How Much Attention Do Dogs Need? A Guide for Owners

Key takeaways

Being a responsible pet parent means always making sure your dog is as happy as possible. One of the most important ways to do this is to give your dog the attention they need.

Many people underestimate how much time we need to spend with our furry friends, and this can lead to problems.

We're exploring how much attention dogs need, why they need it, and ways to dedicate time to your furry friend.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. How much attention do dogs need?
  3. Why do dogs need attention?
  4. Ways to spend time with your dog
  5. FAQs
  6. Final thoughts

How much attention do dogs need?

Most dogs need a lot of attention. But every individual is different and can largely be determined by their breed. Some breeds can be comfortable with a few hours of alone time, whereas others can become incredibly distressed after just an hour or two spent alone.
To understand what your dog needs, pay attention to their behavior. Next time you leave them alone, look out for:

Changes in their appetite: Refusing to eat once you are home may indicate some stress. Similarly, overeating may show that their fight-or-flight instinct has kicked in.

Acting withdrawn: If they aren't their usual selves after being left alone, it's clear they haven't enjoyed that time. Acting withdrawn, hiding, sleeping more, or moving more slowly can all be signs of anxiety.

Being clingy: Anxiety can also cause the opposite of acting withdrawn. Your dog may not leave your side and be unusually needy, showing that they may be experiencing separation anxiety. This is their way of persuading you not to leave again.

Excessive barking or whining: Unfortunately, our furry friends can't tell us how they feel. But barking and whining is how they can vocalize their emotions. If they are talking more than usual, they're probably trying to tell you not to leave again!

A dog exploring a dog park

Why do dogs need attention?

Being a caring and loving pet parent means treating your dog like a family member. And we wouldn't ignore or neglect a member of our family, would we? Not giving our dogs enough attention can result in behavioral problems and can lead to them having a poorer quality of life.

Mental stimulation

Dogs are very intelligent animals that require lots of mental stimulation to remain happy and healthy. Without this, they may become bored, anxious, or depressed. This can lead to behavior and health problems.
Not providing your dog with mental stimulation is a form of neglect. Sometimes, this can even trigger your dog's fight-or-flight instinct. This makes it more likely for them to run away or hide until they feel safe.
Your dog may not be getting enough mental stimulation in the following situations:

They are left alone for too long

They are ignored

They aren't interacted with regularly

They aren't played with

You don't let them sniff on walks

You don't socialize them with other dogs

Being a caring and loving pet parent means treating your dog like a family member. And we wouldn't ignore or neglect a member of our family, would we?

A dog left alone on a bed

Prevent separation anxiety

Dogs are pack animals. This means they are innately social animals who take comfort from being surrounded by other pets or people.
Without this, they can become anxious and fearful. If you leave them alone for long periods of time, they may start exhibiting attention-seeking behavior, like:


Ruining furniture

Chewing objects

Overeating or undereating

They may also whine or bark when you prepare to leave the house. These are all signs of undue stress that can trigger your dog's fight-or-flight instinct and cause health problems like urinary tract infections.
A small dog sat on a sofa

To maintain their physical health

Quality time outside with your dog is essential for maintaining your dog's physical health. Long walks and adventures not only keep their muscles and bones healthy, but they also provide great mental stimulation.
It's important that your dog keeps physically fit in order to live a long and happy life. Without adequate exercise, they can develop injuries and issues with their joints, which will cause pain and discomfort.

Long walks and adventures not only keep their muscles and bones healthy, but they also provide great mental stimulation.

Ways to spend time with your dog

So, to prevent these behavioral issues or to stop them, you need to give your dog more attention. We owners can sometimes get a little complacent with our routines, so check out the following ways you can spend time with your pup.


Interactive play is a great way to spend time with your dog. It not only mentally and physically stimulates them but also helps your dog bond with you. Having fun is an important part of being a caring pet parent, so try the following games:

Hide and seek: Certain dog breeds love a game of hide and seek, like Yorkshire terriers. You can either hide yourself and wait for them to find you around the house, or you can hide treats all over the house and see if they can find each one. This is a great way to keep your dog engaged, and the treats will motivate them to finish the game!

