Your dog probably knows you better than anyone else does. They have seen things they do not judge you for and can never repeat. Thankfully your secrets are safe. Dogs sense what you are feeling and are there for you no matter what! You know one another's moods. If you notice a negative change in your dogs behaviour and general outlook they may be suffering from depression.
According to Prof. Mike Mendl, head of the animal welfare and behaviour research group at Bristol's school of veterinary science dogs feeling depressed is not so different from humans and their disposition. He says " "What our study has shown is that a 'glass-half-full' dog is less likely to be anxious when left alone than one with a more 'pessimistic' nature,". Depression is aloof in its nature for all animals, there is no blood test that can give us a positive or determine our level of depression, we feel it and can express it where as our canine companions cannot.
Process of elimination
Is it physical? When your dogs behaviour changes, it may be due to an illness. Are they sleeping more, listless, eating less or becoming obsessed with food? Have they lost interest in activities that would usually excite them, like going for a walk. Excessive paw licking or chewing is a sign of dogs soothing themselves. Dogs that hide and want to be left alone, do not feel well, something is bothering them. The first port of call is a vet visit to eliminate the possibility of a medical condition. If they have started pooping or peeing in the house and being disobedient, that is not so much a sign of depression as developing behavioural anxiety prone issues because they are feel ignored and not getting the attention they need.
If it’s not medical, than what is it?
Dogs respond well to routine when their lives change they are affected, depending on their temperament just like us. We all deal with change differently. Have you just moved house? Had a baby? Has your dog lost one of their pack? If you are both grief stricken that is exceptionally heart breaking and totally natural.
Is your dog simply confused trying to adjust to you being absent more than usual?
The signs may not be so obvious; you may just notice mood changes or moping. You can sense they are not themselves. Maybe you are all back from a road trip
and the kids are back in school. Or perhaps you’ve added a puppy to the family and your older dog is feeling left out.
Tips to help your best friend through a rough patch
Start being consistent in routines, particularly if their have been big lifestyle changes. Let your dog know what to expect every day. Mealtimes, walks, playtime and bedtime should be standard. They will cotton on soon enough that all is well.
What’s on the menu?
Meal times for dogs are a big deal. Regular meal times are essential to their well being. Add some new treats into their regular food particularly if they are no longer interested in food. Offer a delicious knuckle bone for dessert or a new treat after training or a walk. Get creative and make some homemade healthy treat for your dog.
Be conscious of reinforcing your dogs behavior. It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad baby, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying ‘bad’ behavior can reinforce that behavior.
Rather and again be consistent in distracting them with a fun activity where you can reward them like a walk, a game of fetch or a recreational bone to shake them out of their state of mind.
Patience is key. Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most dogs return to their normal lively selves. Even if you never know the why, show them you are there. Their love language is action, adoration and loyalty. Treat them the same with healthy boundaries and they will intuitively respond.