7 Best Methods to Cheer Up a Sad, Depressed Dog

Updated on February 14, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Know the signs of a depressed dog, and what you can do to cheer him up.
Know the signs of a depressed dog, and what you can do to cheer him up. | Source

Dogs can become depressed, and sometimes they do need to be cheered up.

Why bother? As we have learned from human medicine, depression can have a lot of side effects. A depressed dog is more likely to contract an illness, and if your dog is depressed sometimes he will not be able to get better.

Depression may be an everyday occurrence; some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and will become stressed and depressed every time they realize they are about to be locked away alone. Depression might happen only once in a while, like when something special upsets your dog.(A new baby in the house?)

Depression may be a very unusual happening (hopefully once in a lifetime) like the death of a special playmate, or even a human family member.

You can deal with all of them.

A depressed dog needs cheering up.
A depressed dog needs cheering up. | Source

How Do I Know My Dog Is Depressed?

If your dog is depressed you will most likely see the following symtoms:

  • Sleeping excessively.
  • No interest in going for walks.
  • Sleeping in a different spot. Some dogs will hide behind the couch and sleep there.
  • No interest in playing with a ball or old toys.
  • Eating much less or more than normal.
  • Lick granulomas, chewing for "fleas", licking the paws.

How Can I Tell if My Dog is Sick?

Not all dogs that suffer from depression have a pyschological cause for their problem. Sometimes it is a health problem, and until that problem is cleared up your dog is not going to get better.

If your dog is showing clinical signs of depression, you should have him examined by your local vet. After the exam he may want to do bloodwork to make sure there are no internal organ problems. Since some of the symptoms of depression are so similar to arthritis, he may want to do x-rays.

If everything is normal, you need to look into ways to cheer up your sad dog.

Depression is sometimes obvious, all we have to do is look.
Depression is sometimes obvious, all we have to do is look. | Source

Ways to Cheer up Your Dog

If no abnormalities are found when you take your dog for an exam, these are a few things you can try:

  • If you can take your dog for a walk in the morning, when the sun is shining, it should help him throughout the day. If this is not something you do set your alarm a half hour earlier in the morning. Your dog´s well being is worth those few minutes of sleep.
  • Spend extra time with him. As I mentioned above, this should really be walking, even if it is only in the normal times and areas.
  • Take your dog away to a new place. I do not mean that you should take him for a ride in the car. This needs to be a walk, a long walk if you both can handle it (this is not always easy with a depressed dog), so that he gets plenty of exercise and comes home and sleeps normally.
  • Take some special treats with you when you go for a walk. When your dog is playing ball or acting normal praise him lavishly, and give him some of those treats. It is possible that your dog will associate acting normal with rewards. (Using this same logic, you do not want to go up and give him treats when he is acting depressed. Giving him treats when he is acting depressed might actually encourage the behavior you are trying to control.)
  • Bring him home a new toy. As well as distracting him, a new toy might make your dog happy. This should be the kind of toy that you both will interact with.
  • Play music for your dog. This is a controversial topic and some behaviorists think it has no effect whatsoever. Maybe not, but it will not hurt.
  • Dogs are social animals. If you really are not able to take much time away from your regular schedule, sometimes a new puppy helps. This is not always a solution, however, and if you do get a second dog and your older dog becomes more depressed you should be sure you can take him back to the breeder if you have to rehome him.

What is Making My Dog Sad?

There are many causes for depression.

  • A new baby in the house.
  • A new puppy. Babies and puppies get a lot of attention and older dogs might become jealous and then depressed when they are ignored.
  • The loss of a favorite family member. Dogs do grieve, and depression is one of the few ways they can express themselves.
  • An owner who goes back to work and leaves the dog alone all day.
  • A new house or apartment, especially when the dog loses his back yard and ability to go out and play.

Depression in dogs needs to be looked into.
Depression in dogs needs to be looked into. | Source

The Last Alternative

If his examination and bloodwork is acceptable, your vet may recommend medical therapy. Prozac and Zoloft can be prescribed for your dog, and big pharmaceutial companies always have new antidepressants on the market.

