Unlike many animals, dogs have very clearly defined moods and these are usually easily picked up on. Dogs give off visual cues, like wagging their tail when they are happy or putting it between their legs when they are sad, and audio cues such as whining when they are frightened, all of which help you as the owner to understand your pet's emotions.
As a result, it can be quite upsetting to see your dog in a clear state of what can only be described as depression. Although it is not the same as the human disease, dogs are sometimes subject to extended periods of extreme sadness that can be hard to break out of.
The signs of canine depression will be very clear. Your dog might become withdrawn and obviously unhappy. They might stop making eye contact with you and change their eating or sleeping habits. They may also spend a great deal of time moping, hiding away from you and no longer wanting to go for walks.
The first thing to do in order to deal with this is to take your dog to the vet. These could be symptoms of depression, but they could also mean something else. Your dog could be in pain or feeling unwell, and this could cause them to be miserable. Some diseases, such as arthritis, also cause dogs to mope and refuse walks, so it is best to rule these out.
If your dog is legitimately depressed, try not to reward their sad behaviour by giving them lots of affection and treats to coax them out of their bad mood. This will just encourage them to continue with the behaviour, as it will feel to them like you are praising them for it.
Instead, find an activity that makes your dog happy. This can be as simple as a car ride, or playing with a new toy. When your dog's tail begins to wag, then you can lavish them with treats and affection, rewarding their positive, happy behaviour rather than their depression.
You can also try changing their diet. Standard dog food can contain too many carbohydrates, which causes energy spikes. This can make a dog's mood improve over a short amount of time, then rapidly decline, which is bad for their overall emotional state.
Instead, you could try opting for a more protein-rich diet such as the BARF diet for dogs. This enables you to take greater control over your dog's nutrition. A low-carbohydrate diet ensures a more stable energy level, and therefore a better overall mood, for your dog.
Written by: Hannah Dyball