socialized and trained; otherwise, new environments or circumstances will be hard to adjust to, affecting the dog’s confidence. When a dog is not exposed to new experiences, it is more likely to be fearful of anything unfamiliar, which can lead to anxiety. This also makes things more difficult later on if you decide to adopt a second puppy.

Does My Dog Need a Dog Friend?

While getting you a new canine friend for your pup may sound like a great idea, it can sometimes lead to aggression and injury if it isn’t the right fit. Sadly, not all dogs get along with other dogs, and they can be fussy about who they befriend.

Here is how you can tell if your dog may need a canine companion:

  • If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, it may enjoy having a friend around. If your dog gets aggressive in the presence of another dog, you may want to reconsider a second dog.
  • If your dog seems depressed after a playdate, that may indicate that it is missing the other dog, so a permanent friend may be beneficial.
  • If your dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety when you are away, it may benefit from a friend.
  • If your dog is clingy and follows you around, it may feel lonely.
  • If your dog shows signs of feeling bored, it may be time for a companion.
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Image Credit: Fotyma, Shutterstock

How You Can Reduce Loneliness in Your Dog

Even an independent dog that enjoys its solitude at times may still feel lonely. There will also be times when you may get busy or need to work late and may have to leave your dog alone. There is no need to worry, as there are things you can do to help your dog feel safe.

  • You can leave behind an item of clothing or a blanket that has your smell to provide your dog with some comfort.
  • Puzzle toys and feeders can distract them while keeping them entertained.
  • You can leave the TV or radio on so that there are some familiar and comforting sounds.
  • Increase your dog’s daily exercise to help it relax when it’s
  • Set up a play date while you are gone if you have a friend with a dog that gets along with yours.
  • Get a friend or family member to check in while you are gone if you have to go for an extended
  • If you are leaving on vacation, consider a pet sitter to keep your dog company.
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Image Credit: Patryk Kosmider, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Your dog’s preference for other canine friends depends entirely on the dog’s personality and environment. If it has an owner that meets its physical, mental, and emotional needs, it will most likely be content being an only dog. However, an owner who is away most of the day may need another dog to keep their pets entertained and avoid separation anxiety. Having only one dog is possible, but it can be harmful if it gets neglected and becomes depressed. While some dogs prefer to share their home with another canine companion, others prefer to live alone with their owners.


Featured Image Credit: Kristesoro, Shutterstock

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