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“I Remind Myself They Need A Break From Me, Too”: Dog Owners Are Sharing How They Alleviate "Dog Parent Guilt" We All Feel Whenever We Have To Leave Our Pups At Home

Whenever I leave the house to go out with friends, I spend the first hour chatting, laughing, and genuinely enjoying the moment — until I randomly start to hear "In the Arms of the Angel" play in my head and I imagine my dog at home all alone, looking depressed and forgotten like the dogs in those commercials. Before I know it, I'm overcome with guilt and driving back home.

Even as I write this, my dog is curled up next to me. I'm lucky enough to work from home and have the blessing of hanging out with him all day, but I can't take him with me everywhere I go when I do have to leave. I always make sure he isn't hungry or needs to go outside before I leave, but I still feel that dog owner guilt emotionally even though logically I know his needs are met.

author's dog with caption, "my dog (cannoli)" "I'm supposed to leave THIS face???"
Kelsie Hammond

I know I'm not the only one who goes through this. While I was recently scrolling through the r/dogs subreddit, I found a thread where u/whitemamba24xx asked, "How do you leave your dog and not feel massive guilt?"

Some dog owners gave the advice to solve their lonely dog problem by adding another dog into the mix. It's pretty solid advice because your dog is less likely to be ~lonely~ if they're not ~alone~:

"I got my dog a dog."

u/cuter_than_thee

"I have two dogs, and they keep each other company."

u/FreetheVs

"Another dog! It was a bit sad watching our girl sleep or wander around while we were at work and perk up anytime anything happened outside. We let her pick out a brother, and they have such an amazing friendship. When we’re not home, they play and do zoomies all over the place, then they flop down and either nap snuggled up together or in their own space. They’re like Bonnie and Clyde, and it’s so fun to watch…when they’re not getting into trouble."

u/blklab16

Getting another dog could be a helpful idea in the long term if you're able to patiently put in all the time needed to get them acclimated to their new space before you start leaving them at home. However, another dog might not be realistic for everyone considering it's a very expensive and time consuming choice to make, not just something you can do willy nilly.

Two dogs, one large and black, one small and white with brown spots, sitting amongst houseplants
Westend61 / Getty Images/Westend61

A more immediate option would be to have access to your dog even while you're away by setting up cameras:

"I put a camera in the house to confirm my dog was pining away for me. They, in fact, were not. Slept the whole damn time."

u/graciewindkloppel

"I got a pet cam for my boy, and he mostly just naps on the couch or watches birds through the window. It made me feel a lot better about leaving him. He's just chillin'."

u/lawfox32

It's reassuring to see that your dog isn't pacing around the house and howling a sad song to themselves in your absence. If they do seem stressed, then you'll have more of a concrete reason to head home than just your own guilt. I've anxiously rushed home many, many times only to find my dog sleeping peacefully on the couch.

Dog lying on its side next to a security camera on a woven rug indoors
Artur Debat / Getty Images

Some dog owners went with the tough love route and shared some harsh truths for those of us who have it bad...and I think I needed to hear this:

"You are not doing him any favors by always being there. He needs to be conditioned to your absence. You do not want to create separation anxiety in your dog. He is going to be fine without you there. He will just sleep and be very happy to see you when you come home."

u/kygrandma

"You've just got to get over it. It's not the end of the world. Your dog will be fine. It's important that you are able to live your life as well. Enjoy yourself. It's important dogs are used to being home alone in case something comes up."

u/tmntmikey80

They have a point! If you're like me and know there's no logical reason to be guilty about leaving your dog, then it might be worth considering that you might be missing your dog more than they miss you:

"I hate leaving my dog! He seems fine when I do, but truthfully, I think it's me that has the separation anxiety because I prefer to be with him than other people!"

u/Mkid73

"For me, I felt less guilty when we left for five minutes and got the same reaction as if we had been gone for eight hours."

u/Sugar_tts

"I console myself with the fact that he lives a better life than most dogs. I mean, I still feel guilty, but that's what helps most. "

u/spykid

"I just think of all the love and kisses I'll get when I get back!"

u/Additional_Annual902

A smiling person standing, interacting with a happy dog by a house entrance
Chalabala / Getty Images

At the end of the day, comfortably leaving your dog at home without guilt is a skill that requires time and patience to learn. It starts with addressing our own mindsets, and training ourselves just like our dogs:

"It’s like exposure therapy in my experience. Try baby steps where you’ll get confirmation that he’s okay. It’s good to start small and build up more confidence slowly over time. It’s okay that we love our pups so hard!"

u/mazzystardust216

As much as I loved hearing what other dog owners had to say, I was curious to know what advice experts have for easing guilt of leaving your dog home alone. The Humane Society shared some actionable tips to keep in mind that could help you feel less guilty and more confident:

• Hire a dog walker that can stop by to give your pup some exercise while you're away.

• Mentally stimulate your dog with toys like treat puzzles or lick pads.

• Try leaving on the TV or radio so they don't feel as alone.

• Instead of leaving your dog at home, try taking them to a doggy day care — even once a week could be beneficial.

Do you struggle with dog owner guilt whenever you leave the house and have some tips that weren't mentioned? Please let me know in the comments!