Is your dog showing signs of depression and anxiety? Here's how to help

Is your dog not eating properly? Maybe they’re more lethargic than usual or going on destructive rampages?

If that sounds like your four-legged friend, then they could be showing signs of poor mental health.

New research from Guide Dogs has indicated that as many as 74% of dogs in the UK could be displaying behaviours indicative of anxiety or depression, with 18% showing symptoms as often as every week.

The charity found that the most common signs of a pooch’s poor mental health include loss of appetite (36%), destructiveness (32%) and low activity levels (31%).

Dogs who have a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy (30%), who are hyperactive (29%) and incessantly bark (29%) could be showing signs of boredom or frustration, which can contribute to a poor mental state.

On top of that, just 36% of dog owners say they’re able to spot the signs of poor canine mental health and over 24% admit they didn’t even realise that a dog could suffer that way.

But that doesn’t mean dog owners are apathetic about their pet’s happiness, with 38% saying they look for ways to raise their pet’s mood.

The most common methods for doing so are long walks (58%), petting them (58%) and giving them their favourite treat (51%).

While these are great things to do, it’s important to remember that your pooch needs mental stimulation too.

Chief Scientific Officer at Guide Dogs, Dr Helen Whiteside said ‘It’s an outdated viewpoint to think that dogs just need a walk or two a day to be content. Without different forms of mental stimulation, dogs can begin to show signs of behavioural issues, such as anxiety and frustration, which can have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.

‘Dogs can thrive when given new tasks and opportunities to engage. Integrating a mix of canine enrichment activities into your dog’s day-to-day life is the best way to help stimulate their senses, encourage them to practice natural behaviours, and improve their wellbeing – as well as being a lot of fun for you and your dog.

‘Not all dogs are able to take on the exciting challenges of being a guide dog, but they can all benefit from other forms of canine enrichment.’

Some key activities that surveyed owners didn’t realise could help keep their dog happy were giving them a lickimat (80%), grooming then (76%), giving them food puzzle games (56%) and letting them use interactive toys (54%).

Guide Dogs is encouraging dog owners across the UK to incorporate a variety of canine enrichment into their daily life to help maintain good mental health and wellbeing for their pets.

They point out that age and energy level be a factor in deciding the amount of stimulation your dog needs, but all owners should do enrichment activities little and often, thinking about quality over quantity.

Variety is also key; doing something a bit different each day or mixing things up throughout the week is understandably much more interesting for a dog.

The other side of that coin is that you need to remember that your pet will also need a healthy amount of downtime and good quality sleep – it’s all about balance.

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