6 Simple Ways to Help Your Dog's Mental Health
Written by: Melissa Kauffman
The discussion around mental health is so limited compared to physical ailments, that we as a society have barely managed to attribute the importance it calls for in humans.
Needless to say, we do not really take into consideration that our four-legged friends might also suffer from mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. Even the slightest change in behavior could be stemming from poor mental health, and you do not want to leave that unattended.
Here are 6 easy ways how you can help your dog get back to their bright and cheery self.
1. Exercise Your Dog
Many dog owners get over the physical activity part of pet-owning very hastily. They should keep in mind that exercising is not only to keep them physically fit, but mentally healthy as well. A treadmill at home or running up and down the stairs is not the equivalent of playing fetch in the backyard or going for a walk outdoors.
When you make the exercises fun and interactive, it keeps their spirits high and also improves their bonding with you. You can try and explore new blocks and neighborhoods every once in a while. If you live near a beach or riverside, you can take your dogs there as well. All the new scenes and scents will also help your pet’s minds to stay stimulated and active, saving them from boredom. It will also make them excited to go out the next day in anticipation.
2. Provide Mental Stimulation
Speaking of mental stimulation, it is yet another important factor for keeping your dog healthy and happy. The same routine day after day can lead to boredom, which will inevitably affect your furry friend’s mental health. Active mental stimulation and enrichment helps avoid this situation.
You can start with simple fetch play and obedience training and make it slightly more complex as days pass. If you have a backyard, you can create a running course with obstacles of varying difficulty. Change up the track from time to time to keep things fun. If that is not possible for you, you can create a treasure hunt inside your home itself. Hide dog treats at different corners of the house and let your dog find them out one by one. You can also get them a puzzle treat dispenser, where they are rewarded with treats when they solve a simple task.
3. Feed Them Proper Diet
Just like in humans, food plays a huge role in the mental health status of dogs. What they eat is often how they feel. Make sure they are getting all the nutrients necessary, especially proteins, in adequate amounts. There are enough dog foods and treats available in the market that you can buy for your canines. Here are some of the best feel-good food options for dogs.
Sweet Potato Jerkies
These superfoods are packed with antioxidants, vitamin, and omega 3 fatty acids, all of which are essential for a dog’s welfare. There are several other foods that you can share with your dog from your own pantry.
4. Focus on Hygiene
Like diet, hygiene and cleanliness is just as important for your dog’s mental health. Dogs have the tendency of playing in the dirtiest corners of the house or jump into the muddiest pool while out walking. You have to make sure that you clean them up and groom them properly every time something like this happens.
Keep an eye out for fleas, ticks, and other parasites in your dog’s coat and take necessary measures if you notice any. Also be aware of possible symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases, such as weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and inflammation in sexual parts.
5. Keep Your Dog Away From Stressful Situations
There can be several reasons behind why your dog is depressed or anxious. One of the most common reasons is a stressful domestic situation. Homes where there are a lot of fights and loud disagreements, the tension inevitably seeps into your pets just as it does to your kids. Alternatively, if you live in a place with a lot of road, air, or rail traffic and if your dog is overly sensitive to sound, that can be a problem as well. You can consider getting padding for your walls to reduce the noise.
If you need to get construction work done in your home that will involve loud noises, you can get someone to keep your dog for the duration of the work or leave him at a pet creche. Try to keep them away from any sort of extreme loud noises, such as fireworks or metalworks. If somehow it cannot be avoided at all, make sure to stay near your dog to keep them company. You can also get them an anxiety vest.
6. Help Them Cope With Changes
Dogs can understand and react to change of scenarios just as we do. If you are moving to a new house or getting ready to welcome a new family member, you need to ease your dog into it. Same applies if you are getting another pet as well. Introductions must be done slowly and with patience.
One of the hardest situations for dogs to deal with is the loss of a companion. Dogs can always feel and understand when the other dog passes away, and it triggers a phase of depression. They might become quieter than usual and have a reduced appetite and willingness to play or go for walks. It is fine in such situations to give a bit more attention to your dog. Offer them treats and hugs, take them on drives, let them sleep next to you, and spend quality time overall.
Dogs are certainly susceptible to mental health problems, just as much as we are. It might be worse for them because we cannot understand their language and they cannot understand ours. Therefore, as a pet parent, it is your responsibility to make the extra effort to pay attention to your dog and spot any signs of distress or trauma.