6 min read


Can Dogs Feel Melancholy?



6 min read


Can Dogs Feel Melancholy?


We love our dogs and want them to be consistently happy. Sometimes they get sad like us and stop being interested in walks or treats. It could be your fur-baby has a bad case of the blues and may need cheering up. Our wonderful woofers are emotional creatures, and like us, get sad. They soak up the emotive vibes of others and actually feel their pain. 

Canines have come a long way since their incarnation as a wolf and their service to man is appreciated by all who see the beauty in their caring ways. They get us through the best and worst of times, as forever friends. If they are feeling melancholy we need to know what’s happened and help cheer them up. Dogs are man's best friend who at times may feel the weight of the world on their paws.


Signs a Dog Can Feel Sad

It’s easy to see a pooch who’s down in the dumps and no longer interested in much at all. If you’re beloved Beagle, affectionately named Biscuit, is lying in his bed looking forlorn and not sniffing around in the back-yard as per usual, it could be something physical or a change within the family dynamics.

It’s not easy for Biscuit to convey how he is feeling but there are telltale signs that indicate your pooch has lost their mojo. You might notice an overall weakness with signs of lethargy. Beagles are normally busy, little Beavers with their nose to the ground and you’ll often find Biscuit picking up the scent of his favorite rabbit toy. He was bred to hunt and is a stylish, sniffer dog employed to detect drugs, cash, or termites. If Biscuit is feeling under par, a visit to the vet will determine if his vibe is due to illness or something else.

Many dogs feel melancholy when someone in the family passes away. They go through a grieving process for their loss. If it was another dog, they might also feel sad and each pup has a unique way of coping. A dog could whimper, whine, or howl at the departure of a beloved family member and will need plenty of affection from others in the home.

If Biscuit’s pet-mom and dad have parted ways, it could create a sad ambiance with their fur-baby feeling the stress. Biscuit could go off his food and lose focus, watching his pet-dad trying to cope. His body language will reflect his guardian’s depressive mood. You might find Biscuit pacing around the house, wondering where his pet-mom has gone.

Canine sadness can lead to doggy depression if they are struggling to come to terms with something that has happened. It could be a new baby has arrived home from the hospital or there was a change in address. Dogs can stare into space or snarl and snap, it all depends how they deal with the changes in the home.

Dogs that have been abandoned or surrendered to a shelter can be melancholy, feeling confused and upset. Many cower in a corner, their body language reflecting their inner pain. The volunteers are amazing angels who work to lift the spirits of these forgotten pups and prep them for a happier life. 

Body Language

Signs a dog is feeling melancholy include:<br/>

  • Whining
  • Cowering
  • Howling
  • Pacing
  • Low Tail Carriage
  • Whimpering
  • Snapping

Other Signs

Signs a pooch is feeling depressed are:<br/>

  • Lethargic Behvior
  • Moping Around
  • Lack Of Appetite
  • Experiencing Major Life Changes

History of Dogs Feeling Melancholy


It’s thought that all dogs have their origins in an extinct group of wolves and were interbred to create the dogs we have today. It’s like a story lost in time as scientists try to unravel the mystery of where dogs were first sighted, and what particular wolves were involved.

Then the tale became an epic as a few, "devil may care" wolves liked the smell of cavemen’s cooking. The wilderness was a tough place, and when wolves started hanging around humans, it is likely to have sent shock waves through prehistoric animals and evolution.

Science tells us that dogs are more closely related to other pooches than wolves, although they share the same DNA. It comes down to around 30,000 years of domestication and a worldwide breeding program that gave us over 300 unique breeds.

Smithsonian Mag tells us Russian geologists discovered an ancient dog skull in Siberia dating back 33,000 years. Once tested, the skull was found to be that of a modern dog. The split from wolves has seen dogs camped out in our living rooms watching the game with their pet-dad and all dressed up in dog clothes on the arm of a celebrity.

