German long-haired pointer

Is My Dog Bored or Depressed?

Dogs, like humans, experience a wide range of emotions. They feel loved when they are the recipient of a back rub. They feel built up excitement when they’re silently sneaking up on a squirrel or lizard. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they can also feel bored, sad and even depressed.

If your dog hasn’t been her normal self, you might consider contacting a behavior specialist to do an evaluation. However, there are some signs you can look out for yourself.

What Causes a Dog to Feel Depressed?

A number of factors can impact a dog’s emotional state. Maybe there’s been a change in routine. You took a new job and are now leaving earlier or coming home later. Or there’s been a change to their living environment, such as a new baby coming home or a move to a new apartment or house. Maybe your dog went through a traumatic event, such as a health issue, serious injury or extensive surgery. These types of events would cause a person to feel intense emotions so it’s only natural that they might cause a dog to feel that way, too. If your dog seems lethargic and doesn’t seem to enjoy the activities she once did (like walks or the dog park), these may be signs that something else is going on.

Signs of Dog Depression

How can you tell if your dog feels depressed? Pay close attention to changes in his or her behavior, such as chewing, trying to escape, strong reactions, or loss of toilet training.

Other signs to look out for include:

  • Withdraw

  • Lethargy

  • Lack of appetite

  • Restlessness

What Should You Do About Dog Depression?

First, think through possible causes, such as changes in routine or environment. For example, if you were working from home, but now you’re back in the office, your dog might feel lonely. Look for ways you can build quality time together back into the routine, such as a morning walk or run. You could also choose one day a week that you can consistently commit to going to the dog park together. Exercise, stimulation and quality time with you can make a big difference. If those three things don’t help, you might consider seeing a behavioral specialist, who can recommend other strategies. A professional can also help determine if there are other factors at play, like separation anxiety.

Signs of Boredom

When a dog is bored, he’ll create his own fun. Unfortunately, that might mean he digs up your flowerbed or creates confetti out of a paper towel from your trash can. That’s why one of the telltale signs of boredom is a mess on the floor when you return home.

Some signs are also noticeable when you’re at home, including:

  • Persistent barking or howling for attention

  • Pushing his face into your lap

  • Jumping up on you or other family members

All of these actions are cries for love, interaction and something to do.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Seems Bored?

If boredom is the culprit, problem behavior can sometimes be resolved with regular attention and activity.

Some ways to keep boredom at bay include:

  • Make exercising with your dog a routine. You might take your dog for a walk every morning before and after work. If this isn’t possible based on your job or other life demands, consider hiring a dog walker to help.

  • Take different routes and allow your dog to explore. Dogs love to take in the different sights, scents and sounds of nature. Try to take your dog on different nature trails so they don’t get bored of the same old, same old.

  • Play a game of fetch. There’s almost nothing dogs love more than chasing down a ball. The Chuckit! Sports Launcher allows you to throw the ball farther, allowing your dog to expel greater energy when she retrieves it. It also helps save your throwing arm and prevents you from having to pick up a slobbery ball. Win-win, right?

  • Invest in a doggy puzzle. Challenge your dog mentally and physically with a puzzle. This dog worker composite from Nina Ottosson allows pets to spin and scoot pieces around to reveal treats. A well-deserved reward for their hard work.

  • Consider a subscription box. A monthly subscription box is another great way to ward off boredom. Each month, different toys and treats get picked out for your dog based on your answers to a questionnaire about her. Some brands even do special themes, like “Lick or Treat” for Halloween.

  • Visit the dog park on weekends. Like humans, dogs are social creatures. Look for opportunities to allow them to interact with other fur friends.

Hopefully, these tips helped provide some guidance if you’ve been asking yourself, “Is my dog bored or depressed?” But most importantly, I hope they help boost your dog’s mood and enhance the time you spend together.