Practicing tricks: Dogs have an innate desire to please, which means showing off their new tricks is a fun way for them to pass the time. This is also a great way to stimulate their brains and keep them learning. Practice old tricks and try to teach them a new one. They'll love you for it!

Tug of war: This game is a familiar favorite for many dogs, but they never seem to get bored of it! Using a rope toy, get your dog to bite the end and then try to get it off them. Their prey drive will kick in, and you'll be surprised at how strong they are! Remember not to pull too hard, as this may hurt their jaw and damage their teeth.

Interactive toys: A diverse range of toys can help your pup develop important skills. Puzzle feeders are a fantastic way to entertain your dog with the motivation of a treat at the end while improving their problem-solving skills.

A child playing with a puppy
Top Tip: Try to integrate at least half an hour to an hour of interactive playtime with your dog every day. If you're too busy, then get a dog sitter who can give your dog their undivided attention.


Your furry friend needs plenty of exercise, and luckily, so do us humans. Exercising together is the perfect way to bond and reduce stress.
The obvious choice is walking. But this doesn't have to be the same boring route around your neighborhood every time. Use the following ideas:

Hikes: Why not make a day of it? Travel to a hiking spot, pack a good lunch and plenty of water, and start exploring nature! This will keep you engaged and interested, and it offers a new environment with new smells and animals for your dog to explore.

Dog parks: If you want to kill two birds with one stone, then dog parks can do just that. They're a safe and secure place for your dog to run wild and offer an opportunity for them to socialize and make friends with other dogs.

Runs: If you own a large dog breed that has plenty of energy and needs lots of exercise, like a husky or German shepherd, then taking them along with you on a run can be a great way to tire them out. They'll relish the chance to run. After all, that's what they were born to do!

A dog chasing a butterfly
Expert Idea: Pet owners, get creative! Your fur baby will probably get just as bored as you with their familiar routes, so change it up and start exploring.


While your canine companion will enjoy these kinds of enrichment activities, they'll also love simply sitting with you, cuddling with you, and spending quality time with you.
Remember, even if you take them on an incredible two-hour hike, it doesn't mean you can ignore them for the rest of the day! This can lead to feelings of neglect and even destructive behaviors.
Instead, you need to treat them like they are just one of the family members. A great way to do this is to set up a nice dog bed in the corner of your living room. This way, they can be part of the daily goings-on in the house and know that they are included!
A dog owner cuddling their dog


Does my dog need my attention all the time?

No, your dog does not need your attention all of the time. It's important to play with them, cuddle them, and take them on walks, but they will also be content spending time on their own.

How do I know if I'm giving my dog enough attention?

You will know if you're giving your dog enough attention by observing their behavior. If they are acting withdrawn, hiding, or being too clingy, then they may not be getting the attention they need.

How many hours of attention does my dog need?

Every dog is different, but most dogs will be content with a few hours of attention every day, including walks and cuddles on the sofa.

Do I need to constantly entertain my dog?

No, you do not need to constantly entertain your dog. If your dog asks for your attention all the time, it may indicate that they are anxious or not too happy.

Am I spending too much time with my dog?

It's unlikely you're spending too much time with your dog. Your furry friend will cherish every moment with you, and plenty of owners spend most of their days with their dogs.

Is one walk a day enough for dogs?

For small dogs, one walk a day may be enough. However, this depends on the breed and the length of the walk.

Is it okay not to walk your dog every day?

Skipping a day's walk every now and then isn't the worst thing in the world. However, you should not make a habit out of it. Dogs need both mental and physical stimulation, and walks tick both of these boxes.

Final thoughts

If you're a new owner trying to figure out how much attention dogs need, make sure you observe their behavior. While we can set out basic rules and advice, every dog is different. Don't worry, you'll find the right balance soon!
Remember, dogs love attention. So, if you can't give your dog the quality time and attention they need, invest in a pet sitter. It will improve the quality of your dog's life and make yours more stress free!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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