How To Help Your Sad Dog Feel Better

As the old saying goes, a dog is man’s best friend. And to many dog owners, it’s true. According to statistics, dogs are ranked as the number one most popular animal owned as pets. With a wide variety of sizes and breeds, dogs have been admired as loyal companions for generations. From presidents like Barack Obama to British royalty, dogs have made their way into the hearts of humans of all kinds. Queen Elizabeth II has three dogs she cares about — two corgis and one dorgi. It’s safe to say we humans love our dog friends.

What Drives Us to Have So Much Love for Dogs?

The simple answer is love. Love from a dog feels unconditional and genuine. Dogs have also been dubbed the symbol of unity, friendship, and are an essential part of a growing family. They can tell when we’re happy and when we’re having a hard time. They are right by our side to lick the tears away and watch us as we grow. Because of their devotion, we don’t hesitate to invest time and money for the care and wellness of our dogs. Having a dog is indeed like having a new member join your family. And throughout the years spent with your “fur baby,” you begin to develop an understanding of their personality. Being a dog owner means welcoming a new member into your family You get to a point where you can tell if your pup is having a good or an off day. But what happens when their off days come around more often? What do we do when our dog feels sad and can’t seem to shake it?

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Signs of When Your Dog is Feeling Sad

When you’re a first-time dog owner, it’s really important to understand the commitment behind inviting a dog into your life. In Zazie Todd’s “Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy,” she states that to have a truly happy dog, a dog’s welfare needs must be met, “which can only be done when we have a good knowledge of canine behavior and understanding of what our individual dog needs.” As a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to get to know your pup and decipher the tell-tale signs of their sadness. Although dogs are considerably happy the majority of the time, having a sad dog is not uncommon.Fortunately, the sadness does not last if you pay attention to the signs. There are a few universal signs that dogs show which can help you better understand if your dog is sad:

They’re not as cheerful as they usually are: If your dog is always happy, chances are you know how they behave. Some signs of happy dogs are running, jumping, barking, or even spinning in circles. Other dog owners proclaim that their dog will sit by the door waiting for it to open and greet them. So, when these patterns of behavior no longer show or start to lessen, that’s our cue to find out what’s wrong.

They lay in bed all day: Dogs are in constant motion and expend a lot of energy, so naturally, they will have times when they just want to relax and lay on their bed or in your lap. But if they have been sitting or lying down for long periods without so much as a paw being lifted, it could mean that there is something wrong.

They cry constantly: We can hear the whimpering or wailing of a dog which indicates that they want something or need something. Sometimes they let out a bark along with the whining tone behind it. This usually occurs when dogs have separation anxiety and see their owners leave. Or it could be when they lose their favorite toy or just want to be outside. When we hear them whining, it could be a sign of them being sad.

They don’t have an appetite: Many dogs will go gaga during feeding time or even when receiving some delicious treats. But if you find that your dog is not getting excited about treats or seems to have a loss of appetite, it could be your dog is feeling sad and needs some attention and care.

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They’re not interested in people or dogs they know: Dogs are usually very friendly and outgoing. They love to approach people they know and play with dog friends that they see all the time. So when we see this activity stop, that’s a sign that there is something wrong and your dog might be sad.

They have a sad face: A study published by Scientific Reports found that dogs alter their facial expressions in response to human attention. Depending on the breed of the dog, some dogs can tell you when they’re sad just by their expression. When dogs give you sad eyes, it’s their way of communicating with humans that they are feeling down.

They’re obsessively licking: It’s normal for dogs to lick their paw and fur to clean up any food or dirt they have. It isn’t until you see them licking nonstop that it becomes a problem. Obsessive licking is a form of self-soothing for dogs, and when left untreated can leave to major issues down the line such as tender paws or open wounds.

What Makes Dogs Feel Sad?

It’s safe to assume that not everything or everyone can be happy all the time, and that includes dogs. There could be several reasons why dogs are sad and as their owners and companion, it’s very important to know your dog. “Most people acquire dogs for selfish reasons, because it makes them happy and because dogs are cute,” says Ivan Petersel, founder of Dog Wizardy. “Dogs are not here simply to make us happy. They have their aspirations in life.” The more you understand your dog’s habits, quirks, and bark, the more you can figure out what’s wrong.Here are several reasons why you might have a sad dog:

Separation anxiety: Is your doggo very attached to your when you leave the home? It could be that they experience some form of separation anxiety. If that’s the case, then it would be best to speak with a dog trainer and learn new ways of helping your dog feel confident when they are home alone. Dog trainers specialize in animal behavior and know the proper techniques in getting to understand your dog calmly and healthily. If you cannot afford a dog trainer, see if you can have a friend or family member stop by and check in on your dog while you are out.

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Hunger: Just like humans can get hangry, dogs might be sad that they’re not eating enough. Whether you have your dog on a diet or have timed meals, it’s important to make sure that your dog is getting an adequate amount of food and water during the day. This can depend on the size and medical history of your dog, so make sure you speak to your vet if you think this might be the case for your sad dog.

Upset stomach: Piggybacking on the previous tip, a dog could be sad due to something that they might have eaten that is not sitting well. Signs of an upset stomach include diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. It might be something new that you’ve given them or it could be something that they ate while going on a walk. If their upset stomach doesn’t pass and your dog still looks sad, contact your vet and make an appointment to have your pup checked.

