When the holiday lights are returned to their boxes and our family members return to their homes, there is often a heartfelt sense of sadness. The magical season has come and gone again, leaving many of us feeling down and a little depressed. People and pets can both experience these similar, sorrowful emotions this time of year.
While you’ve been enjoying the festivities and the extra time with your family, so have your pets. Dogs especially benefit from having the family visit. They have been enjoying MORE of everything wonderful — more petting, more cuddling, and many more treats than anyone will admit giving them! Best of all, they have had you, their best friend, home with them day-after-day. But now that the kids have gone back to school and the adults have gone back to work, their wonderful world has suddenly changed. There may be nobody home or maybe a single family member around during the day. For highly social pets like dogs, this can be a very difficult transition. Paying close attention to your dog’s behavior and eating habits will help you determine if your dog is suffering from depression.
Dogs and people exhibit many of the same symptoms when it comes to depression. Poor appetite, increased sleep time, lethargy, and lack of enthusiasm are all symptoms of depression in dogs and humans. If you are feeling depressed, it is not uncommon for your dog to be depressed as well. Our pets are keenly in tune with our emotions and may actually be feeling “down” partly because we are. To beat those blues, maybe it’s time to change things up a bit. Getting into new, fun, and healthy habits may be just the thing to help you and your pet begin a happy new year.
Even though dogs and humans are typically comfortable with having a daily routine, the same old routine day after day can get a little boring. If you’re bored with it, chances are your dog is as well. This is the perfect time for a change! Even small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in you and your dog’s overall mood. Try changing your walking times and length. You can even try several short walks during the day if your schedule allows. Or, instead of a morning and evening walk, try switching to a morning and an afternoon walk. On the weekend, go for a car ride with your dog to seek out new and different places to explore. Plan a weekend walk to a new area or maybe even a hiking adventure with your dog. For a brain-stimulating activity, you may want to enroll in an obedience or agility class. You and your dog can meet new friends and learn new things to practice at home.
And, don’t forget some new and different toys! There are many new interactive toys on the market that are sure to entertain both you and your dog. If your dog loves snacks, you may want to try one of the new toys that dispenses treats. Your dog will enjoy the challenge of retrieving the treats and you will enjoy watching him try. No matter which toy or new playtime activity you decide on, try to set aside at least 20 minutes a day for uninterrupted play and interaction. It can be a new daily routine that will facilitate bonding and be a great stress-reliever for you both.
You will both benefit by trying something new and different. With just a few changes to your daily routine, you and your dog will be beating those blues and beginning an exciting new year together.