11 Ways To Tell If Your Dog Is Sad Or Upset

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There are all sorts of ways to tell when people are depressed; they stop eating or begin binge eating, the drink; they might sleep a lot or they become stricken with insomnia, they might cry a lot and lose interest in their favorite hobbies. The clearest sign that when someone is depressed is when they come to us and tell us, “I’m feeling sad.”

Dogs can experience and expression depression in all the same ways that people do but they tend to do it for their own doggy reasons. Yet, because they can’t come to us and expressly tell us that they’re sad it makes it harder for us to know when they’re depressed and what we should do when they are.

There are many signs that you favorite pooch is depressed but many of these things can be signs of health issues that are even more cause for concern. We have compiled eleven signs that you should watch out for when your think your furbaby is depressed, but, as we’ve already said these signs may symptoms of something more serious. You should always take your pet to their veterinarian when they start acting differently.

Changes in Behavior

sad dog

Changes in behavior are one of the first signs that something may not be completely right with your dog but they by themselves are not foolproof.

When you notice changes in your dog’s behavior, pay attention to their environment. Have you moved recently? Had a baby? Changed their food? Or has their favorite toy gone missing? Maybe you’ve been extra stressed yourself and your four-legged best friend is echoing your own emotional stresses.

Changes in behavior can cover a whole lot of things; the point is that your pooch isn’t acting like their normal selves and you need to figure out why that is. Whether it’s because they are sad or something more medically serious, when your dog is acting wrong it’s time to investigate.


dog poised

Pacing is a clear sign that something is up with your dog; especially when they aren’t normally a pacer. When we talk about pacing we are referring to a repetitive path your dog walks in a certain area. Maybe they’ve begun pacing at the front door, making you think they have to go for a walk but they don’t stop even after they’ve been outside and done their business. Or maybe they’ve started pacing in front of their food bowls even though they’ve already eaten or the bowls are full.

Your furry friend will pace for a variety of reasons they’re bored, they’re frustrated, they’re agitated, sometimes they’ll pace when they’re excited about something they know is nearby or for their favorite treat. It’s hard to understand why your dog does what they do but if they suddenly begin pacing out of nowhere you should start paying attention because this could be a sign of not only depression but also pain from an injury.

Animals who have been injured, or are feeling pain from an undiagnosed medical condition, will frequently pace because they can not find a comfortable resting place. The pain from their affliction makes they pace as if to wear themselves out in order to sleep despite the pain they are in.

If you pup suddenly begins pacing without being prompted by a change in their environment, you should take them in to see the vet.

Sleeping Pattern Changes

dogs sleeping

Both humans and animals fall into normal sleeping patterns. Some of us are night owls, others of us are early birds, some of us are nappers, but we all develop sleeping rhythms which are comfortable and health for us if left to our devices.

You dog is no different; they will have a daily routine of naps and a regular sleeping schedule that tends to match up with your own. So, when your early bird dog suddenly starts sleeping in for noon even though nothing else has changed their schedule, your pup might be upset or depressed.

Lethargy is a common sign of depression in animal all across the world. A lethargic animal is often a sick animal though; this sign, if its not depression, is a sign that something is seriously wrong with your pup and they should be checked out as soon as possible.

Eating Habit Changes

dog eating cupcake

A healthy dog is a dog that eats. In fact, most of our dogs will do nothing but eat if we let them and for some us we have to watch out for them eating things that just aren’t safe for our four legged best friends to be eating.

Humans frequently change their eating habits but dogs aren’t like us. They’re a little more basic when it comes to food; they eat because they might not be able to eat later because their ancient instinctual canine hind-brain thinks they might not be able to eat for days. So, they tend to be food vacuums if we let them get away with it.

However, when depression strikes a dog they can display the same eating patterns as humans who experience depression. They may begin eating more or become more demanding with food. They may begin eating less and even begin refusing to eat their favorite treats.

Some of us are just too busy to strictly monitor our dog’s food intake; between work, family, school, social obligations we sometimes just fill up their bowls whenever it’s empty and that can make it hard to tell when a dog’s eating habits are changing due to depression. So, if you fall in this category, you should regularly weigh your furbaby. This will let you monitor their normal weight. If they suddenly start losing weight or they start packing on pounds, you best friend might be sad you’re gone so much.

Destructive Behavior

dog being destructive

When they’re puppies being destructive is second nature. They will chew on anything left at their level and they’ll find some dangerous things to chew on at times. With proper training and discipline, even the most destructive puppy can grow up into a dog that is respective of property and will actually act sad or guilty when they’re the cause of destructive.

