2001-Sun Feb 19 07:25:02 MST 2017
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
“Are my mental-health issues having a negative effect on my dog’s behavior?”
I am frequently asked this question by my clients. They want to know if their mental-health disorder is contributing to their dog’s behavior problem. There is no clear-cut answer because it really depends on the relationship between the client and the pet. However, there are a few general things you should know.
First of all, depression or anxiety disorder is not a contagious disease. Depression is not something you can pass along to your pets. The expression of relief on most people’s faces when I tell them this is heartbreaking. No person can “give” their pet anxiety or depression. A pet who is exhibiting such behavior likely already had some propensity for the behavior. For example, some
cats and dogs may have the
genetic coding for anxiety already present. Sometimes the anxiety manifests due to the animal entering a certain developmental stage in life. Sometimes the intensity of the animal’s underlying anxiety increases
due to his age or changes in the environment or life circumstances.
Just like people, certain pets are very resilient when it comes to adjusting to changes in life; others less so. When a person enters a rough stage in his or her life, their interactions with their pets may change. Someone might pay less attention to their dog, take him on fewer walks, not play with him as often or not maintain the same routine. Some dogs can be happy playing with just their
toys or receiving fewer pats from their owner, but other dogs may experience more anxiety when the owner’s schedule of interactions changes. This may manifest in the pet exhibiting more attention-seeking behavior toward the owner. Or the pet may engage in more self-soothing behavior, such as
licking the paws, chewing on toys or
chewing on inappropriate objects around the house. (Although if your pet is exhibiting some of these behaviors, be sure to have him examined by your veterinarian first to rule out any medical problems that could explain these actions.)
How can you help yourself and your dog when you are feeling blue?
1. Try to maintain the same routine every day. This does not mean you have to perform everything on a timed schedule. It just means that you should try to maintain a similar order from day to day as much as possible.
2. Take your dog on walks, if not daily, then several times a week. Getting out of the house is
good for both owner and dog because fresh air and exercise are good for both brain and body. Even if you cannot go on your usual long walk, a quick jaunt around the neighborhood can be helpful. Being outside and sniffing all the scents left by the other people, pets and wildlife in the neighborhood will provide a lot of mental stimulation for your four-legged companion — and yourself. If your pet is a cat, try to reserve a little time for play with a favorite toy.
3. Introduce some
food puzzle toys
as a fun activity and to allow your pet to work for some of his food. This will provide more mental stimulation for your pet and hopefully he will spend less time engaging in inappropriate activities.
4. Work on brief training exercises using
positive-reinforcement training. Teaching your
dog a new trick for a few minutes a day can help take your mind off your worries and anxieties. The activity can also help reinforce a strong bond between you and your pet and will help improve the mental attitude of both pet and owner.
5. If you and your pet have traditionally enjoyed cuddle time then please make sure you continue to give your pet individual attention. Various studies over the years have shown that petting a dog or
cat can help lower blood pressure. It is a good activity for both owner and pet!
More from Vetstreet:
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
Many dogs will eat just about anything in
their path. That's why it's so important to
know the signs of intestinal…
From taking pills to clipping nails,
we’re here to help you take the stress
out of things many dogs loathe.
With plenty of patience, practice and
praise your dog might be willing to accept
— or even enjoy — this dental care…
Need a leash for regular outings or one
that can walk multiple canines? These
types of leashes are your best…
The fun and rambunctious Flat-Coated Retriever, known for his puppyish enthusiasm, makes a great family pet.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.