It’s easy to think of your dog as a simple creature. A scratch behind their ears, a full food dish, and the chance to frolic in the great outdoors seem to be all they need to be happy. However, recent research into the canine brain has found that we have more in common with man’s best friend than we might realize, including complex inner emotional worlds. Just like humans, dogs can experience depression, stress, grief, and anxiety. Unfortunately, unlike humans, they cannot express these emotions to us, so it can be difficult to know when they need help and how to help them. In this blog, we will go over some ways you can support your dog’s mental health.
Recognize the Signs
While pups can’t speak our language, they communicate to us in other ways. Learn how to spot the telltale signs that there is something going on in your dog’s emotional life. The clearest indication is any unusual behavior. If your dog stops eating, doesn’t seek out your attention, doesn’t want to go outside, or otherwise strays from their usual routine, it’s important to take note. The signs may be obvious, but they could also be quite subtle. For example, excessive licking is often a sign of anxiety or stress, as well as showing the whites of their eyes when they look at you. Take note of any changes in your pup’s behavior, and schedule an appointment at our animal hospital in Fort Collins ASAP.
Exercise is the most important, but also most overlooked, aspect of a dog’s health, both mental and physical. Exercise is a bonding activity for owner and pup, and moving provides relaxing effects for a dog’s temperament. Make sure to include walking, hiking, and playing into your daily routine with your dog. The best place for your dog to exercise is outdoors, where they get the added stimulation.
Some pet owners think their job is done when they have fed and walked their animal, but in reality, mental stimulation is one of the most important things you can provide to your furry friend. Whether it’s riding in the car, playing a game, introducing them to other dogs, or going to the park, dogs need enrichment to avoid anxiety. Just like humans, dogs can become bored, and when this happens, they can experience emotional distress. This often manifests in them becoming destructive, so if your dog is chewing on your slippers, it indicates they aren’t getting enough stimulation.
Give Them Space
While enrichment is important, you can have too much of a good thing. When pet owners sense their dog is distressed, they may begin smothering them with attention. This can backfire, causing the dog anxiety. Don’t “helicopter parent”; allow them space to retreat from stressful situations. For example, if you are having a party, offer your dog a comfortable and calm place to get some alone time when they become overwhelmed.
At Countryside Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, we would be honored to help support your furry best friend’s health. Whatever their specific needs, we are happy to accommodate them. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!