Your family dog undoubtedly brings a lot of happiness and love into your household. Pets have been proven to have a significantly positive effect on people’s emotional state, but many people don’t realize that it’s a two-way street. Pets can be affected emotionally by what’s going on in the family, as well, and that includes getting bummed out when it’s back-to-school time.
Your dog probably enjoys spending the whole summer with your kids as constant playmates and companions. Yet once Labor Day rolls around, those days come to an abrupt end from the dog’s perspective. Suddenly, kids are getting on the bus and disappearing for the entire day, and after-school activities and sports can dominate their schedules. Those carefree days of summer when your dog had the kids’ undivided attention are over, and your dog has no idea why.
Believe it or not, dogs get depressed just like people do. Even though it might seem like a dog has nothing to worry about as long as it gets regular meals and a walk a few times a day, something like the start of the school year can have a significantly negative impact on your dog’s mood. If your dog suddenly notices that its regular playmates are gone for long stretches of time, it can lead to depression.
Signs Your Dog May Be Depressed
Although your dog may go through some behavioral shifts as a result of the seasons changing, there are some signs you should look for that indicate your dog may be depressed about back-to-school time — these can include:
- Excessive licking: Dogs are known to lick their paws as a self-soothing behavior when they are anxious, so if your dog seems to be licking its paws more frequently, it may be a sign of depression.
- Loss of appetite: One of the most obvious signs of depression in a dog is when it won’t eat. This may be accompanied by excessive weight loss, which can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
- Excessive appetite: On the other hand, some dogs may overeat as a coping mechanism for dealing with depression. Dogs that overeat may experience weight gain, putting them at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.
- Hiding: Many dogs cope with stress or anxiety by trying to be alone as much as possible. If your dog is hiding from you or avoiding you, it may be a sign that it is depressed about something.
- Lack of interest: If your dog suddenly isn’t interested in activities it used to love, such as taking a walk or playing outside, chances are something is wrong.
- Changes in sleeping behavior: Just like people, dogs that have depression may spend much more time sleeping than normally.
Helping Your Dog Beat the BluesIf your dog exhibits any of these changes in behavior, there’s a chance that it might have the back-to-school blues. However, there are some ways you can help prevent or fight the blues in your dog:
- Practice the new routine: Before school starts, you can help your dog get used to the new routine by leaving it alone at home for a few hours during the day. This can help make the change in schedule less of a shock.
- Give lots of entertainment options: You can help keep your dog’s mind off the big changes by providing it with plenty of toys, including toys filled with treats. This will give your dog something to do while it is home alone.
- Go for lots of walks: Allowing your dog to burn off some steam at least twice a day can help prevent your dog’s nervous energy from manifesting itself as depression.
- Make some quality time: Your dog will be missing out on some attention with the kids in school, so be sure to give your pet some quality time. Even a few minutes a day concentrating solely on your dog can help alleviate anxiety.
Depression can have serious effects on your dog’s health, so it’s important to recognize the signs of depression in dogs as well as some strategies for helping your dog get over it. The good news is, with a little help from you, your dog can beat the back-to-school blues and get back into a better mood.