Did you know that your dog can be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder just like humans? Well, they can - in fact around 4 million dogs across the UK do.
Many of us will have heard of or even experienced SAD at one point or another but we might not have realised that our furry friends can be impacted by the condition.
In actual fact, 1 in 3 dog owners notice their pets appear down or depressed during the dreary, cold months, according to the pet charity PDSA.
In collaboration with a clinical animal behaviouralist at Nose to Trail, the outdoor dog gear experts at Ruffwear have discovered how dogs can suffer from SAD.
They have shared how you can spot if your dog is experiencing SAD and how to overcome it with your four-legged friends.
Speaking to Ruffwear, clinical animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers said, “When the clocks change, and the dark nights draw in, this can be the time where people notice their dog showing signs of ‘sadness’ or ‘doggy depression’ similar to SAD.
"Dogs typically thrive off routine, so when this changes, it can throw them off.
“Many breeds, particularly younger dogs with lots of energy, really do need ample amounts of exercise.
"Hence, if you’re out working all day and then not doing as much with them in the evening, what we may see is them being quite bored and miserable. It isn’t just the physical activity they are missing out on, but walks provide mental stimulation.
“Sniffing releases dopamine which has a calming effect on the brain, it also lowers heart rate and blood pressure so has other benefits for the dogs which they may be missing out on at this time of year.”
Does my dog have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Here are six signs that your pooch could be impacted by SAD:
Changes in their sleeping patterns
Much like humans, dogs can experience a change in sleeping patterns which can be influenced by their owners.
Excessive sleeping or difficulty sleeping can be indicative of emotional distress.
Decreased energy levels
If your dog seems unusually tired, lacks energy, or is less interested in activities they usually enjoy, it might be a sign of SAD.
This can also manifest itself in your dog not wanting to go on walks or not being as physically active as usual.
Naughty and destructive behaviour
During the winter months, in comparison to low energy levels, some dogs may exhibit destructive behaviour. This can include the likes of chewing furniture or personal items.
These naughty and destructive behaviours tend to occur when they are feeling stressed or anxious, and also a result of boredom.
Withdrawal and less interaction
Dogs that are feeling down may withdraw from social interactions.
They might not greet you at the door as enthusiastically as usual or may prefer to be alone.
Changes in appetite
A decrease or increase in appetite can be a sign of emotional distress.
Some dogs may lose interest in food, while others may start eating more than usual.
Some dogs may express their distress through increased whining, barking, or howling. On the other hand, some dogs may become unusually quiet.
4 expert tips to overcome SAD with your dog
If you’ve spotted these signs of SAD in your dog, Ruffwear has also provided their top tips on how to help overcome it and set a new routine.
It’s important to note that the first thing you should do is to check with your vet to ensure there is no underlying pain causing your dog to seem depressed, as this can sometimes cause behavioural changes in our pets.
Teach your dog a few new tricks
The saying goes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it’s dark and miserable outside, work through some new training.
Make feeding fun
If your dog isn’t getting excited about their feeding time, something is definitely up. Try to make meal times a little more exciting for them by using puzzle games or fun treat dispensers.
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Increase your one-on-one time
Spend more one-on-one time with your dog. Rachel advises “As we get closer to the festive season some people will be out more vising friends and family, or at the office Christmas do and your dog may just be missing that social companionship with you.”
Prep for next year
Once you’ve figured out what works for both of you, you can keep this in mind for next year.
You know your dog better than anyone, and if you notice something isn't right with your dog, it's always best to have a plan in place for when the miserable weather comes back around.