Mental Health and Dogs
Like us, dogs are intelligent and social animals. While that’s great most of the time, it also
means they can suffer from a lot of the same mental health issues we do. Compounding the
problem is the fact that mental health (whether in dogs or in people) still to this day comes with
a lot of stigma attached to it. In another post, we went over some of the signs you can look for
if you think your dog might be suffering from issues such as depression or anxiety. If you’ve
already read that, and you think you might be dealing with a depressed or anxious dog, here
are a few things you can do at home to help with the problem.
Exercise is a great way to get your dog feeling like himself/herself again. While everyone takes
their dogs out for little walk, real exercise is something that many dogs lack in their life. The
benefits of even a short amount of real activity with your dog are many. Notice we said with
your dog. Part of what makes activity so important is that it’s a time for your dog to bond with
you. As we said before, dogs crave social connections and getting to do something physical with
their human is one of the best things for them.
Again, dogs are very smart animals and love challenges. A dog that isn’t mentally stimulated
and spends most of the time just hanging around may start to feel anxious with all that
misspent mental energy. Any kind of game or activity that will make your dog think is great for
this. We’ve mentioned Nose Work in an earlier post and it’s one of our favorite activities that
dogs of all ages, breeds, and lifestyles can do.
One strategy that most people would never consider when trying to help a depressed or
anxious dog is massage. We can’t stress it enough, so we’ll say it again: dogs are social animals
that thrive on personal connections. Massaging your dog doesn’t only feel great to them, it
helps the two of you bond more, and there might not be anything better for them than that. Of
course, dogs don’t have the same bodies we do, so you shouldn’t just start massaging a dog in
the same way you would a person. In another post, we go into more detail about how to best
help your dog through massage.
Finally, sometimes a dog just needs a little bit of space! While stimulation and activity are great,
overstimulation is not. Imagine the holidays have just ended: There’s been a ton of new, loud,
people in your home coming in and out. Presents have been opened, kids have been running
around, schedules have been thrown into flux. All of this can be extremely stressful on a dog,
especially because they don’t understand WHY all of this is happening. If your dog is acting
different and your life has recently gone through something like the craziness of the holidays,
perhaps all the little guy needs is a few days to relax and be calm.
Dogs are complex creatures, but they can also be very simple. Luckily, as far as we know, they
don’t get depressed or anxious over existential questions about their place in the universe, or a
big deadline at work, or their future. In most cases, all they need is more time to be a dog, in a
positive environment, with their loving family close at hand.