Life happens. Even the most devoted pet parent can get bogged down with stressing out about work and spending way too much time doomscrolling—and when the stresses of life take over, it can come at the expense of quality time with your dog. So if your dog’s behavior has changed, it’s natural to wonder, “Is my dog getting enough attention?” How much attention do dogs need, anyway?
Dogs who crave attention aren’t just clingy. They need mental and physical enrichment to live their best lives—and without it, they can develop stressful conditions like separation anxiety. So read on to find out how much attention dogs need, how to tell if they’re under-stimulated, and how to show them lots of extra love (even when you have a million other things you need to do).
In This Guide
How Much Attention Does My Dog Need?
Dogs, like people, are social animals. That means that “it’s not the amount of time, it’s the quality of time that matters,” says Sharon Callan, CDT, ABCDT, dog trainer and owner of Paws Be Good 4 U and director of Shelter Dogs for Veterans.
On average, Callan estimates, our dogs need about three to four hours of our attention each day. But before you gasp and think that’s impossible, remember that attention means any interaction you have with your dog. That can mean active pursuits like a game of fetch, going for a walk and obedience training, but also lower-energy tasks like feeding and even just cuddling together on the couch. If you live with other human family members, your dog is likely getting an amount of attention from each of them, which probably adds up to at least three to four hours daily.
When it comes to attention, your dog’s breed matters, too. While every pup is unique, certain dog breeds tend to need a little extra love on the daily, including:
A few signs your dog needs attention? Watch out for this attention-seeking behavior:
- Bringing you a toy
- Staring at you
- Sitting directly in front of you
6 Signs Your Dog Needs More Attention
1They Sleep All the Time
2They Show Signs of Depression
Yes, even dogs can get the blues, especially when they’re not getting enough stimulation. Dog depression symptoms include:
- A disinterest in food or play
- Destructive behavior
- No longer greeting you at the door
Get outside, go somewhere, and spend some device-free quality time with your dog to brighten your dog’s spirits.
3They Start Misbehaving
When pet parents don’t provide a safe and healthy outlet for their dogs’ energy, their pups will often choose their own—and it’s almost never one we want. Common examples of misbehaviors in dogs who are feeling neglected include:
If your dog suddenly shows signs of bad behavior, they likely need some attention.
4They Put On Extra Weight
Just like us humans, a lack of exercise can lead your dog to put on extra weight—and overweight dogs are at higher risk for a wide variety of health issues and even a shortened lifespan. So yes, feeding technically counts as a way of giving attention to your dog—but the way to your pup’s heart is definitely not through their stomach. Giving your dog extra dog treats should never be a substitute for spending quality time together.
5Their Nails Are Extra-Long
6They Won't Eat
How Can I Give My Dog More Attention?
Your dog needs to keep their mind active—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need constant attention from you. Callan offered these tips for busy pet parents looking for ways to add attention to their dog's day:
- Call in reinforcements: Hire a pet sitter, dog trainer or doggy daycare center to keep them busy during the day.
- Provide new dog toys, especially interactive dog toys designed to provide mental enrichment.
- Meet up with friends or work remotely at a dog park where your dog can play with other pups.
- Schedule short training sessions—15 minutes or less—during your day.
Keep these in mind the next time you’re spending time with your pup. Sometimes they’ll need an activity, like a stuffed Kong or a snuffle mat filled with treats, and other times they just want to cuddle. Make sure they’re getting enough exercise, stimulation, and socialization, and you’re on the path to being an even more beloved pet owner.
Looking for easy activities to do with your pup? Check out these 15-minute games to play with dogs.
Carol Bryant contributed to this article.
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