I suggest you try behavioral changes first and then try drugs later. Even if you do have to resort to the medications, you need to realize that these drugs take a long time to start working.

Behavioral therapies might be more effective. If you start the drugs right away, you will never know if the dog responded to them or to the improvements you made to his lifestyle. They have several serious side effects, so for the sake of your dog, I would prefer families handle this problem naturally if at all possible.

Listening to a good book?
Listening to a good book? | Source

Do you know the best way to cheer up your dog?

See results
This is the kind of face every dog owner likes to see.
This is the kind of face every dog owner likes to see. | Source

Questions & Answers

  • My dog is 40 days old and is so sad, slow, and cries all the time. What do I do?

    Your puppy is too young to be away from his mother and littermates. Physically he will be able to survive, but mentally he should be with them for another three weeks or so. Depression is normal if you take the puppy away at that age and do not have another dog for him to spend time with.

    You should first take your puppy to a vet and have a thorough physical. If he has not been dewormed, he will have a heavy roundworm burden and will need to be treated for that. He may already be anemic.

    He may have already developed parvo or some other infectious problem. I cannot tell you how healthy he is based on a short description.

    If his health is okay, or after you have had him treated, you will need to spend adequate time with him to get him over the depression. This includes being with him at night, not leaving him alone all day, etc.

  • My dog is really upset. I'm a child, and my mother will not let me go very far from home, and the only dog park I can go is far away. My dad isn't around. What should I do?

    If you cannot exercise her by going for a walk, the next best choice is to take her out in the mornings when the sun is shining and play catch or do some other activity. I hope this is an option for you.

  • Our Staffordshire terrier was adopted about a month ago and does not play; all he does is sleep. What can we do?

    Your dog should be taken to a vet for an examination before trying behavioral modificiations. He may have an infectious disease, or something as serious as arthritis. (You do not indicate how old he is.)

    If there are no medical problems, the best thing you can do for him is more exercise. Try to do this in the morning, when the sun is rising. Try visiting a dog park where he can run around.

  • Ten-year-old beagles - a brother and sister - were left at our animal shelter. We went to adopt them, but someone had taken the sister. We still want to get the male but are worried about behavior problems. What are your thoughts?

    Beagles are pack dogs and will often do okay when separated from other dogs--as long as they have a substitute. If you have another dog, he might do just fine and may not even have any depression problems.

    I would worry most about excessive vocalization! There are a few ways to train your dog not to bark too much, but the most important thing you can do for your new beagle is to exercise him, a lot.

© 2013 Dr Mark

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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      4 days ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Elizabeth, the first thing I would do is take your Chihuahua to your vet to make sure that he is not sick. That is possible but I certainly hope not. If he is depressed, it is most likely because he has been isolated at night. Dogs are very social animals.

      Do you have a dog park nearby? After you get him checked out by the vet, take him to the park and let him run around. Maybe he does not like the leash. If you can, take him in the morning when it is still early and not too hot.

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 

      5 days ago

      I have a 1 year old Chiwawa (In human years) and ever since my mom told me to take Sparky out of the room so he wont sleep with us he has gotten depressed. I tried to walk him, but he would cry when I tugged on him a little. Secondly he sleeps more than usual. Also, he doesn't like to play with his toys so, we went out to buy him a new one, but it's the sane thing. Lastly, he used to bark and run to the door every time he heard someone, but now he doesn't do that he just sits on tge couch and sees who's comming in.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Mya, a two month old puppy sleeps almost all of the time. When you take her in for her vaccinations, have the vet give her a good physical exam. Check for worms and coccidia. If everything is normal, she does not need to cheer up. She needs to sleep.

    • profile image

      Mya 

      7 weeks ago

      My 2 month old Shih Tzu is sleeping excessively and she stays in one spot only. What can I do to cheer him up?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Tenlee, most dogs do not give up on life if given a small chance. It depends on what size your dog is, but if he is smaller you can pick him up and carry him to the park to enjoy the sun and not be depressed. Even if he is medium sized you can put him in a wagon and move him that way. A large dog? That is more of a problem which is one reason why larger dogs are put to sleep more often.

