Why Does My Dog Ignore Me After Vacation?

why does my dog ignore me after vacation

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Being separated from an owner even for a weekend trip can affect different dogs in their own different ways, let alone a week or a month-long vacation.

Some will feel sad for a while but still have a good time with their sitter, while others might become scared that their owner is gone for good.

That’s why most of us will expect an overly enthusiastic dog waiting for us, even clingy to some extent but what if they’re distant instead?

If this is the case then it’s only natural to ask yourself, why does my dog ignore me after vacation?

Dogs can experience sadness, separation anxiety, and even depression when left with a sitter or at a kennel away from their owners. That’s why some dogs may act distant after you return from vacation until they readjust to you and their old routine.

If you want to know why your dog’s reception was so cold, and how you can rekindle that old spark then keep on reading!

Why Is My Dog Acting Distant After Vacation?

Whenever I have to travel, and I can’t take my little pooch with me I feel immense guilt. This guilt can increase exponentially when my dog doesn’t act happy and excited when I return.

I’m sure we all expect at least some sort of excitement so let’s take a look at the possible reasons our dog is suddenly acting weird upon our return?

Reason 1: Your Dog Is Sulking

Sulking and being annoyed with you leaving them is usually the most common reason why your dog isn’t jumping up and down the moment they see you walk through the door.

Acting all distant and brooding could be their way of “punishing” you for abandoning them at the kennels or with a sitter, especially if that was a first-time experience.

You might think I’m trying to anthropomorphize dogs and project human emotions on them, but research conducted in 2019 showed that dogs possess the cognitive and emotional capacity to feel negative emotions after someone has done something to hurt them.

As you can imagine giving you the silent treatment is your dog’s way of expressing the negative emotions they feel about you leaving them.

Dogs can’t know if their owners will return when they are left, and that can be even more intense for dogs that were previously abandoned.

So, being away from their owner for more than a few days can cause lots of stress that can manifest itself in various ways. Not only will your dog ignore you, but they might avoid eye contact, they might act distracted with things in their environment or they’ll simply go and lay in their crate.

Each dog has their own way of dealing with negative emotions, but once they readjust to your presence and their new routine their old happy-go-lucky self should reemerge.

Reason 2: They Are Tired

You might also notice that your dog isn’t simply ignoring you after you’re back from vacation, but that they’re also lethargic and sleepy.

Usually, stress can make a dog seem tired and they will yawn excessively. According to AKC, “a stressful yawn is more prolonged and intense than a sleepy yawn. Dogs may also drool and lick excessively when nervous.”

But it’s also not unusual for a dog to be sleepy and tired after boarding or staying with a sitter. A good kennel or a responsible sitter will make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise.

The stress, as well as the fun, and physical exhaustion your dog will experience in these places means that you’re picking up a dog that’s completely spent and they might need a day or two to recover.

Then again if you feel that your dog is acting more tired than usual, and there are other suspicious signs like loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea then you should take them for a check-up.

Reason 3: Separation Anxiety

Some dogs might need a moment to get used to your presence after you’ve been gone on vacation, but for dogs who are nervous and get easily stressed your prolonged absence could trigger their separation anxiety.

Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, explains that sudden changes in your dog’s schedule can aggravate their separation anxiety. And if your dog has already been under stress from other major events like moving house or losing a family member then they may react badly when left alone.

Usually, dogs with separation anxiety will act clingier and will follow their owners around but this isn’t necessarily always the case and your doggy could choose to ignore you instead.

Aside from being distant when left alone, your dog might express destructive behaviors like howling, barking, digging the yard, and destructive chewing among others.

After being away from you for a weekend, or longer your dog might need some time to bond with you again, especially if you’ve only recently adopted them.

By getting back into your old routine and investing more time into training your pooch, going out for walks, and simply having a great time cuddling, you should notice your dog warming up to you again.

Reason 4: You’re Encouraging This Behavior

Coming back home after a long vacation, you might be expecting your dog to jump up and down in cinematic excitement.

Just like in this video where the owner is reunited with his canine companion.

But if the reality you were faced was quite different, then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing,

If you’ve been training your dog to be comfortable and secure when they’re away from you for a prolonged period of time then chances are they’ll greet you in a calm and to an extent indifferent manner.

