Humans today are busy. The average workday is approximately 8 hours, which means many people are away from home at least 9 hours a day, not including trips to the grocery store, gym sessions, or drinks after work. Generally, this also means your dog is spending quite a bit of time home alone. A dog’s mental health is important. Dogs need human companionship just as much as we need the comfort and love that our pets can offer. Spending 9+ hours alone each day is too much for most dogs, and it can lead to a number of behavioral problems and mental health issues in the long term.
Some dog owners are lucky to have a dog-friendly workplace, or they live close enough to home that they can head home for lunch and take their dog for a walk – but those options aren’t available for everyone.
Dogs can suffer from many of the same mental health issues as humans
We tend to think of anxiety, depression, stress, and PTSD, as uniquely human issues – but they’re not. Research has shown that dog’s mental health is often closely related to us humans. But unlike humans, they can’t vocalize their feelings or ask for help.
You might be thinking “but dogs can’t think complex thoughts like us”, and you’re right! They can’t. However, they’re still deeply affected by their external environment. These issues can manifest as a result of neglect, abuse, lack of stimulation, among others.
Dogs that are left alone for too long can develop issues like separation anxiety, or learned helplessness.
Your dog might also suffer from anxiety or PTSD if they’re a rescue, due to things that happened to them in the past. In either case, if you know your pup had a difficult past, we recommend speaking to your vet about how to identify and deal with any potential issues.
How do I know if my dog is struggling?
Symptoms of mental health struggles for dogs can be as subtle as excessive sleeping and reduced activity. In some cases, it could even be misinterpreted as excitement, as a dog with separation anxiety might bark, shake, and run around after spending the day home alone.
Dogs that misbehave when home alone might also be acting out because they aren’t getting enough mental stimulation. Chewing up your new shoes or scratching the furniture could be a sign that your dog is bored.
More obvious symptoms that something’s wrong include behavioral or weight changes.
How can I help?
If you’re concerned that your dog might be struggling, or if you’ve noticed behavioral changes, always consult a veterinarian.
Dogs need a lot of physical and mental stimulation, so a great step toward helping them is to make sure they’re getting enough activity. How much “enough” is depends on your dog – different breeds require different activity levels.
If you’re wondering how you can stimulate your dog, the good news is that there are plenty of stimulating activities. You could go for a long walk! Especially in new environments, where your dog can use its senses to get to know a new place.
You can also try playing some brain games at home, by hiding treats in a pair of old jeans or dish towels. If you want to step up your mental enrichment game, there are also activity toys that you can buy to provide a safe and fun experience for your pup. We’ll be posting some of our favorites on the blog, so stay tuned!