When your dog begins destroying your house, their favorite toys, the garbage bins, your clothes, and electronics after being a non-destructive dog, this is definitely a sign of your dog being upset. They may be depressed but they could also be dealing with another mood disorder or simple boredom. A dog that respect your home and your property is a well balanced and wel- trained pet, so when suddenly starts chewing on your furniture it’s time for you to be proactive.

Destructive behavior is rarely a sign of a medical illness and you can be pretty positive that they are just acting out. You job is to find out why; check their environments for any change, even things as innocent as the type of fabric softener you’re using can cause your dog to become restless. If everything is the same as it’s always been you should probably start taking your dog out for more walks, maybe some visits to the dog park, playing with him more or adjusting how much food he is getting. Try these things one at a time so that you can be sure which one it is that solves the problem so that the next time Spot eats your favorite boots, you’ll know you haven’t been keeping up your side of the bargain in their care.

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Aggressive Dog

When your good natured fido suddenly starts snapping, there is definitely something wrong. Aggression is almost always a consequence of something else being wrong when your dog goes from a calm sweet dog and turns to Cujo’s bad natured cousin.

Aggression is also a dangerous change that can put you and the people around in the path of an animal which can cause serious damage. But, aggression can come in different levels and it can be seen at odd times which you need to take some time observe.

This change in behavior can be simple like them growling or it can complex like full one fights between them and their best friend. In general, most dogs are not aggressive without some sort of provocation so you need to see what it causing this behavior.

Body Language

sad dog laying down

When your pooch is feeling down his body language is the most likely change that you will see but it might not be blatantly obviously. Their ears may droop more or they may not respond to sounds as they normal would; ears movements are very instinctual for dogs. Any sound they don’t expect or understand should provoke them to turn their ears to listen.

If they no longer do, your dog may be experiencing depression which keeps him from being interested in the sounds that normally would get his attention.

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Eye Contact

sad dog laying down

Eye contact is another one of those signs that can be hard to pick up. But if you’ve been watching your dog for awhile now and you are still not sure, you can always look at their eyes.

Eye contact between you may or not may happen because animals have different ideas on what eye contact actually means. So, if you dog has never been one to make lots of eye contact, you can check to see their eye contact with something you know they really like to focus on; his favorite toy or treat. Bring it out where he can see it.Iif he used to get excited about it and have his eyes locked on but now, he won’t look at it, or avoids looking at it. Your pup could be upset.

Passive Stance

dog in snow

Each dog, depending on its breed, will have its one iconic stance. German Pointers are bird dogs and they instinctively take the distinctive point stance when they’re interested in something. Border Collies are known their their erect head and full attention like appearance even when they’re being lazy.

Despite these iconic stances, all dogs have a passive stance. This stance is frequently the one you see when your pup has gotten in trouble and he has his tail down between his legs with his head down low in that “I’ve guilty” or “I’m scared” posture that makes us know something is wrong. Now, at times, your dog can just be tired and will take this stance after a hard day’s play, but generally, this is a sign of passive and stressed emotions. More rarely this stance could be a sign that you pup may be feeling sick.

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Paw Licking

dog licking his paw

Dog’s are not cats, they will do some general cleaning of themselves with licking, but they shouldn’t be spending an excessive amount of time doing it. Cats will lick themselves for hours and is nothing to be commented but if your dog has taken to licking their paws when they normally don’t or for longer than they normally do? This is a sign of something wrong.

You should first inspect your pup’s paws to make sure that they haven’t injured their paws or have something stuck in the webbing which they may be trying to dislodge. Once you’ve checked and made sure they don’t have anything physically wrong with their paws, try to distract them from their licking first with some play or a treat. Do they immediately return to licking once the activity is finished?

Paw licking is a nervous habit that dogs can develop which can cause damage to the pads of their paws from the excessive moisture so you need to monitor their licking. If it continues to happen even when you start changing their activities, you can take them to the vet but most likely it will be easier to get them some booties.

Extra Shedding

dog shedding

There are only a few dogs that don’t shed and many them go through stages of extra shedding throughout the year. So finding more hair on your slacks is not cause for concern. Instead, you should watch out for thin spots, or even balding spots, on your four-legged best friend. Shedding is a dog’s response to physical stress; typically we only see it when the dog is stressed from changes in the weather but when the weather has been good and you can feel, or see, a thinning of your dog’s coat your dog may be depressed or they may be sick.

Your dog’s coat is an important protector of their skin and when it begins falling out you should immediately take them to the vet to have them looked at and keep some doggy safe sunscreen around to help protect the skin on these thin or balding spots until they fill back.

Many of the signs on this list are signs that your dog may be depressed and generally the answers to cheer up your pup is to increase their activity and play times. However, some dog will get sad enough that they just aren’t interested in their favorite games anymore. There are medical options for dogs who are chronically depressed and you can talk to your vet about what options are the best for your four-legged best friend.

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