6 Reasons Dogs Get Depressed
She's dealing with an undiagnosed medical problem
If your dog's behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it's always a good idea to check in with your veterinarian. Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.
He's feeling ignored
A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.
Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises and good old tummy rubs. It will lighten both your moods!
She's not getting enough exercise
Sadly, some dogs become socially inhibited when they aren't getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members, or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn't, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise.
Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.
Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don't necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!
He's suffered the loss of a human family member or pet
It's not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they are bonded with. According to the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behavior specialist, dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness and even possessiveness.
When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people - sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less and showing a limited interest in playing.
If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch or a trip to the dog park. It's really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he's no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.
And it's best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog's depressed mood begins to lift.
Her favorite human is depressed
Your dog is very observant of your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.
For example, when you're in a situation that's stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian's office, she'll look to you to help her calm down. If, however, you seem tense and nervous, she'll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so if you're feeling blue, don't be surprised if she seems depressed as well.
He's being subjected to punitive behavior training
Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid punishment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called "learned helplessness" because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.
I can't stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the close and priceless bond you share with him.