Whether at home, school or in the workplace, research shows having a dog around can improve people’s well-being. But a new study from Guide Dogs UK shows most pet owners don’t spot the signs of depression and anxiety in their four-legged friends.
“I’m sure everyone can tell you about how your dog knows when you’re in a bad mood and knows how to like come and cheer you up, but, unfortunately, we’re not as good at reading them,” says Dr. Helen Whiteside, chief scientific officer with Guide Dogs UK.
The research reveals nearly 75% of Britain’s dogs show signs of depression or anxiety, with 18% showing symptoms every week. And only 36% of owners recognize those signals, according to the study.
How do you know if your dog is feeling anxious or sad? Dr. Whiteside says, “The main things to look out for are disinterest in things they used to be interested in. Going off their food. You can look at their little faces, if they’re kind of lip-licking a lot, if they’re yawning a lot, that’s kind of a sign of immediate stress.”
Experts predicted a surge in poor pet mental health after the pandemic. “Suddenly we’re all kind of going out again and they’ve got used to us being at home, they’re used to us being there and playing with them,” Dr. Whiteside says.
Dr. Whiteside says just like people, dogs get bored too, so creative play is crucial to good health. “While you’re out for your walk, why don’t you make it not just a physical walk for them but like a mentally stimulating walk, when they’re kind of sniffing the lampposts and things like that to find out what’s going on around them.”
Researchers say that extra mental boost for your fur baby could improve your health too.
The research shows depression in dogs can be triggered by life changes such as divorce, house moves or children growing up and moving away from home.