MENTAL HEALTH IN DOGS IS A LOT LIKE HUMANS
Mental health as a general topic is becoming much less stigmatized in the world today. Over the years as diagnoses and treatments have become more defined and accessible, the conversations surrounding mental health have expanded. Based on several different studies, it is believed as many as 1 in 5 adults are impacted by a mental health issue today. What we have also come to learn is that mental health in dogs is incredibly similar to our own, largely in part due to the way dogs experience emotions.
Dogs experience many of the same conditions humans do – depression, noise anxiety, social anxiety, and even separation anxiety. The challenge owners face is that their dogs cannot verbally express how they are feeling. Often times the issue is not noticed until a dog begins exhibiting disruptive or destructive behavior. The good news is, however, just like in humans, there are actions that can help improve and prevent issues from impacting your dog’s mental health.
EXERCISE AND STIMULATION
Ensuring your dog gets enough exercise is key to improving and maintaining their mental health. Just like in humans, a sedentary lifestyle can cause one of many mental health conditions for a dog. By properly exercising your pup, you can help reduce the impacts of depression and anxiety. Exercise can come in many forms:
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This type of exercise is fast paced and requires quick bursts of energy from your dog. Often times this type of exercise can help with other motor skills and behavioral training. Examples of this type of exercise could be playing fetch, using your SwiftPaws Home, or playing tug of war with your dog.
- Long Walks or Hikes. Not only will your pup get the cardio benefits from a long walk, there will be plenty of mental stimulation along the way! It’s recommended to change the route you take on longer walks to introduce new experiences into the routine.
- Take your dog to a dog park. Dog parks are an excellent source of stimulation and exercise for your pup. Your dog benefits physically from playing with other dogs, and mentally by the relationships they develop.
PAY ATTENTION TO BEHAVIOR AND INTERESTS
Dogs have unique personalities just like humans do. This means that their behavior and interests are also widely varied, and owners need to pay attention to and encourage what their dog likes. If you see your dog’s eyes light up when you grab the tennis ball to play fetch, play once a day. Does your dog love to chew? Invest in some high quality toys that will last and challenge your dog to engage with them. As an owner, if you take a moment to observe what excites them there likely is a healthy and controlled way you can encourage the behavior.
Owners should have a better sense of what is “normal” behavior for their dog the more they interact with them. It’s important to take note of any major deviations to their behavior over time. Sudden lack of interest in something you know your dog once loved could be an indication of a mental or physical problem that is developing. By bonding with your dog and truly paying attention to his interests, you’ll be able to identify an issue and seek help that much faster.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Sometimes certain situations are best left to the professionals. If your dog is experiencing what you believe is a mental health condition, seeking out an expert trainer in the field may save you a lot of time, money, and stress. Many professionals have decades of experience identifying and treating conditions such as separation anxiety in dogs. They can help guide you on the right type of training for your dog, and also advise you if other solutions, such as medications, are warranted in your dog’s case.
Your vet is also an invaluable resource. Veterinarians spend their days surrounded by other dogs and learn to pick up on subtle cues others may miss. Generally speaking, they also work with other industry professionals that they can personally recommend to you. By ensuring you are scheduling regular visits to the vet, you’re helping to identify health and behavior issues in your dog as soon as possible.
MENTAL HEALTH IN DOGS - EVERY OWNER'S RESPONSIBILITY
As loving dog owners, it’s important to make sure our dogs live their best lives. Not only does this mean they need to stay in excellent physical shape, but be engaged and challenged mentally as well. By providing plenty of exercise and stimulation, paying attention to what your dog loves, and relying on trusted professionals should the need arise, you’ll ensure you dog’s mental health is protected for years to come!
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