This article is contributed by guest author Sophie Bishop.
How Can You Help Your Dog With the Winter Blues?
During the colder months, it isn’t uncommon to see some changes in your pup. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health issue that affects both people and animals, with the changes in temperature and light making many feel a little woeful. But when your dog isn’t as playful as usual, it can be worrying! Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can help your furry friend through hard times, just as they always help you.
Can Dogs Experience SAD?
Whether or not dogs actually suffer from SAD in the same way as humans do is unclear. It’s hard to spot in people, so it’s no surprise that a doggy diagnosis is very tricky! However, a lot of owners have reported that their pups seem less chirpy during the winter, with a noticeable case of the winter blues making every day more melancholy.
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Is Your Dog Experiencing the Winter Blues?
It’s important to be on the lookout for changes in your dog’s behaviour, regardless of the time of year. But if you frequently notice that they seem lower in the winter, it could be a symptom of SAD. Signs to watch out for include:
- Reduced appetite
- Increased sleep
- A lack of interest/motivation
You may see minor issues your dog has previously experienced flair up, too. For example, if they occasionally don’t get on well with other four-legged creatures, you may see that they’re less tolerant than ever.
Are You Projecting Onto Your Dog?
Some researchers think that it’s not the dog suffering from SAD, but the owner. When you’re going through a rough time, it can be easy to project your feelings onto those around you, including your puppy. Perhaps because you feel sadder during the chillier months, you think your dog does, too.
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For anyone with SAD or any other mental health illness, it’s vital you get help. Just as you’d want to look after your dog, there are people out there who want to look after you! Animal-assisted therapy (AAP) is when dogs can be used to enhance healing processes. Used in a variety of therapeutic settings, AAP has a number of benefits, including:
- Releasing endorphins, producing a calming effect on the mind
- Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
- Reducing anxiety, anger and aggression
- Improving feelings of self-worth
- Enhancing trust between clients and counselors
- Increasing physical activity and socialization
It’s essential to keep you and your pup together when focusing on getting over the winter blues and to ensure that both of you and your four-legged friends’ mental wellbeing is acknowledged and steps in place to help address any concerns.
How to Help a Dog With Winter Blues
If you’re feeling mentally sound but your dog isn’t, don’t panic! There are plenty of ways you can help them through these tougher times. We’ve outlined some key steps you can take to help your dog get back to their normal, chirpy self in no time.
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Book a Vet Appointment
If you’re concerned about your dog’s mood, make an appointment with your vet. Behavioural changes can sometimes indicate a deeper problem, such as a health issue, so it’s important you rule out any possibility of this before you start treating their winter blues. When given the all-clear, your vet may be able to offer some useful advice to get them back on their bouncy feet, too.
Stick to Your Routine
Colder days and darker nights can throw everybody’s routine out of whack. For some dogs, this can be distressing. Try to stick to the routine you have all year, feeding and walking your pup at the same time.
This shouldn’t change over the Christmas period. Even if you have guests over or a Christmas dinner to cook, prioritise taking your dog out for their daily walk. Sometimes, simply sticking to their schedule can help beat their winter blues.
Exercise is a well-known mood booster for people, and it’s the same for your pets! Dogs love getting outside and stretching their legs. If your pooch looks a little low try to get them off the sofa and outdoors. Rain or shine, the two of you can wrap up warm and get some super beneficial exercise, and it’ll feel even nicer when you come back home!
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Keep Your Pup Stimulated
Dogs are intelligent animals, but that does mean they get bored if unstimulated. Keep plenty of fun, engaging toys around the house for them to play with, helping them stay active whilst you’re occupied.
When you are free, be sure to play with your dog, too. They’ll love nothing more than sharing their favourite toys with you, and a little attention can go a long way.
Great toys and games to keep your dog stimulated include:
- Tug of war ropes
- Food puzzles
- Hide and seek
- Teaching them tricks
Make Sure They’re Warm
Just like people, your dog loves to be warm and cosy. When the weather takes a turn, make sure your dog has a lovely, fluffy bed to bundle themselves up in, with plenty of blankets and soft toys. Keep their bed in a warm space in your home, away from drafts and open windows. If you work from home, keeping their bed near you can help them feel less lonely, too, as can the odd treat and head scratch.
Watching your dog feel lower than usual is never fun. Hopefully, though, this article has helped you to understand more about why your pup is down and given you plenty of tips to cheer them up. Remember, there’s no better cure for the winter blues than lots of love and fuss from you!