    • profile image

      Tenlee 

      2 months ago

      My dog is getting over a stroke, we dont want to put him down but he is so depressed and has given up on life he is only two years old and now can barely walk, what should we do?

    • profile image

      Noelle 

      3 months ago

      My boxer won’t sleep eat or play with his sister what should I do

    • profile image

      Noelle Belli tucker owner 

      3 months ago

      My tucker wad sad but win I read this help me to help my dog happen thank you from noelle

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      If you cannot walk her more, how about hiring a dog walking service? It would also be nice to have a second opinion about your dog´s condition.

    • profile image

      ow 

      5 months ago

      i think our dog is some kind of depressed 'cause she doesn't eat so well, she doesn't like to play with toys, and everytime it's time to go a walk she runs away. im just worried about her. and i don't have so much time to go for long walks and.. i don't know im just so sad

    • profile image

      Cain 

      5 months ago

      play with the ball, sleeps all day, hides under the house, has no affection, fussy eater, basically looks and acts depressed. Could all this be as a result of her becoming deaf? Or is there likely something else causing this sudden downturn. Do you have suggestions on how to treat or manage this? Regards Cain

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Sistene, do you mean the 10 year old is depressed? If so, it might be because of the puppies in the house. It is hard for us not to spend time with puppies, so maybe you are paying less attention to her than you think. this situation might resolve itself in a month or so. If not, and she is still depressed after you find homes for the puppies, the first thing to do is get an exam from your vet and bloodwork to determine if she has a health problem. If not, the only thing I could suggest would be for you to spend more time with her, taking her for short walks or play in the yard, etc.

    • profile image

      Sistene 

      7 months ago

      My dog is about 7 to 10 years old and she lives in the house she sleeps with us in our bedrooms and walk as she pleases but I have a other dog who had puppies and the puppies sleeps in the house in their own room but she still feels pushed aside . She has depression and doesn't want to eat anymore and sleeps almost all day long and are very tired she is not happy to see us anymore if we come home she would always jump on us but now she doesn't have energy anymore. What can we do so she regain he energy? This is almost going on for a month.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      8 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I have a Pit that only likes one other dog, and there really is not a lot to do about it. You cannot make your dog like another dog. the only thing you might try is distracting her when her playmate goes home, but this does not alway work.

    • profile image

      Susie 

      8 months ago

      My dog has a playmate that she loves. When the playmate leaves to go home my dog cries and even if I walk her she is unhappy and cries for her friend. What can I do

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      8 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Kourtnry--have you tried any of the alternatives listed above?

    • profile image

      kourtney 

      8 months ago

      My teacup chihuahua will not stop sleeping I think she might be home sick she has not left my side for the time being

    • profile image

      Katherine 

      8 months ago

      My dog is half def and blind and she always lays around the house. She never has a happy moment in her life. We can't take her on walks because on a leash she gets so excited she chokes herself. She stays in the house or in the small little yard. How can I cheer her up without bringing her outside the house when she doesn't know what's going on?

    • profile image

      Stephanie 

      9 months ago

      My dog hasn't ate she's just laying In my bed sleeping all day.I took her to the vet and they said she has an effection.If she's still like that I'm taking her to the vet tommorow

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      11 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Kt, will she still o for walks?that is really the best therapy in this situation.

    • profile image

      Kt 

      11 months ago

      My Pat just lost her best friend along with her master who was in the hospital for the past four weeks I'm seeing where she showing signs of depression and when I take her outside to the familiar backyard where her and her partner played she will not even go on the grass to urinate what can I do

    • profile image

      Roslyn bonner 

      12 months ago

      Hi my dog is absolutely petrified of house flies I don't know what I can do to help him!!! He hides in the wardrobe for hours!! He now seems to be nervous at the slightest noise!! How can I help him?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      12 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      troy, did the vet suggest bloodwork to find out any health problems you are not able to see? Your basset is not mad at you, but if it is just behavior you may need to resort to a prescription. think about a second opinion too

    • profile image

      Troy 

      12 months ago

      I think my basset hound mad at me he hasn't ate in just about 4 days days but he's been drinking. We took him to the vet and everything is fine. He's taking walks and will go up to people all excited then the minute they pass he goes back to the way he was. We're really worried about him he's been a big part of our family for six years and we don't want to lose him. We're out of idea's.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      13 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Dianne, it is very hard to say for sure since dogs are such individuals. I lost my Schnauzer recently and my Pit is lost without her, so I am going to get her a new puppy when I find one. She does not like many adult dogs but does seem okay with most puppies so I am going to try. Hope your senior does okay with a new pup.