Wolves are predators but also grieve the loss of a pack member. Rituals of wild wolves with their heads hung low and quietly whaling have been noted. A wolf clan is a social group that feels melancholy, like its doggy offspring.

Our historical relationship with dogs has seen a whole lot of doggy love from ancient times to modern day snuggling on the couch. It’s bizarre really, as they are from the animal kingdom but bring out the baby cues in the toughest of guys, who’ll move heaven and earth if their pup is feeling sad.

The Science of Dogs Feeling Depressed


According to science, our Mastiff, Maltese, and Pit-bull all have the mind power of a 2-3-year-old child. This means they can understand emotions of sadness, happiness, anger, and fear. More complex emotions like guilt, pride, or empathy may take a bit longer, although dogs have shown they can be empathetic when they see their guardian upset. A nuzzle or head in your lap is an act of sympathy.

In the 1980’s, Dr. Nicolas Dodman from Tufts University saw a dog brought to his clinic exhibiting all the symptoms of human depression. This must have been a historic, light bulb moment as Dr. Dodman began exploring the likeness between canine and human psychological conditions, and how dogs could be treated with similar medication. He realized dogs and humans shared the same neurochemistry.

This innovation led to vets accepting dogs can have emotional conditions and treat them accordingly. Prozac for dogs has helped many pooches in a state of melancholy and it’s down to a veterinarian who saw past the early stigmas that dogs were not sentient beings. At the time, he was even cautioned by a colleague about his revolutionary thinking.

Today, dogs emotions are important and if they are feeling down, we need to know why. It may be they are sad because their best, pooch pal has moved onto the Rainbow Bridge and need support getting through the grief. There are many reasons a pooch may suddenly feel depressed but thanks to people in our past who had the guts to stand by their convictions, our dogs can get the help they need.

Helping a Melancholy Dog


Life is ever-evolving and this means changes that can disrupt family life do happen. Your Beagle, French bulldog, or Lab is a beloved member of your unit and may feel saddened by an unexpected event. There are things we can do to lighten their load and get them back to a place of contentment.

Keeping your dogs’ daily routine is essential as they may have taken an emotional knock and need your help. If the vibe at home is overwhelming due to the passing of a family member, it could pay to take your pooch to a willing friend for timeout A few days a week at a local doggy daycare will help the pooch who’s lost their best canine mate. Hanging out with like-minded mutts could be the tonic needed.

If it’s a bully dog picking on your easy-going Pug that’s put a glum look on their squishy face, you can cheer them up with “you and them” time playing games and keeping your distance from the bully at the park. Arranging fun times with a friend's dog they really like could put the light back in those mournful eyes, plus keeping an upbeat mood around your pooch will get them out of the doldrums in no time.

If your woofer is clinically depressed, you’ll need to be gentle with this precious pooch. Appetite loss, tiredness, wanting to hide away, and whining are all indicators something is wrong with your dog.

There are homeopathic remedies plus the vet might suggest medication to elevate their mood. According to Natural Dog Health Remedies, Ignatia or “homeopathic Prozac” can be of help to grieving dogs. There are also herbs like sandalwood and flower essences for emotional upset.

Massage is a known stress reliever and Pets Color Reflex Therapy tells us it can be good for depression. On the top of a pooch's head are "happiness points" that can ease anxiety and aid recovery from a depressive state.

It seems all creatures respond to the healing powers of music. According to Live Science, a caring soul named Alianna Boone uses her harp to make music to soothe animals. She played to recovering canines at a Florida vet clinic and found the animal's heart-rate, respiratory, and anxiety levers were majorly lowered.

Grief can affect people and pooches in unique ways. If there has been a passing in the family, you'll need to monitor your fur-baby for any signs of depression. Dogs can suffer similar psychological issues to their guardians and that's because we are genetically evolving together. Our clingy, closeness over thousands of years have seen a link up in our genes. 

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 06/19/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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