How Do Dogs Act When They Are Depressed or Sad?


As faithful companions, dogs experience a range of emotions, including happiness, excitement, and love. However, just like humans, dogs can also feel sadness, loneliness, and depression. As dog owners, it's heartbreaking to see our furry friends feeling down.

But how do dogs act when they are depressed or sad? Understanding how dogs behave when they are feeling down can help us provide them with the care and support they need. In this article, I will discuss the various signs of depression in dogs, the possible causes, and provide helpful tips on how to help a depressed or sad dog.

a depressed dog vs. a sad dog

Signs of Depression in Dogs

  • Loss of appetite: One of the first signs that your dog may be depressed is a decrease in their appetite. They may show little interest in their food or only eat small amounts.
  • Lethargy: Depressed dogs often lack energy and may appear lethargic. They may sleep more than usual and show little interest in physical activities or playtime.
  • Avoidance of people and other animals: Dogs who are feeling sad or depressed may withdraw socially. They may avoid interactions with both humans and other pets in the household.
  • Excessive sleeping: Along with increased lethargy, depressed dogs may also sleep more than usual. They may spend long hours napping or seem uninterested in their surroundings.
  • Excessive licking or chewing: When dogs are feeling down, they may engage in excessive licking or chewing behaviors. This can manifest as chewing on paws or other parts of their body.
  • Loss of interest in activities: A depressed dog may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. This can include walks, playing with toys, or engaging in interactive games with their owners.
  • Restlessness or pacing: On the flip side, some dogs may show signs of restlessness when they are sad or depressed. They may pace back and forth or exhibit anxious behaviors.
  • Crying or whimpering: Dogs in emotional distress may vocalize their feelings through whimpers or cries. This can be a clear indicator that something is wrong.
  • Loss of housetraining: Depression can affect a dog's ability to maintain their housetraining. Accidents in the house may become more frequent, even in dogs who were previously well-trained.
  • Excessive barking: Some depressed dogs may bark excessively. This can be a way for them to express their frustration, loneliness, or anxiety.
  • Aggression: While not always the case, depression in dogs can sometimes lead to aggression. This can manifest as growling, snapping, or biting, particularly when the dog feels threatened or cornered.
  • Self-mutilation: In severe cases of depression, dogs may engage in self-destructive behaviors such as excessive licking, biting, or scratching themselves. This can result in wounds or sores.

Causes of Depression in Dogs

Various factors can contribute to a dog's depression. It's essential to identify the underlying cause to help them feel better. Some common causes include:

  • Loss of a companion: Dogs form strong bonds with their human family members and other pets. The loss of a loved one, whether it be a fellow dog or a human caregiver, can trigger feelings of sadness and depression.
  • Changes in the household: Dogs thrive on routine and stability. Major changes in the household, such as moving to a new home, the arrival of a new family member, or a significant disruption in their daily routine, can lead to depression.
  • Lack of socialization: Dogs are social animals and require regular social interactions with humans and other dogs. A lack of socialization or isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and depression.
  • Illness or pain: Dogs experiencing undiagnosed or chronic pain or suffering from medical conditions can become depressed. It's essential to rule out any underlying health issues that may be contributing to their emotional state.
  • Traumatic events: Dogs, just like humans, can experience trauma. Whether it's a car accident, a scary encounter, or abuse, traumatic events can have a lasting impact on a dog's mental well-being.

How To Help a Depressed or Sad Dog

If you suspect your dog is feeling down, there are several ways you can help them:

  1. Consult with a veterinarian: It's crucial to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your dog's depression. A veterinarian can perform a thorough examination and recommend appropriate treatment if necessary.
  2. Maintain a routine: Dogs thrive on routine and structure. Stick to a consistent schedule for feeding, exercise, and playtime to provide a sense of stability for your depressed dog.
  3. Provide ample socialization: Interacting with humans and other dogs can help lift a dog's spirits. Arrange playdates with friendly dogs, visit dog parks, or enroll your dog in obedience classes to encourage positive social experiences.
  4. Engage in stimulating activities: Keeping your dog mentally stimulated can help combat feelings of depression. Engage in interactive play, teach them new tricks, or try puzzle toys to provide mental challenges and keep their minds active.
  5. Show love and affection: Dogs thrive on love and attention from their owners. Spend quality time with your dog, offer plenty of cuddles, and praise them for positive behavior. This can help boost their mood and make them feel secure and loved.
  6. Consider professional help: In severe cases of depression, a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist may be able to provide guidance and support. They can assess your dog's specific needs and recommend tailored interventions.
Healing a depressed dog takes time and requires patience, love, and understanding. Spend quality time with your pup, engaging in activities they enjoy. Maintain a warm and supportive environment that allows them to gradually reconnect with their natural zest for life.


Just like humans, dogs can experience feelings of depression and sadness. As a dog owner, you need to be attentive to the signs and provide the necessary support and care for your beloved canine. Loss of appetite, lethargy, avoidance of people and other animals, excessive sleeping, excessive licking or chewing, loss of interest in activities, restlessness or pacing, crying or whimpering, loss of housetraining, excessive barking, aggression, and self-mutilation are all possible indicators of a dog's depressive state.

If you suspect your dog is depressed or sad, consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions. Then, focus on maintaining a routine, providing socialization and mental stimulation, and showering your dog with love and affection. Remember, your dog's emotional well-being is just as important as their physical health.

In my previous article, "10 Common Signs of Trauma in Dogs," I discussed the signs of trauma that dogs may exhibit. Understanding these signs can help you recognize when your dog may be in need of support or intervention. By staying attuned to your dog's needs and providing a nurturing environment, you can help them navigate through difficult emotional times and restore their happiness and well-being.

So, the next time you notice your furry companion acting out of sorts, remember to consider their emotional state and offer them the love and understanding they deserve.

Also read: How To Comfort a Dog After Trauma


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