When we don’t want our dogs to experience separation anxiety, we reward them and subsequentially teach them to form positive associations with being away from us. Especially if they have a good relationship with their sitter.

I know you want your dog to show that pure excitement when you haven’t seen them for a long time because you feel that way, but this isn’t necessarily a healthy feeling for dogs.

Dogs that jump up and down every time you come back home and greet them or even when you’re trying to leave, are usually encouraged to act this way, it also means that they experience stress.

With proper training you can help your dog be independent, it might seem like they ignore you from time to time, but it also means that they also have their own agency to come to you when they feel like it, without stress being the main force that drives them.

It’s also possible that you’ve conditioned your dog to believe that if they ignore you then they’ll get what they want from you. If by being distant your dog makes you notice them even more, then the more you do run after them and beg for their love, the more they’ll exert that power they have over you.

Reason 5: Your Dog Didn’t Like The Sitter

It’s not unusual to have a dog sulking and being annoyed with you after being left alone with a sitter. Hiding and withdrawing from you could also be a sign of separation anxiety, but there’s a chance that the time they spent with the pet sitter wasn’t as exciting as your vacation.

Usually, professional pet sitters work on reinforcing good behaviors in your dog while you are away and they keep communication open so they can inform you if there’s an issue with your dog.

They also make sure to take your dog for walks, and they focus on training. Exercise and games are all implemented so by the end of your day your doggy is content, and sleepy.

If it was your dog’s first time staying with a sitter, then the unfamiliar person and change in their routine can stress them out enough to turn the whole experience into a negative one.

Perhaps the sitter you’ve chosen wasn’t the right fit and the routine they created for your dog simply didn’t match your dog’s shy or energetic personality.

Then again not all of us have the money to hire a professional sitter and we have to rely on dog-friendly family members or friends.

These people, despite their good intentions, can be oblivious to what a dog or your dog specifically needs. And I don’t only mean exercise-wise but even correctly reading their body language and implementing proper training techniques might be difficult for them.

Such chaotic environments can have a negative impact on your dog’s mental state. When you return, your dog will have to readjust to your presence, but also to your training, their old routine and they’ll have to work through the stress they experienced that they might express by ignoring you.

Reason 6: Your Dog Didn’t Like The Kennel

Similarly, to sitters, kennels can also aggravate your dog’s separation anxiety. Even chill dogs can experience stress once they are away from their owners and their homes.

Dogs that have been living in shelters before they were adopted can have a negative reaction to a kennel and might think that they are once again abandoned.

That’s why when you bring back your pooch home they might seem distant and even go into hiding.

This doesn’t mean the kennel you chose was bad, or that kennels are not a good option, but you need to look at your dog’s personality before boarding your dog, and what kind of service the kennel offers.

AKC has a great checklist for those of you who are thinking of boarding your dog, and one of their best suggestions is testing out the kennel overnight before you leave for your vacation.

This helps you observe your dog when you come to pick them up. Perhaps they’ll be excited to see you, or they’ll seem lethargic even desperate to leave.

Reason 7: They Are Depressed

If your dog is still ignoring you after you’ve been back from your vacation for n extended period of time, then it could be a sign of depression and that they no longer enjoy the things that used to bring them joy.

In some cases, your dog might lose their appetite and avoid activities like playing or going out for a walk. Their sleeping pattern might also change and they might even refuse to sleep in the bed next to you.

 If your doggy was uncertain or even believed that you weren’t coming back for them, then their indifference you suddenly feel could have been triggered by your dog’s grieving.

This is something that can affect dogs with previous abandonment issues or newly adopted dogs that have never been left alone before.

Dogs also feel happiest when they have at least some type of routine that dictates their day-to-day life, and when it is suddenly disrupted this can cause sadness, which can progress into depression.

Negative experiences at the kennel or with a sitter can also cause high levels of stress, especially if they’ve experienced aggression from other dogs when boarding or even if your dog is fearful of interacting with other dogs and they don’t have you to use as a safety barrier.

Reason 8: Your Dog Is Sick

Finally, a dog that’s is suddenly less energetic and avoids the things that used to make them happy, could also be affected by a disease and condition.

Dr. Jerry Klein states that “if your dog is more tired and sluggish than usual, it could be a sign that something is not right. Perhaps your dog is disinterested in playing or going for a walk and less responsive to commands.”

According to Krista Williams, DVM, common systemic diseases that can cause listlessness include “heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as hypothyroidism, respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, infectious disease, and cancer.”