    • profile image

      Dianne Davis 

      13 months ago

      I am the mother of 3 dogs. Well 2 now. We just lost one to cancer. My other 2 are very lost without the other. The problem is that 1 of my remaining dogs was the brother . They are 12 yrs old. Would bringing in a new pup upset him more or give him some renewed happiness..?

    • profile image

      Ave 

      13 months ago

      My puppy is 3 months old he has stopped eating and is always sleeping what can I do to help him

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      14 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Kathy, I am living in the jungle at the moment so I am taking a while to get back. Why do you think an 8 week old puppy is depressed?Dogs that age sleep almost all of the time. The only thing that concerned me is taking a long time to pee, but if you give him a treat as soon as he finishes he will be more likely to go quickly so that he can get his treat.

    • profile image

      Alicia 

      14 months ago

      Tomorrow I am ganna start a fresh day with my doggy

    • profile image

      Kathy Isicson 

      14 months ago

      Hi. I have a dog that literally just turned eight weeks old. I just got him yesterday. We are very connected and he follows me everywhere, but when I was reading the symptoms of dog depression, he had some of the listed things. For example: eating more than usual, sleeping a lot, and we have to sit outside with my dog for an hour just to get him to pee. I really love my dog but I won't him to be happy. Get back to me as soon as possible.

      Thanks Dr. Mark

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      21 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Noel, why do you think going to hide in a closet is a desire to find a place to die? It sounds to me like he is just trying to find a place to escape from the dominant dog.

      Many of the symptoms you describe could be due to the medical problems. Taking him for a walk in the sunshine in the morning (alone, not with the other dog) is the best way to treat him, but until you take care of his mange, heartworm disease, and epilepsy, I cannot tell you that it will help much. How old is he? He definitely needs a comprehensive exam at your vet and may need blood work to determine if he is having problems with his liver and kidneys. Do your best to get him checked out as soon as possible.

    • profile image

      Noel 

      21 months ago

      Hello this is a cry for help my dog has been in bad condition lately i no he is depressed and i need help.this all started a 6 months ago when his owner had moved the house (the owner was my cousin that lived with us for 5 years and she moved out and couldn't take her dog) so after she moved out the dog was ok not good not bad ok but now its starting to affect him he has stoped eating and moving he also has started going to a closet in the corner of are house with means he is trying to find a place to die he is also messed with a lot from are other dog who is territorial and snaps at him another thing that is happening are seizures he has not been geting them for a while but his last one was his worst he started seizuring stoped and went back to seizuring. He also has heart worms scabs and many other things this is a cry for help any tips on helping him eat and Start to be more active

    • profile image

      MillieMurdoch 

      2 years ago

      My dog is so depressed my mum is giving her away

    • profile image

      Chantel 

      3 years ago

      We adopted my little brothers dog to move away to my dad's house with my older brother as there was no fence around my mother's yard and he kept trying to follow her to work and my little brother stopped taking care of him and my mother was always at work. He still seemed very happy in that situation even though he was not going on regular walks and such. Now that he has swapped homes for over a year he seems depressed. Reported as having stayed in his kennel for a full week without coming out, food had to be put in there to tempt him to eat it otherwise he wouldn't eat. Stopped playing fetch, started moping, etc.

      I moved in with my dad and older brother a couple of months ago, the times I am home I walk him/take him to the beach almost every day. He seems happy when he goes in the car now because he knows he is going to the beach. Then when we get home he gets sad and lays in the car and refuses to come out. Then during the day he lays in his kennel all day and won't come out. He sometimes comes out to play or say hello but it is only for 30-60seconds then straight back in the kennel curled up in a ball with his eyes wide open and doesn't respond. I have been thinking for a while that he might miss my mother, but she still does not have a fence around her yard properly and does not want the dog to come back until there is a proper fence as it is not safe for him to wander around.