Boredom: Dogs like to be on the move and many dogs can get a little stir-crazy if they are stuck indoors all day. Think about it: if you were stuck at home for days on end, you might go a little stir-crazy too. Taking your dog for a walk or to the dog park can elevate their mood quickly. Make sure you make time for your dog and it will alleviate the boredom they experience while you’re working your nine-to-five.

A new dog in the family: If you have a multiple dog household, it could be that your dog is sad because they’re not receiving enough love and attention from you. Since dogs cannot express their needs verbally, they do try to send signals of wanting attention like begging, pawing your leg, or jumping on your lap. If you have a multiple dog household, this could be an indicator of why your dog is so sad.

A new home or change of scenery: For many people, moving to a brand new home can be exciting. However, when it comes to dogs, a new home can bring a lot of anxiety. Especially if it’s a drastic move (e.g., from a house to an apartment). Signs usually consist of crying or not wanting to walk into the new home.

Death/loss of a family member: When someone we love passes away, it has a huge effect on us. The same goes for dogs. The loss of a family member can make a dog feel sad and they will need time to grieve. This same concept can happen if the owners are going through a breakup or a divorce where one partner is no longer in the picture. If that’s the case, then your dog will show signs of sadness.

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What Are the Best Ways to Help Them When They Are Sad?

If you find yourself living with a sad dog, have no fear. With attention and care, you can try different things that can help your dog break out of its funk and back to its spunky happy personality. Here are some ways to get help turn your dog from sad to happy:

Make time to play with them: This cannot be said enough — having a dog is like having a child. A dog is an additional member of the family and will require time, attention, and care. Take some time on the weekends or even when you come home from work to be with your dog without distractions such as cell phones or TV. Take them out for a walk or to the dog park or break out an interactive toy that they enjoy. That time and attention will never go unnoticed.

Keep track of their diet: It might seem weird, but recent studies show an unhealthy or unbalanced diet can lead to depression in dogs. When shopping for your dog food, always read the ingredients and makes sure that the food your dog eats is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. A bad diet can also lead your dog to feel irritable or aggressive.

Buy them new toys or treats: Just like if you were to buy someone flowers to show them you care, buy your pup a new toy. This sudden surprise of something just for them will make your dog feel cared for and seen. When buying a new toy, make sure to pick a toy you know they will enjoy and one that you can both play with together.

Reward positive behavior: Sometimes your sad dog just needs a pat on the back. If you notice your dog is in a sad mood, try rewarding them with a treat for positive behavior. Things like having them perform a trick or listening to a command are positive behaviors and a treat will make anyone happy, especially your dog.

Just be with them: This may sound weird to new dog owners, but part of having a dog in your life is being a friend to them when they are in need. Always make time to check up on your dog. Instead of constant playtime, try some cuddle time. down and watch a movie together or go for a nice walk. These small moments of relaxation and enjoying each other’s company without any expectation make a huge difference to your dog. They can feel your energy and will appreciate you spending moments of relaxation and joy with them.

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Is Your Dog Sad or Sick?

While you’re trying to make your dog feel happy, it’s also important to take note of the difference between a sad dog and a sick dog. Sad dogs usually show little to no symptoms, whereas a sick dog can show some symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, not eating or drinking, or being unable to move quickly. If your dog shows any sickness for two to three consecutive days or if they appear unresponsive, take your dog to the vet or pet emergency room immediately. A rule of thumb is it’s better to be safe than sorry and this way, the vet can address any serious conditions of which you might not be aware.

How Sadness Can Lead to Illness

“Sometimes sadness can lead to sickness much in the same way being depressed for a long time can make humans sick,” says Petersel. If you are trying everything under the sun to lift your dog’s spirits and nothing seems to be working, then it might be time to get some additional help. Some dogs are more prone to depression and anxiety. This may require some form of medication to alleviate symptoms so that your dog can live happily. Again, it’s important to make an appointment with your veterinarian before you try giving your dog medication or antidepressants. You want to rule out any underlying condition that could be happening with your dog that needs medical attention. There are also holistic ways to treat sadness, like CBD oil. The American Kennel Club suggests that CBD or hemp oil can be effective when treating dogs with anxiety. Speak to your veterinarian about CBD oil in treating your dog if they have severe anxiety.

What Kind of Dogs Are More Prone to Sadness?

According to research, some dogs are prone to developing depression more than others. A few breeds that are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression are Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Basset Hounds, and Pugs. If your dog is prone to developing depression, talk to your vet about the best practices and approaches to helping your dog ease their way out of depression.


Having a dog is a life-changing time for both of you. A dog ultimately becomes a member of your family and will give you unconditional love as long as you show them the attention, dedication, care, and love they deserve. If you are a first-time dog owner, it’s important to understand that this relationship will always be growing and evolving in new and exciting ways. Before you bring a dog into the family, make sure you are ready for that commitment to them. Make time for your dog, give them a well-balanced diet, exercise, and watch your relationship blossom. And when it comes to those sad days (because we all get them from time to time), you’ll know what to do when you have a sad dog on your hands.

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