Depression in Dogs With New Owners

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A depressed dog trying to get accustomed to a new home needs patience, love and understanding. This is especially important if the pup’s previous owner passed away or if he’s coming to you from a shelter.

Signs of Depression

Some dogs suffer from depression or anxiety because the relocation puts them in unfamiliar surroundings. Your pup also may miss his old home, family or owner, or simply feel out of place if he was used to shelter life. Depression can manifest in quiet, reclusive behaviors, sleep disruptions, an unwillingness to eat or play or even in destructive behaviors such as inappropriate chewing, elimination or barking or crying.

Tip

  • Find out as much as you can about your new pet before you bring him home. This will give you insight into his behaviors and help you determine if he’s acting out of character.

Getting Settled

Any time a dog is rehomed, there’s a settling and adjustment period for both the pup and his new family. Don’t push your dog to acclimate to the household dynamic right away. Give him space, such as a crate or a bed in an out-of-the-way area, so he can be alone if he’s feeling overwhelmed. Spend time with him and encourage him to participate in family activities, but don’t force it. He initially may prefer a soft voice and a gentle touch to energetic play.

Tip

    • There's a fine line between giving your dog time to adjust and coddling him and accidentally reinforcing mopey behavior. Fight this by rewarding positive interaction, playing and tail-wagging. If your dog had a bed or favorite toys at his previous home or shelter, bring them into his new home to give him a sense of familiarity. 

Start Training

Distract your new pup and give him something to focus his attention by starting obedience training. Go slow with simple commands and offer enthusiastic praise and tasty snacks when he obeys. Repeat the process with housebreaking -- even a dog who already is housetrained will need to get into new habits in a new home. These processes will help your dog start to feel comfortable, like he’s a member of the pack who knows what he’s supposed to do.

Tip

  • Use only positive reinforcement -- never negative. Hitting or yelling only instills fear and could make depressive episodes worse.

Build a Routine

Take the uncertainty out of your dog’s life by creating a daily schedule you abide by. Feed and walk him at the same time and begin introducing play elements into your training. Throw a ball, brush him or simply talk to him as you take him around your home and yard and introduce him to his new surroundings.

Tip

  • Try to carve out extra time to be present for your dog during this adjustment period. Establishing a strong bond will be important to his adjustment and recovery.

Warning

  • Ongoing depression may need to be addressed by a medical professional, as it could be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Consult your vet for advice.

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