Dogs display a range of emotions, and different life experiences can make them emotionally needy, depressed or anxiety-ridden. Signs of depression can include listlessness or a significant change in behavior, such as becoming withdrawn. Some dogs may become more clingy and experience separation anxiety, while others will stop eating or be uninterested in playing or interacting with other dogs or people.
Loss of Household Pet
If one of your other household pets dies, it can draw your surviving dog into a depressive state. This is especially likely if the animals were raised together or spent a significant amount of time in each other’s company. Keep a close eye on you pup during this time, as he may need extra time and attention, especially through playing and being physically affectionate. They also may attempt to run off to “find” their missing housemate, so ensure their physical safety and don’t let them wander off unsupervised.
Death of Owner
The death of a human companion can be confusing and frightening to a dog. Not only will he miss his owner’s presence, but he’ll be conflicted by the emotions of the other grieving human beings around him. The death of a household member often involves a change in routine, with different, unfamiliar people coming and going through the house. The house may go from being full of strangers one day, to being empty the next. All of these factors can create anxiety for your pup, who is best served with maintenance of a routine schedule and extra attention.
A dog who is shuttled from one home to another, has been abandoned or spent a significant amount of time in a shelter, is prone to anxiety and depression. He may be fearful or mistrusting of others, which can manifest itself in a shy or standoffish manner. He also may attach himself to his new owner to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere, due to fear of abandonment issues. Rescue dogs need time to build trust, which can be achieved through creating a stable home environment with a structured schedule and lots of time and attention.
Treatment of Depression
Just as with humans, some types of anxiety and depression pass with time, particularly if they are related directly to a loss they must adjust to. Depressed and clingy dogs should be rewarded when they make an effort to interact and engage with others, even if it’s as simple as playing fetch. Severe cases of depression, especially those that result in behaviors that jeopardize health, such as not eating, should be discussed with a vet.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.