Signs of Puppy Depression

Cute labradoodle puppy dog laying down looking sadIf there are any animals that have a lust for life, it’s dogs. Most dogs love spending time with their owners, frolicking in the yard and interacting with fellow canines. If your new puppy doesn’t exhibit enthusiasm or energy, it could be a sign that something’s wrong.

Like people, dogs can get depressed. This is typically characterized as a poor mood and loss of interest in daily life. Here are some of the key symptoms to look out for.

Loss of Interest

Depressed puppies are often withdrawn and aloof. They may lack interest in being around their family members or other dogs, and they won’t engage in enjoyable activities. Depressed dogs tend to be inactive and prefer to sleep rather than go on walks and play games.

Excessive Sleeping

A major sign of depression is an abnormal pattern in a puppy’s sleeping habits. A depressed dog tends to sleep more than usual, and they may opt to sleep over their normal habits and activities. Oftentimes, excessive sleep is a symptom of negative or conflicting emotions. Sleep provides a way to escape from the depression.

Change in Eating Habits

If you notice a change or negative trend in your dog’s eating habits, that’s a cause for concern. If a dog is depressed, it may not want to eat food — it might even reject treats it previously enjoyed. Alternatively, a depressed dog may overeat as a way to cope with sadness.

Avoidance

If a puppy is depressed, it may want to avoid being around people. Depressed dogs might seek refuge in a closet or underneath a bed to hide from the dog owner and other pets. They may also snap or get frustrated if someone tries to interact with them.

Bad Habits

If your new dog suddenly develops a bad habit, it may be a coping mechanism to help deal with depression. Behaviors such as excessive licking, chewing and digging are often methods that dogs resort to when they feel stressed.

Common Causes of Puppy Blues

Understanding the source of your puppy’s depression and why it feels sad can help with treatment. Here are some of the most common causes of puppy blues.

A New Home

One of the biggest reasons for the puppy blues is being in a new home. Being brought into a new environment can be stressful, particularly in the first few months. Thankfully, this depression tends to go away once a puppy becomes used to its new home. If you think your new puppy might feel overwhelmed, you can ease the transition process by:

  • Taking it to dog parks
  • Proper potty training/plenty of potty breaks
  • Providing interactive toys
  • Feeding it nutritious treats
  • Encouraging socialization

It’s important to remember that previously owned dogs may struggle more with new homes — this is often because they miss their previous owners, or because their previous owners were abusive.

Environmental Changes

Dogs are highly sensitive creatures — even a small change in their environment can trigger anxiety or negative feelings. If your dog can’t adapt to the change, it may respond by becoming depressed. Some common environmental changes include:

  • A family member passing away or moving
  • Household members being away from home for longer periods of time
  • A new member being introduced to the household
  • A sudden shift in location

Even a change in a dog’s routine, such as an adjustment to its daily schedule, can trigger a bout of depression.

Bad Weather

A string of rainy days can put anyone in a bad mood, including your puppy. Although a few days of bad weather will rarely lead to depression, if the weather is dreary and rainy for an extended period of time, it may negatively impact your dog’s emotional state. Some dogs may also react poorly to entire seasons — for example, a dog might become depressed during the winter and then happy again once summer arrives.

Grief

A common cause of dog depression is the sudden loss of a friend. This most commonly occurs when another dog or pet that has been living in the same household passes away. However, a puppy may also become depressed if it no longer meets a neighborhood friend. Dogs also grieve when their owners pass away. Just like people, dogs create strong emotional connections and suffer when those connections are lost.

Physical Illness

Dogs can’t communicate with us verbally, which can make it difficult to tell if they’re in pain. Oftentimes, dogs might fall into depression because they don’t know how to handle the pain of a physical illness. It’s important to keep an eye out for any symptoms of disease, such as vomiting, irregular stools or difficulty completing simple tasks.

Fear

In some cases, dogs act depressed because they’re afraid of something. This could be anything from an unfamiliar environment to a strange scent. Because a scared dog can’t openly communicate its fears, it might respond by withdrawing from its favorite activities and people in an effort to protect itself.

What to Do If My Puppy Is Depressed

If you suspect your dog is depressed, the first thing you should do is take it to your veterinarian to rule out any physical conditions. If your vet agrees that the source of the behavior is puppy depression, there are a few things you can try.

  • Address the trigger: If you can identify the cause of your puppy’s depression, you may be able to alleviate symptoms by eliminating the trigger. For example, if you suspect your dog is depressed because it’s spending long periods of time alone, consider getting another dog or sending your pet to a daycare.
  • Give it time: Some triggers, such as grief or environmental changes, require time to get over. Be patient with your dog and refrain from getting frustrated.
  • Do fun things: Doing fun things, like spending time outdoors, might stimulate your dog and help it feel positive. You should also try to engage it in its favorite activities — see if it will play a game of fetch or go for a run.
  • Socialize: Socialization is key to good dog health. If your dog is depressed, interacting with other dogs can help lift its mood and distract it.

If none of these methods work, your veterinarian may prescribe medication to help.

Post-Puppy Depression: Depression in a Puppy vs Adult Dog

Puppy depression, which occurs in dogs less than 1-2 years of age, is less common than depression in an adult dog — but it can still happen. Many puppies and adults exhibit several of the same symptoms when depressed. However, the cause of puppy depression is more likely to be related to a new home environment. Not only do puppies have less experience with new environments than adult dogs, but they also have fewer emotional bonds. This can make them reluctant to assimilate into a new setting. Proper training can ease the transition process and reduce the risk of puppy depression.

Depression in an older dog, or post-puppy depression, may be more difficult to diagnose and treat. It also tends to be related to more serious causes. While your first instinct may be to comfort your dog, it’s important not to coddle it as this could reinforce the behavior. Always speak to a veterinarian if you notice signs that suggest your dog may be going through canine depression.

Bring Home a Happy, Healthy Puppy

Ultimately, there are several reasons why a new puppy might suddenly be depressed. Even puppies that have been living in new homes for a short period of time may experience grief or stress when something unexpected happens. The best way to avoid the puppy blues is by bringing home a dog that’s trained and ready to meet new people.

At Pride & Prejudoodles, we thoroughly train our doodle puppies before sending them to new homes. This includes potty training, crate training and obedience training. We also provide training tips to assist with the learning curve. Learn more by contacting us today!