      Could this be doggy depression? Perhaps I have just read into it too much.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi WOLFpack, the first thing I would do with your dog is take her in for a medical exam at your vets. Growling at you is definitely not normal, so figure out if there is a medical reason first. If all is okay, I would try walking her early in the morning and trying to cheer her up naturally with sunshine and exercise. (It has to be early in the morning for a dog like that, not afternoons when you get home.) If she does not respond talk to your vet about chemical antidepressants, but most dogs will respond to exercise, as long as it is in the morning and enough to really tire her out. Good luck with her.

    • profile image

      WOLFpack 

      3 years ago

      Hi my dog is really grumpy and I think depressed. She is obsessed with food and really overweight. She always growls at the other dogs and when I pet her. She never licks anyone and always has the kind of sad look on her face. She's also really lazy and never wants to go on walks. What do I do?!?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That walk really brings the smiles in them. There is nothing better to watch, at least in my opinion!

    • Sami Hanson profile image

      Sami 

      3 years ago from Kansas

      My dog always gets cheered up going for walks. He's a black lab mixed with Newfoundland so he has the droopy jowls. He's adorable, but the way his mouth sags he always looks so sad! Haha.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi tachalina the first thing to do is take her to a vet and make sure her physical exam and bloodwork are all normal. Rule out a medical reason for her depression. If that is all okay, try taking her for a walk in the morning. Use chicken liver or other tasty treats to get her out of the house, early, when the day is just starting. (Getting up that early may not be easy for you, but for a short while it may be really important for her.)

      Good luck with her. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

    • profile image

      tachalina 

      4 years ago

      My dog right now has been acting werid she just sits in one place and stares at tge wall with her ears pulled back and every time I call her she jusr sits there and shakes and stares at me i don't know what to do what should i do??

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the tips! I find a change of scenery during a walk can sometimes even perk up a grumpy dog owner. :)

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I've got a couple of fairly boring seeds. I'm just trying to figure out how to sprout fairly interesting hubs out of them. I've also got a couple of part time jobs that are taking up some of my time, and redirecting my focus, now.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I think you are right about the poll. Everyone is answering it correctly (which is to say, the way I want).

      Thanks for leaving and commenting. Do you have any new hubs in the pipeline? I always look forward to reading your articles (even if I am not as good about leaving comments).

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      It's interesting that much of the treatment for canine depression is actually the good husbandry practices that most owners naturally follow.

      I like your maybe/maybe not approach to music and your observation that dogs are pack animals. Both positions serve to validate my own. Also, both are controversial. I can think of one hubber who might take issue.

      Considering the sophisticated nature of your readership, I think your poll answers should be more challenging. May I suggest adding a 4th option: The Sheldon Cooper "There, There" Sheldon Is Here" technique.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Michelle, are there any holistic vets in your area? I used to prescribe phenobarbital for epilepsy, but it does cause a lot of depression. There is a holistic therapy using ice (during the seizure) but you really need to find a vet to give her more guidance. Unfortunately that option does not always exist.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      wetnosedogs, I imagine they were happy as soon as they found you though. (Or you found them?)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for linking, Mark! My schnauzer is showing the signs...but in her case it could be a bit different because she's had a seizure and needs to sleep a bit after the medicine. But I can tell she's not too happy because of the discomfort, and here in Singapore, no vet is trained to do neurological

      medicine. :( Thanks for this, and I will link back to the toy hub for reference too!

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      5 years ago from Alabama

      Dr.Mark,

      I should have added more to the above comment. Sorry. Bella and Roscoe(brother and sister) were at one time depressed before I brought them home. They were adopted together at the humane society and brought back two months later. The lady at the humane society said when they came back, they got depressed. She spent as much time as she could with them. I hate thinking that happened to them, but am happy that one special lady at the humane society took such great care of them.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I´m not surprised this is not a problem for you and your dogs!

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 

      5 years ago from Alabama

      I haven't seen my dogs depressed. I am happy about that.

      When my daughter's cat was alive and my daughter would go on a weekend trip, I was home with the cat. But that cat would sit by the window and cry. Sad thing to see.

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