Most dog-owners can agree that there’s nothing more comforting than coming home to your furry friend after a stressful day. Just spending five minutes petting your pup can instantly make you feel better. It’s no surprise that studies have proven that owning a pet can reduce anxiety and depression and increase happiness.
Dogs are selfless companions who ask for nothing in return. But, have you ever thought about your dog’s mental health?
The area of a dog’s brain responsible for emotions is extremely similar to the same
area in humans’ brains. This means our canine companions can suffer from the same mental health disorders as humans, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
While we tend to focus on ourselves, it is equally important to prioritize the mental health of our dogs as a responsible pet owner. Let’s discover some of the ways we can improve our dog’s mental health!
The first and most important step to improving your dog’s mental health is educating yourself on the common signs and symptoms. Dogs can’t use their words to communicate, so it is crucial to pay close attention to their behaviors. Some of the common signs to look out for include:
If you notice any of these symptoms or other unusual changes in behavior, your dog may be suffering from a mental health disorder. Be sure to schedule a visit with your veterinarian to receive a thorough examination and diagnosis.
Additionally, there are plenty of simple ways you can also assist in improving your dog’s mental health every day.
How often does your pet spend time with other dogs? Dogs are highly social animals who enjoy spending time with others. But, it’s important to know the socialization needs of your pet. Just like people, some dogs need more socialization than others!
If your dog gets anxious around other animals, then make sure you are giving them the space they need. Take them on walks in quiet areas where there aren’t as many people and pets.
If your dog thrives on social interaction, provide them with plenty of opportunities to hang out with other dogs. Schedule a playdate with a furry friend, take them to the dog park, or come to one of Boris & Horton’s dog-friendly events!
Does your dog seem scared or anxious even when you are together? Your home should be a safe space for your dog. Certain anxiety triggers can’t be controlled, like loud thunder from a storm. It’s important to focus on what you can control to create a pleasant environment that can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Before you leave your home, ensure your pet will be comfortable while you’re gone. Fill their water dish with fresh water in case they get thirsty. Leave out a warm blanket for when they want to snuggle. Depending on the season, monitor your home temperature so it is not too hot or too cold.
It’s also important to understand the individual needs of your dog and what makes them feel relaxed. An older dog likely wants peace and quiet, while a young pup may prefer more play time. Does your dog enjoy constant affection, or do they feel smothered by your snuggles? Listen to their needs so you can help them feel calm.
While exercise has many physical benefits for your dog, it also can improve their mental health!
Exercise is a great way to combat anxiety. As your dog runs and plays, their brain releases endorphins which makes them feel happy and relaxed!
Puppies are known for having a lot of energy, but adult dogs need physical activity too. If your dog has been feeling down, implement regular exercise into their daily routine.
There are so many great ways to get your dog up and moving! Take a walk around your neighborhood or play a game of fetch in the park. If you can’t go outdoors, try running up and down your staircase! Always remember to consider your pup’s physical abilities when deciding which activities are appropriate.
How long do you leave your dog home alone? Between long commutes, a full day of work, and evening errands, many pet owners leave their dogs alone for over 8 hours a day. While the exact time varies based on age, size, and health, it is recommended that you should not leave your dog home alone for more than six hours at a time.
Leaving your pup alone for a long period of time can make them feel depressed, bored, and even anxious. If you know you are going to be gone all day, make arrangements that will help your dog feel less lonely.
Consider hiring a dog-walker to take your pup out for a midday stroll. After work, bring your dog along on your errands to dog-friendly businesses, like Boris and Horton. Just remember to read over the house rules before visiting!
Have you ever thought your dog seemed bored? If your dog is displaying unusual behaviors such as destroying your house or sleeping all day, their mind may not be stimulated enough.
Dogs are known to be intelligent animals. In fact, research shows that a dog's mental ability is close to a human child aged 2 to 2.5 years! Dogs need to participate in activities that are mentally enriching in order to avoid boredom. Oftentimes when dogs are “looking for trouble,” they are really just looking for something to do!
To engage your dog’s mind, try giving them an interactive puzzle to solve. Not only will the puzzle challenge your pup, but it will also keep them occupied for hours! Dogs of all ages and sizes will love trying to find the hidden reward - a tasty treat! Experiment with different games and toys to see which ones your pup enjoys the most. Check out these fun DIY dog puzzles you can make at home!
Humans aren’t the only ones who need a self-care day! Pamper your pup with a special day filled with all of their favorite things. Whether your dog loves spending the day at the dog park or going on “puppuccino” coffee runs, set aside some time to really shower your dog with extra love and attention.
If you are looking for an activity that can improve both you and your dog’s mental health, plan a visit to Boris and Horton. We are New York City’s first Department of Health approved dog-friendly cafe and community space.
Grab a cup of coffee and one of our delicious snacks for an afternoon pick-me up. We even have a dog bakery menu catered to our furry friends. If you’re feeling lonely, our cafe is the paw-fect place to meet new dogs and dog-lovers.
We’d love to make you and your dog’s day a little brighter. Come visit us in the East Village anytime between 7 am - 8pm Monday through Friday and 8 am - 8pm Saturday and Sunday.
Looking to unleash some fun with your furry friends this summer? The warm weather and longer days make it the perfect time of year to visit a park with your pup. Dog parks are the paw-fect place to enjoy fresh air, get some exercise, and meet new friends!