It’s also important to mention that depression can also be a sign of a medical issue. Dr. Sinn states that “if a dog is slowing down or is reluctant to engage, especially in the absence of some life-changing event, then I would bet huge amounts of money that it is medical or pain-related.”

That’s why if you notice your doggy ignoring you if it seems that they’re not like themselves then take them to the vet. Perhaps they’re in physical pain, or they have an upset tummy caused by stress.

But even if it’s a behavioral and not a medical issue your vet can still advise you on how to deal with this situation and redirect you to a trusted dog behaviorist.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Ignoring Me After Vacation?

It’s not unusual for dogs to act a bit more reserved when they are reunited with their owners. As we’ve already explored there are plenty of innocent reasons, they could be giving you some attitude, even as something simple as tiredness.

This change in your dynamic could last for a couple of days until your doggy and even you are back to doing the things you used to do together.

This of course doesn’t mean that there can’t be a more serious issue causing this behavior and having a dog that is suddenly ignoring you should be enough to raise your concerns and getting in contact with your dog’s vet is completely reasonable.

What To Do When My Dog Ignores Me After Vacation?

If you feel like your relationship with your sweet pooch has turned sour after your vacation, then don’t worry because there are plenty of things you can do!

Step 1: Give Them Some Time

I think it’s only reasonable to expect that the first few days and even the first week back with your dog can feel a bit awkward and strange, and that’s something you need to prepare yourself for.

The most important advice here is to be patient as your dog becomes once more re-acclimated to their environment, to your presence, and your training.

To an extent, you’ll probably have to reestablish some boundaries with your little pooch and get back into your own daily routine. Coming back from vacation you might find that your training skills have become somewhat rusty, depending on how long you’ve been away.

If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, then you might experience a clingy or distant attitude every time you come back from work. Until your pup realizes that you’re not leaving them again.

Step 2: Work On Your Bond

While patience is a virtue, this doesn’t mean you should just sit and wait until your dog becomes friendly and open again.

It’s crucial that as you ease into your old regime, you also work on building your mutual bond again.

Whether your dog is newly adopted, or you’ve been companions for years, being left alone can be a grieving moment for your canine friend.

Your dog doesn’t know that you were gone on a business trip, or that you were on vacation, or even in the hospital. All they know is that you were gone and that they were suddenly left in an unknown environment with new carers.

Sure, some dogs will simply ignore the fact that you were gone and be happy to see you, but for others, this is something that can affect your connection.

So, try to treat your pooch like you’ve just adopted them. Get back to basics with training, and perhaps try to invest more quality time with your dog, by taking them on a small road trip to somewhere outdoorsy.

Cuddles, treats, pets, and toys can help reinforce that positive association they have with you, but you should also try not to push your dog. If they don’t want to cuddle give them some space and work on your bond through consistent training and simply by being there for them.

Step 3: Re-establish Their Routine

As I’ve already pointed out getting back into your regular routine will help ease your dog’s anxiety.

Simple things like being consistent with their feeding schedule and the time you usually take them out on a walk can help them remember that they’re once again in a safe and familiar environment.

Slowly you’ll notice that your dog listens to you more and that they seek your companionship.

They’ll probably start nudging you with their nose to get you out in the yard for some playtime.

Step 4: Invest More Time Into Training

If you’ve been gone for a while and upon your return, you’ve realized that your dog had a difficult time coping with your absence then getting back to training can be very beneficial for the both of you.

No dog owner is perfect, sometimes we get too comfortable, or we stop noticing problematic behaviors.

For example, maybe you didn’t really mind when your dog would act more clingy than usual. Or you’ve been reinforcing their needy character traits.

As a result, leaving them alone for a prolonged time, triggered their separation anxiety, or even depression.

If this is the case then it would be a good idea to look for outside help. Professional dog trainers and dog classes can help you learn more about certain techniques like counterconditioning.

According to Debra Horwitz, DVM, “counter-conditioning means changing the pet’s emotional response, feelings or attitude toward a stimulus.” Basically, you try to make a situation that your dog views negatively into a positive one.

If your dog hates staying alone, then using treats and leaving them with durable chew toys, feeding puzzles can entertain them for longer amounts of time. My dog loves feeding mats and it’s something that can occupy his mind for hours as he tries to get all the kibbles out of the small pockets and crevices.

