4 min read


Can Dogs be Unhappy?



4 min read


Can Dogs be Unhappy?


We want our dogs to be happy, and honestly, they often are. That's one of the best things about dogs - they have a positive, happy attitude more often than not, which inspires, delights, and entertains us. That's why it's so often you find dogs who are service or therapy animals. 

But did you know that your dog can be unhappy? Even depressed? It's true! While it's not all that common, it is possible for your dog to be unhappy and depressed. The reasons and causes for dog unhappiness vary and can depend a lot on how a dog is being treated, but sometimes there are other stimuli that affect your dog.

If you want to know more about what determines your dog's happiness or decide on what makes your dog tick, read on. We've put together the ultimate guide to discuss canine depression and unhappiness. Think your dog might be affected? Check out our list of signs! Do you want to know more about what you should look for, how you can help, and how people have dealt with this in the past? You're in the right place. Read up so you can be better prepared to combat your dog's depression or unhappiness! 


Signs that Your Dog Might Be Unhappy

Dogs get unhappy just like people do, and often, for a lot of the same reasons. Either they've faced something tragic (like an owner or animal friend dying), they're upset about a change in their routine, or they're just downright blue (it happens to everyone!). 
Luckily, doggy depression and unhappiness can be cured, it just takes a little extra attention to detail and attention to your pooch. But how do you know if your dog is depressed in the first place? 

For starters, your pup will likely be less enthused about most things in life. He'll probably want to sit, lay, and not move around too much, and certainly won't have the bounce in his step that he usually does. He's probably really withdrawn, wants to hide instead of being around you, and likely won't have interest in his favorite activities. 

Some other, more physical signs of depression and unhappiness are excessive licking and biting. Your pup may start nipping at his own feet or licking his body over and over until he has patchy hair. Additionally, your dog might shed more than usual, a sign that he's stressed, anxious, or sad. It's also possible your dog won't want to maintain eye contact with you, and he may even alter his behavior so much that he gets aggressive or annoyed easily. 

Body Language

Your dog is probably giving you all the signs you need to know that he's unhappy, you just need to know where to look. Check out your dog and see if he's giving you any of these signs:

  • Whining
  • Cowering
  • Chewing
  • Howling
  • Scratching
  • Ears Drop
  • Weakness

Other Signs

There are more signs to look out for, though. Take the body language cues above that we discussed and make note of them, but also look for things like:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive Licking
  • Avoidance
  • No Interest In Playing Or Running Around
  • Hiding Or Cowering
  • Sleep Cycle Interruptions

Historic Causes of Doggy Depression


There are tons of causes of doggy depression, just like with people. And often times, the reasons are similar. Pups can be depressed over a tragic event, like the loss of a animal friend or the death of an owner. They can also be unhappy when they receive less attention - have your kids gone back to school? Have you been exceptionally busy lately? 

These are common causes of doggy unhappiness. They can also pick up on the grief and depression around him. Are you depressed? Do you have a family member that is? Often, dogs will mimic their owners' attitudes and moods. 

The Science of Doggy Depression


According to Healthy Pets, it's hard to determine how a dog's brain works exactly. Is their depression just like ours? Do they deal with the same thought processes as we do? It's hard to distinguish, and we can't know for certain. 

However, like people, they definitely experience certain mood swings and behavior changes, though they are typically temporary and very easy to distinguish the causes. It can be complicated with dogs, though.

Even with people, it's impossible to have a biological test that identifies the condition. Medical doctors can only take notes, determine behaviors, and tell the patients about possible ways to help themselves. It's even more complicated with dogs because they're unable to verbalize how they're feeling. It's always best to work with your dog's behaviorist or vet to determine a clinical diagnosis. 

How to Train Your Dog to Deal with Depression


While depression can go away in dogs on its own sometimes, there's also ways you can help your dog combat it while it's happening! 

First, make sure your dog is trained to maintain a healthy eating regimen and exercise regimen. Keeping this schedule and keeping him on track will physically help keep him in better condition, making it easier to keep his mental state healthy, too. 

Additionally, keep your dog on his scheduled routine as much as possible. Pets will do their best when they know what to expect, and giving your dog things to look forward to will make a huge difference in his day - and mental state. 

It's important to remember to give your dog a ton of positive attention, but never let it come off like you're rewarding his depression. Dogs are creatures of conditioning, and if your pup thinks that you're giving him a reward for his sadness, he'll continue doing that. Don't reward things like lack of appetite or inactivity with treats and attention, instead, wait for a tail wag or a happy, positive trait and then reward that generously.

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By a Great Dane lover Hanna Marcus

Published: 02/14/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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