Activities For Dogs With Depression

1k Views
0 Comments
0 Votes

Introduction

 The canine mind contains the same emotion producing structures as the human mind, as well as the same chemical changes and hormone fluctuations in response to strong emotions. While more complex emotions, such as shame, pride, and contempt, are beyond the emotional range of most dogs, they are certainly able to experience loss, grief, and boredom, all of which can lead to a sad or depressed state. While there are antidepressants available for our canine companions, there are also more natural ways that may help to ease your dog’s distress and get them back to their normal, joyous self. 

Walking Fun

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Free
Easy
15 - 60 min
Items needed
Leash
Activity description

When dogs are bored or distressed they often exhibit repetitive behaviors, like circling, barking, and even licking and chewing on their own paws. These activities produce endorphins in your dog’s body, temporarily relieving their stress. Walking with your dog is an inexpensive activity that releases endorphins in a healthy way and is known to help alleviate depression in humans as well as canines. This activity can not only help to  get your dog out of their funk, it can enhance your bond with your dog and give you an emotional and physical boost as well. If your dog is a particularly energetic or athletic animal it may be more difficult to induce the production of endorphins, so you may want to gently increase the intensity of the workout by walking further, by adding canine appropriate weights, or by increasing the speed from a walk to a jog. 

Step
1
Pick a venue
While taking a brisk walk in or around your neighborhood is certainly a good choice in most cases, it may also benefit you and your dog to change up the scenery once in a while. This could take the form of a simple brisk walk in a new park or a long hike on a forest trail.
Step
2
Meander and enjoy
Taking long, slow, meandering walks may help your pet somewhat simply by distracting them with new sights and smells, but it takes somewhat more vigorous activity in order to trigger the production of endorphins. Make sure you take your dog’s breed, age, and overall health into consideration to avoid overworking your dog and try and time your walks for the time of day when the temperature is most comfortable for your specific pet.
Step
3
Schedule the fun
A single walk or hike can help to temporarily boost mood, but for a more lasting effect vigorous, endorphin producing walks should occur on a more regular basis. Making vigorous exercise part of the schedule for you and your dog can also help to introduce a stable routine, which can be very beneficial for the canine state of mind.
Love this activity?

Puzzle and Chewing Toys

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Moderate
Normal
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Temptation
Interactive Toy (handmade or store bought)
Activity description

Dogs that are displaying signs of depression without an obvious external cause, such as the loss of a housemate or a change in environment, may be displaying these behaviors because they are under-stimulated or bored. This can often be remedied by providing the right kind of toys and puzzles to entertain and engage the canine mind. While there are a great number of well-constructed and interesting toys available commercially, many pet parents find it more enjoyable and economical to create their own puzzle toys using everyday objects from around the home. Many puzzles and toys that are designed for canines also include an element of chewing, an activity that not only has the physical benefits of cleaning the teeth and strengthening the jaw but also satisfies a natural instinct in dogs, reducing anxiety and tension.

Step
1
Choose a toy
There are many different varieties of toys designed for canines that can stimulate and motivate your canine, as well as help them to have a healthy way to soothe themselves if their depression is accompanied by feelings of fear or anxiety. Some toys are designed to encourage your dog to chew in order to reach the prize, while other toys release the reward when they are rolled or shaken, and still others require feats of dexterity such as lifting covers or sliding obstacles out of the way using noses and paws. If you are more the do-it-yourself type of person, entertaining and engaging toys can be produced at home utilizing anything from empty milk jugs and cardboard boxes to tennis balls and muffin tins.
Step
2
Pick a temptation
While many pet parents will automatically reach for their dog’s favorite treat to use as the temptation in their dog's puzzle toy, there may be better alternatives in some situations. The higher amount of fat, calories, and sugars that are frequently found in dog treats can sometimes trigger blood sugar imbalances when given in excess and can lead to obesity. Some canine toys are designed with stuffed animals that the dog releases from the puzzle and your dog’s other toys, such as tennis balls or chew toys, can be used in certain homemade puzzles. Another alternative is simply to use the dog’s regular kibble as the reward. It may seem like that isn’t much of a reward to us, but many dogs are perfectly happy to work for their regular kibble or a different flavor of their regular kibble.
Step
3
Interact and inspect
Challenging puzzle toys, particularly those that require dexterity and creative thinking to solve, may provide more enjoyment with a little guidance from the pooch’s favorite person, but rolling toys can almost as fun for your pet by themselves as it is with you rolling the ball to them. Chew toys, on the other hand, are generally designed for solo play and just need to be checked for dangerous levels of wear and tear before and after each use.
Love this activity?

Find Their Passion

Popular
0 Votes
Any Day
Free
Hard
60 min
Items needed
Patience
Observational skills
Activity description

One of the ways people attempt to overcome depression is to find something to be passionate about in their own lives, and dogs can often find comfort the same way. Many dogs that have been listed as unadoptable dogs or dogs with behavior problems have gone on to become productive and stable as canine actors, soldiers, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, and even service dogs. Some dog breeds, like the Australian Shepherd, the Beagle, or the Newfoundland, have a natural instinct that drives them to do their job, and having that instinct thwarted can exacerbate or instigate depression in some dogs. 

Step
1
Learn about your dog
Certain breeds may be more likely to pursue specific activities, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds with their urge to herd, Labradors with their instinct to swim and retrieve, and Terriers with their desire to hunt small animals. If your dog is a mixed breed dog, they may develop instincts common to any of the breeds of dog that contributed to their creation, and observation of their behavior is likely to give you the best clue.
Step
2
Learn about your options
Once you have a general idea of what your dog loves to do, you can learn about different games and sports that can encourage them. The dog that spends half their day nipping at the heels of the kids may find a better outlet in a canine sport like treibball, where the one that naturally gravitates towards kids, sick people, and the elderly may live a more fulfilled life as a therapy dog
Step
3
Use what you learned
If you have learned that your dog’s passion is simply retrieving a ball then your job is simple, throw the ball for your dog as often as possible. If your dog seems to fully throw themselves into an organized canine sport, contact the association related to the sport and connect to other dog owners who enjoy the sport, and if your dog seems to have a calling as a search and rescue or therapy dog, you can even choose to enroll them in the proper classes to earn their certification allowing you to work as a team to help people in need.
Love this activity?

More Fun Ideas...

Doggie Daycare

While activities that you can do with your pet are always encouraged, sometimes that just isn’t enough. If you have a highly social dog, taking them to doggie daycare will allow them to interact with other canines in a more structured setting than at a dog park, and may also prevent boredom for dogs whose owners are not home during a large portion of the day.

Doga

Doga is a type of Yoga in which your dog is incorporated into your yoga poses. This type of activity not only helps to reduce stress levels for you and your pet, it bolsters bonding and can help your canine become more comfortable with being touched and manipulated.   

Conclusion

Depression can affect dogs for many reasons and it may make your dog feel irritable, lethargic, and uninterested in the things around them. Activities and exercises like the ones listed here can engage a depressed canine’s mind and their body and in some cases, they may help to re-balance their body chemistry and brighten their mood.