Doggie mental health is a real thing. It might not sound like it from a human’s perspective, but animals, and especially dogs minds are as if not more fragile than ours are. To bring light to canine mental health, Emory University conducted a seminal study on the dog brain, which showed many similarities to the human brain, especially concerning emotions. For any of you who have owned a dog, you immediately understand what that means. Dogs have feelings too!
Dog distress can be equally distressing for us! It’s one of the hardest things to deal with because, unlike their companion counterparts, dogs cannot tell us what’s wrong. We have to figure it out. So, the first step in supporting your pup’s mental health is to recognize and understand signs of emotional issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. The first thing to watch out for is simply unusual behavior. Unusual behavior includes: not eating, extra attention seeking, not going outside to go to the bathroom, not being able to rest or sleep, or just having a strange daily routine. Often, the signs are not obvious, but if you care about your dog the way we know you do, you’ll notice. The biggest sign that you can easily recognize is excessive licking.
The easiest way to ensure the best quality mental health for your dog is to enrich the dog’s life. Two ways to do that are through physical and mental exercise. Physical exercise helps bond you and your pup together. Playing games, walking, running, hiking, or any form of cardio exercise, especially outside, enhances your relationship with your pup. Mental exercise is equally stimulating for your dog’s mental health. Mental health exercises can include games, play dates, going to the dog park, or playing with puzzle toys. Dogs get bored just like humans! Providing mental simulation through enrichment is the easiest way to combat any lingering anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues your dog might be facing.
The power of touch
Just like humans, your pup loves a good massage. Touch is another way to combat mental health issues in your dog. Importantly, you have to learn how to properly massage your dog because dog massages aren’t quite the same as human massages. They require massages in different areas of their body, at different speeds, and at different pressures. A fun activity that you can do with your dog is to go to a massage class where you learn how to massage your pup in a classroom setting that you can take home with you forever!
The opposite of touch is also true. While many dogs enjoy being touched by their humans all the time, some dogs just want space. Just like humans, dogs have different personalities, and some of them just prefer to be alone once in a while. Just like you tell your dog to jump off the couch when you want to be alone, if your pup could, she would tell you the same thing. Learning your dog’s touch language is critical in supporting his mental health. Find out what your dog loves and give that to him. Of course, if your dog loves destroying your clothes, maybe avoid that one.