Just like people, puppies can experience depression or sadness. This can manifest itself in listlessness, non-playful behavior, and in extreme cases, can lead to an unwillingness to eat, drink or exercise. Recognizing your puppy’s sadness and determining its cause is the first step toward developing a solution that will get your pup back in the pink.
Sometimes a puppy’s shyness is mistaken for sadness. Young pups are just learning to find their way in the world and new experiences, particularly those with the potential to be fearful, can result in behavior that mimics depression. If you have not already done so, begin socializing your puppy slowly. Introduce her to other people, places, things and other dogs on a gradual basis. Reward your pup when she interacts and is playful with others in an attempt to build her confidence.
Puppies can feel a sense of loss just as humans do. Pups are also likely to pick up on the emotions of their human companions, and loss has the potential to lead to sadness. It may be the loss of an owner or a companion animal in the household that leads to sadness and depressed behavior. Just as with humans, grieving is often a necessary aspect of the healing process. If your puppy shows signs of sadness due to loss, engage him in fun, enjoyable activities that boost his spirits, and reward him when his mood improves.
Puppies can become sad as a result of fear. Pups may cower, cry or isolate themselves when confronted with scary or unusual situations. Much like shyness, fear can be overcome with gradual socialization and by recognizing and addressing your pup’s specific fears. For example, if your puppy is fearful of larger dogs, gradually introduce her to smaller, kind dogs and allow her to gain confidence, then work your way up to obedience or socialization classes to keep her moving forward in overcoming her anxiety.
Change can make your pup sad, like moving to a new home, seeing a household member move out or watching an owner go off to work every day after an extended period of time at home. Your puppy may feel a sense of isolation or loss of companionship, which leads to sadness. Introduce change gradually when possible and provide your pup with love and attention when you are available. Slowly acclimate your pup to a new location by providing him with his own space and familiar items, like a crate, blanket and toys, to help ease the adjustment.
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