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3 ways to take care of your dog’s mental health

Like humans, dogs can suffer from various mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Here, Sean Whiting, Director of pet supplies store Houghton Country, gives his tips for looking after your dog’s mental health.
For years we’ve been well aware of the mood boosting effects of man’s best friend. But, did you know that dogs can also suffer from mental health problems, too? Research conducted by Rover, as reported by Country Living, found that nearly one in ten dogs in the UK are regularly suffering from mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Most pet owners have admitted that they wouldn’t be able to spot the signs very easily if their beloved pooch wasn’t feeling themselves. And, with mental health issues being such a problem for pups around the country, it’s important that you know how to keep their spirits lifted. So, below, I’ll giving you my top tips for doing just that.
How to spot the signs
There are various ways dogs can communicate with us to tell us how they’re feeling. Here are some you might want to look out for:
Just like anxiety in humans, anxiety in dogs can come in various forms, including separation anxiety, social anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include:
Hiding or attempts to escape
Repetitive behaviours
Compulsive self-grooming
Destructive behaviour
Low activity levels
Diarrhoea or vomiting
Urinating inside
Dogs can also suffer from depression, whether it’s after a change of routine, boredom, or the loss of a companion. Symptoms can include:
Withdrawal from social interaction
Reduced activity levels
Loss of appetite or weight loss
Sudden behavioural changes
How to boost their wellness
Although some dogs may be more nervous and introverted than others, there are still steps you can take to help them feel calmer and safer at home.
Introduce them to experiences early
The first 16 weeks of a puppy’s life is essential for establishing healthy behaviours. During this time, introduce your puppy to as many different experiences as you can to help build their confidence. So, encourage them to socialise with other people and animals and get them outside as early as possible.
Create a peaceful environment at home
There’s a wide range of reasons why your pooch might become depressed or anxious but moving to a new home or living in a disrupting one can lead to mental health issues and make symptoms worse. So, try to provide a calm, quiet place for your dog to relax in when they feel stressed, even if it’s just a corner of the house where their bed is. Make sure you put out their favourite toy and blanket for them to snuggle into for comfort.
Establish trust
If you’ve rescued your beloved pet from a shelter, they might have experienced things with their previous owner that has affected their mental health. The best way to overcome this is by slowly establishing trust between you and your pup. If you notice any movements or objects that make your dog nervous or aggressive, try to avoid them until your pooch feels comfortable around you.
Obedience training can also be a helpful tool. Not only will it improve your dog’s behaviour, but your pup will soon learn to trust you. It’s also a great way for them to get used to socialising with other people and dogs in a controlled environment.
Develop a routine and stick to it

Dogs love routine, as it can help them learn to feel safe and secure in their surroundings, and they’ll find it a lot easier to trust you.
Dogs are active animals, so getting outside in the fresh air can help to boost their wellbeing. If you can, try to schedule a walk at the same times or hire a professional dog walking service like EXERCISE4PETS for those days you might not be able to take them out. Make sure you introduce them to their dog walker ahead of time so they can develop a sense of trust. You should also make sure that your dog is put to bed, woken up, and given their meals at the same times each day to help establish a good routine.
Remember to keep everything consistent to help your dog understand what behaviours are expected of them. Although you might think it’s a treat to let your dog sit on the sofa when they wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed, this can confuse your pup and make them feel uneasy, as something they’re being rewarded for might not be allowed on another day.
Your dog really is your best friend, so you’ll want them to feel happy and healthy. If you’ve tried these methods and your pet is still showing signs that something is wrong, make sure you take them to a vet to get checked out.

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