Caring for Your Dog’s Mental Health
As a dog owner, it’s important to be aware of your dog’s health. For most of us, we first think of our dog’s joint health and pay attention to how our dog is moving and playing. When we notice joint discomfort, we’re quick to respond with a visit to the vet and taking the steps to ensure this joint discomfort does not become chronic. Have you ever thought about your dog’s mental health? Your dog’s mental health is equally as important as having healthy and flexible joints. Often the biggest mental health struggle dogs have is with boredom. Unexpected changes in behavior such as chewing furniture, excessive barking, nervousness around children or new people, extreme energy bursts, or reluctance to play with a favorite toy can all point to boredom. Dogs thrive on contact and attention, so when you, for example, have to change your routine and miss taking your dog for a walk or aren’t able to spend that special playtime with your dog in the evening, your dog begins to struggle. Eventually, your dog will find ways to self-entertain, resulting in the chewing or bouts of running and chasing while out on a walk. Your dog is simply looking for ways to burn off excess energy and fight boredom that was normally consumed with your daily walks, playtime, and other interaction. The good news is that like your dog’s joint health, your dog’s mental health struggles can be solved. Stimulate Your Dog Just as we turn to puzzles, books, and games to stimulate our brains, dogs need the same. This brain stimulation keeps them entertained and focused on the activity, preventing boredom from setting in. Rotate your dog’s toys so your dog is not playing with the same toy day-after-day. Give your dog interactive toys such as a Kong that challenge your dog while rewarding with a treat can be ideal in keeping your dog entertained. Dog toys that involve a puzzle or game can be a good option when you know you’re going to be away for an extra hour or two, helping to keep your dog stimulated and playing when you’re away. Pay Attention By paying extra attention to your dog’s habits and activities, you’ll quickly learn what it is your dog is naturally interested in. Your dog might prefer to be chased and play hide n’seek rather than playing catch in the backyard or maybe your dog loves to go to the dog park to play with other dogs instead of taking a long quiet walk looking for new smells. Find out what your dog prefers and do your best to indulge your dog in these activities. After all, this activity is good for you and this exercise is key in keeping your dog’s joints healthy. Daytime Dog Walker For most of us, our dogs are alone for a long portion of the day. This can be hard on your dog, there is only so much sleeping and self-play your dog can do. It’s worth considering using a neighborhood dog walker who can help with a daytime walk. Your dog will get some extra walk time, a chance to be outside, and get the extra attention needed to keep the boredom from creeping in. Dog Sports Sports aren’t just for us humans! You just might have a dog who would have fun at high energy dog sports such as dog agility, disc dog, dock jumping, flyball or treibball. These activities are a great chance for your dog to stay active, socialize, and to show off a bit. Even better, these dog sports connect you with like-minded people who are equally invested in keeping their dog happy and healthy. You never know, you might find a new favorite sport as well. A Healthy Dog is a Happy Dog Your dog will let know you when he’s not happy. Beyond the outward behavioral signs, pay attention to signs such as overly alert ears, a change in your dog’s coat, and the brightness in your dog’s eyes. These changes in body appearance can be indicators that your dog is not happy and is struggling. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet to get your dog checked out and to make sure there is not another underlying problem. It’s likely your vet can also provide some advice on how to keep your dog feeling happy and mentally well. We want to hear from you and find out what you do to keep your dog excited and stimulated. Have you discovered a cool game or toy? Or maybe your dog participates in treibball or dock jumping – tell us more about it. Share with us on Facebook and tell us how you keep your dog happy and healthy. Remember, your dog’s health needs to be about both mental and joint health – a dog that can move and run easily is one that can stay active and easily burn off energy, fighting boredom and staying stimulated.