These mats are great as stress reliefs as they trigger the natural foraging instinct in dogs and you can check the and see if it’s something your own dog would also enjoy. 

In fact, they might start looking forward to the new and exciting things they can get up to while you’re away.

Crate training can also help your dog have a safe space where they can go when they feel sad or stressed.

I’m sure most dog parents are on top of their dog’s training, but if they still don’t seem to listen to you then perhaps you need to take a step back and revisit all the basic commands you have been teaching them.

I don’t necessarily mean commands like rolling over or performing tricks. It’s more about getting your dog to be responsive when you call them, that they listen to simple directions like, “no” and “yes”, “stay” and “come” among others.

You can also create a “safety cue” that you use every time you leave to let your dog know that you’ll be back. Dogs are smart creatures and are capable of understanding multiple words so take advantage of that but remember to keep it simple and consistent.

There are so many ways you can help your dog be more independent, and if you truly invest your time and effort into training then next time you come back from vacation your pooch will “ignore” you for all the right reasons.

Step 5: Take Them To A Vet

Whether your dog was staying with a friend, or at a kennel, the stress of being away from you can have an emotional toll on them.

This level of stress can affect their pooping, they can seem hungrier and thirstier or lose their appetite instead.

These symptoms could go away once their old routine is reestablished. But it’s also possible that these symptoms and the fact that they’re acting distant are caused by a medical condition.

That’s why you should keep an eye on your dog’s behavior. Monitor their feeding patterns, how they behave during their walks and their reactions to playing and training.

If you notice that they keep ignoring you no matter how much you try to establish their old routine, then close an appointment with the vet to make sure this isn’t a medical issue.

I’d also suggest you get in contact with your dog’s sitter or kennel and ask them if there were any incidents with other dogs, or if they gave your dog a certain treat or food that didn’t sit well with them.

Perhaps they caught a bug, they ate something they shouldn’t have. They could also be in physical pain so whenever you call them they’re don’t have the energy and the strength to come to you or react in any way.

Step 6: Prepare Them Before You Leave For Vacation

As much as we don’t want to leave our dogs behind when we’re traveling, sometimes this is our only option.

That’s why I think preparing your dog before the inevitable short or long parting happens is key to having a smooth and hopefully uneventful reunion.

If you’re asking for a friend to look out for your dog try to find someone who knows how to be around dogs, and they have some training experience.

For those of you who can afford a sitter, it’s a good idea to find someone who is experienced and test out their compatibility with your dog.

Let them stay with your dog for a few hours, then for a whole day and even night. Then observe your dog after each visit.

Make sure you let them know which treats your dog loves, any medical conditions, or allergies. Tell them more about your dog’s character, whether they’re shy or whether they have certain fears and triggers because of past trauma.

The same goes for kennels or daycare centers. It’s important to check the quality of their service, how clean and professional the place is, and how well trained their staff is.

Why My Dog Won’t Eat When I’m Away On Vacation?

Dogs can lose their appetite when they’re stressed and since being away from their owner is a very stressful experience it’s not uncommon for dogs to go without food during their owner’s absence.

Feeding your dog with extra tasty food while you’re away can help motivate them, but the best way to deal with this issue is desensitizing your dog to your absence through training before you’re gone.

Your vet or a dog behaviorist can advise you and help you deal with your dog’s separation anxiety that’s causing them not to eat and even prescribe certain medication that can help them regain their appetite.

Then again if your dog isn’t eating after you’ve picked them up from the kennel or the sitter, then it’s best to take them to the vet. They could be sick, or perhaps they’ve picked up a bug from the dogs at the kennels or at the park your sitter took him.

Part of being a responsible dog parent is noticing changes in your dog’s feeding habits as well as their behavior, after all that’s what will keep them healthy and of course happy.

Closing Thoughts

When you’re reunited with your dog after a weeklong vacation, it can be heartbreaking to see them ignore you or even run away from you.

But at the same time, it kind of makes sense. I mean can you imagine how you’d feel if your best friend got up and just left for a week? No phone call, no text no nothing!

I bet you’d feel angry and you’d definitely play it hard to get. So, why would your dog act any differently?

Thankfully dogs are generous souls, that can forgive and forget our mishaps!

Has your dog ever acted cold and distant after a vacation and how did you manage to win them over?